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Bored Now February 20, 2007

Posted by Winter in beauty myths, body politics, media.

I’m getting pretty sick of British media hand wringing about body image. Almost every week there seems to be another article on the BBC website saying something along the lines of “Gosh, people are really quite fucked up about their bodies and appearance aren’t they? How did that happen?”

This week Radio 1’s Newsbeat asked 25,000 people, mostly aged 17 to 34, how they felt about their bodies and found, guess what:

Some 51% of young women would have surgery to improve their looks and a third of those who are a size 12 think they are overweight … Almost half the women surveyed said they had skipped a meal to lose weight, while 8% had made themselves sick.

Stating the bleeding obvious: Eating disorder experts said it was “sad but not surprising” that young people felt and acted in such ways.

Well no, it’s not very surprising is it? Since we live in a capitalist society in which numerous companies have been trying to convince everyone for a very long time that their sense of self-worth and esteem should be heavily tied up in their appearance and weight, and that the road to happiness lies in conforming to impossible ideals and losing weight, I would say the surprising news here is that only 51% of the women said they would have surgery.

Can we please stop pretending that this information constitutes “news” and accept that, under current conditions, a lot of people will be fucked up about their bodies because so many forces are hard at work on the job of freaking us out so we’ll spend lots of money on beauty and diet products and plastic surgery. I say “people” because although this issue disproportionately effects women at the moment, men are increasingly being targeted.

Since this is not news, can we instead start a serious discussion about what we’re going to do about it?

In more hand wringing “news,” some American research has found that sexualization harms young girls.

Sexualisation was defined as occurring when a person’s value comes only from her or his sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is portrayed purely as a sex object.

That harms girls? Really? Thank goodness you did a big research project to find that out for us.



1. Laura - February 20, 2007

Hear fucking hear to all that. I thought exactly the same thing when I heard that Radio 1 report this morning.

And I’m sick of them turning instantly to the size zero models to blame every time this comes up: yes, catwalk fashion is a part of the problem, but it seems to me it’s an easy way to once again blame women (the models) and ignore that massive fucking elephant in the room which is the capitalist, misogynistic beauty industry.


2. Anonymous - March 4, 2007

Great post. And good point laura, it’s not the models, but the people who hire them.

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