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Old 21st January 2007   #1
M. Lopez
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Join Date: August 2005
Posts: 587
Default A family's struggle with starvation

The topic of eating disorders has come up frequently here of late, and in the following agonizing account, the mother of an anorexic relates the challenge of simpy trying to keep her daughter alive:

The article reveals how utterly impossible it is for families to fight this disease. Just to keep their daughter from starving to death, these parents have basically had to put her on a suicide watch. Every meal is a struggle.

But the result is almost a kind of house arrest. And who can monitor a child 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week? What kind of life is that, for parent or daughter?

The parents themselves recognize the futility of such close monitoring as a treatment:

Some don't have flexible work schedules and can't be home for every meal and snack.

Some are overwhelmed by the relentless and exhausting work of refeeding.

It's also disheartening to find that at a time when billions are spent on a nonexistent weight "epidemic," just because of the curve-o-phobia propagated by the diet industry, THIS disease - which actually does kill, and in great numbers - has attracted little medical attention:

Had the diagnosis been, say, diabetes, we would have been given a list of guidelines and medications, a road map for recovery.

But in terms of treatment, there isn't much systematic scientific research on anorexia. No one could tell us exactly how to make our daughter well. All they could say for sure was that the odds weren't good.

Anorexia is one of the deadliest psychiatric diseases. It's estimated that up to 15 per cent of anorexics die, from suicide or starvation-related complications.

The mind boggles at the insane values of modern media culture. It reacts hysterically over the fact that some young girls might actually be enjoying food a little, and accepting their curvy figures. But it ignores the dire, real-life consequences of food deprivation, which afflicts so many young women - today, not sixty years down the road.

Since treatment is almost hopeless, since families are almost powerless to fight the disease once it takes hold, the emphasis must be on prevention - on keeping this disorder from arising in the first place. Countless studies have demonstrated that underweight imagery ruins young girls' body esteem, while Dr. Dittmar's research has shown that plus-size imagery initiates a "relief effect," which helps repair body image.

The need for a fuller-figured standard of beauty is imperative.
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Old 22nd January 2007   #2
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Default Re: A family's struggle with starvation

The lack of treatment options for this disorder is truly frightening, and this familys ordeal is heartbreaking. Prevention is definitely where the emphasis needs to be.

There are some small signs that at least a few individuals in the media are beginning to realize the seriousness of the problem. I hope its not a case of too little, too late. An editorial in the Winsten-Salem Journal is unambiguous in its address to the fashion industry:

It makes the case quite explicitly:

American fashion designers should do the responsible thing and stop using emaciated women and girls as models.

The fashion industry worldwide has for too long resisted growing criticism of its emphasis on extreme thinness among models. The pressure to stay thin has led to drug and alcohol abuse and other health problems among models. And the ubiquitous images of unhealthily thin models play a role in the obsession with body weight among girls and young women, an obsession that too often leads to eating disorders.

It simply doesnt matter whether underweight models are the sole cause of eating disorders, or one of the causes. Other things besides smoking cause terminal lung cancer, but smoking is a signifcant cause, and the industry has rightly been prevented from advertising to youth as a result. The underweight imagery of the fashion industry is just as toxic.

The use of fuller-figured models also makes practical sense for fashion:

Surely the industry doesn't want to resist change to the point that the government here might be tempted to intervene. Tough standards should protect the health of the models, which is ultimately good for the designers who hire them.

And sensible standards should quell the growing and justified criticism from medical professionals and advocacy groups about the effect of models on society. Girls who grow up constantly seeing images of super-skinny women held up as ideals of beauty can come to think that a normal, healthy body is undesirable. It then becomes all too easy to fall victim to eating disorders such as anorexia...

Hollywood and the fashion industries have to realize that they arent just creating images for their own amusement, but that what they produce affects the lives of everyone - and in fact, can ruin womens lives completely. We all have to live in the world that they create. There is no reason why they cant return to the timeless ideal of full-figured beauty that gave Western culture a healthy standard of feminine appearance throughout history.
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Old 23rd January 2007   #3
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Default Re: A family's struggle with starvation

Parents can certainly help during the prevention stage, by creating a warm, safe, loving environment in which their daughters are never, ever criticized for becoming curvier- and are in fact praised for having a naturally healthy appearance. That's the way it used to be. Many people can still remember grandmothers or great-grandmothers from the Old World, who would warmly encourage their granddaughters to "Eat, eat, you're just skin and bones." An environment like that can help young women feel comfortable about developing fuller figures. Daughters should be encouraged to eat whatever they like- period. The alternatives are just too terrible, as this article shows.

But there's no question that the fashion industry is the greatest culprit. There's no reason why there should be a war for young girls' minds between the parents and the media in the first place. Why should the fashion industry create these complexes? Why shouldn't the media be an ally in promoting positive body image instead, or at least neutral, rather than harmful?

This article notes some of the token steps that the American industry is taking to contribute to models' health:

They're still missing the point thought. Helping to ensure better working conditions for the models is laudable, but the problem is still: which models are being selected in the first place (as the article notes). The current modelling standard creates a poisonous and unhealthy image of starvation for the majority of women, even if the industry can find one or two models who can temporarily survive at that emaciated size. The article declares:

Ultimately, though, it's up to designers, fashion editors and creative directors to set the standard by rejecting too-thin models and hiring more robust ones.

``We do have a responsibility to portray youth in a healthful manner,'' says Peter Som, whose design aesthetics lean toward feminine elegance

That's the crucial point- "hiring more robust ones" (models). Not until the industry does that, will it really begin to redeem itself, and stop damaging the psyches of so many women.

Last edited by HSG : 25th January 2007 at 21:03. Reason: URL amended
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Old 26th January 2007   #4
Join Date: July 2005
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Default Re: A family's struggle with the media

The points in this thread are quite significant: "We all have to live in the world that [the media] creates"; and "Why should the fashion industry create these complexes? Why shouldn't the media instead be an ally in promoting positive body image?."

The fashion industry--and the media in general--is currently an aesthetic monopoly controlled by like-minded individuals who, for whatever reason (biological preference, political purpose, or both), oppose the plus aesthetic, and seek to maintain the hegemony of the androgynous standard.

Like any other monopoly, this aesthetic monopoly prevents the free market from fulfilling its role as a natural corrective, reflecting the will of the general populace. It keeps the media a closed loop, into which no new (or old) aesthetic can enter.

Just think what happened when Cortex Publish tried to launch the plus-size magazine Beautiful, a few seasons ago. The agency that controls most of the ad revenue in Canada refused to work with the magazine, explicitly because Beautiful intended to use plus-size models. That essentially ended the magazine's chances of existence, in one fell swoop.

"If you use plus-size models, you won't get any ads": This is how an aesthetic monopoly remains in place. This is censorship, as sure and as complete as if it came down by government edict. Whether a government is in sole control, or an aesthetic monopoly is in sole control, the effect is the same--the people are given no options.

Consequently, the rest of us are held hostage to the culture that the media power-brokers create. We have no "other media" to which to turn, no comprehensive "alternative culture" with entirely different values--aesthetic or otherwise--to select. Our only options are either to take what the media gives us, or nothing.

The public is never allowed to choose a plus-size Vogue instead of a straight-size Vogue, or a movie with plus-size ingenues instead of waifish ingenues, any more than it can select a Victorian Vogue over a modern Vogue, or a movie with Old World sensibilities over modern sensibilities.

It's "androgynous or nothing"; "modern or nothing."

Therefore, what choice do parents have? How can they possibly protect their daughters from the toxic effects of the all-pervasive media world, short of retreating from society, and living in a Mennonite community? It is intolerable that the only way to avoid mass-media brainwashing is to sentence onself to cultural exile, just because the media power-brokers wish to impose their aesthetic values on the rest of us. Why should parents be expected to fight a perpetual ideological war against the media, for their daughters' souls?

Let us remember that every one of us contributes to the general infrastructure that makes fashion and the media possible. Even someone who never buys a single magazine in his or her life, or who never purchases a pricey garment, helps to prop up the media indirectly, but fuelling the publishing industry, the textile industry, the electronics industry, etc.--i.e., all of the related industries and social structures on which the media depend for their existence.

Therefore, for the media to parasitically sponge off of society's resources, and to use this capital to undermine the physical and psychological health of the majority of women, is a travesty.

Cultural creators--painters, poets, architects, etc.--have always lived off the labour of their community, but in the past, they contributed to the health of that community, rather than undermining it, as they do today.

The media elites cannot hold the rest of society hostage to their vision, just because they have staked out a little corner for themselves. Unless events in the near future prove otherwise, more direct intervention will be necessary than the token self-regulation that the American fashion industry has currently adopted. The Spanish approach, of enforceable standards, seems to be the only successful form of aesthetic "trust-busting," the only way to break up this media monopoly, and to create a free market with actual choice.

Breathtaking Justine Legault (Ford TO/Scoop Montreal), size 14:

- Click to view larger

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