Monday, October 06, 2008

Psychology: Picture yourself deciding you actually like the way you look!

In "The skinny on why thin is still in" (National Post, October 2, 2008), Joanne Laucius,
summarizes recent news and opinion around the ultra-thin, photoshopped models in magazines.
In one of his studies, Kees and a fellow marketing researcher found that, although female subjects felt badly about themselves after looking at ads with skinny models, they also evaluated the brands the models were selling more highly. The subjects who saw ads with regular-sized models didn't feel bad about themselves, but they also gave the brands a lower value.
It gets worse.
Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty got a lot of attention. A 75-second viral film for Dove that showed the fast-motion "evolution" of a live model into a billboard pastiche through the magic of makeup and retouching got more than 1.7 million views on YouTube in 2006.

But empowering women doesn't necessarily sell soap. Sales of Dove bumped up during the first two years of the campaign, then levelled off.
The sad fact is that many women are used to feeling bad about themselves, and they seek out opportunities. They decide that thin is good, and also hard to attain, and the rest is dieting, self-punishment, and eating disorders.

Laucius's informative article documents the conflicting opinions around the question of whether ultra-thin, photoshopped models encourage eating disorders among women of normal body size. I've written about that elsewhere, and, quite frankly - despite all the disclaimers you hear from the fashion industry and its supporters - the answer is, yes, of course they do.

For example, Dr. Janet Polivy, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto and an expert on eating behaviour, is quoted as saying, "If they're asked to compare themselves, naturally, they feel inferior". (And in the mood for self-punishment, I suspect.)

Recently, Spain banned ultra-thin models from the catwalk, and many supported the move. After all, low body mass index (= serious underweight) is strongly associated with early death. If the fashion industry is going to howl about the use of fur and such, they could at least spare a thought for human skin that dies to be thin.

Historically, thin has not been hard to attain. It is called starvation, and is widely shunned worldwide. That's why most traditional cultures thought plump women were beautiful. And they were right, too.

I am not advocating censorship; my solution is that readers should insist on models with normal body mass index - women who make normal look good.

I sometimes tell younger women, there is such a thing as healthy self-love. Here's one way of looking at it: The great religious commandment "Love your neighbour as yourself" assumes that you do love yourself. And if you don't, you won't be able to love others either. So just accept yourself the way you are today, and make the world a slightly happier - and less commercially driven - place.

See also:

"Hungry men supposedly prefer plump women for "evolutionary" reasons":
Oh? So everyone in the world is and always has been as obsessed with body shape and image as anorexic, white, middle-class American/European girls? ... The article notes the interesting cultural fact that some African women are force-fed milk to fatten them.
"Grandma was right: Just eat and be thankful" (Contrary to the scare stats, only seriously obese people (body mass index over 35) are at greater risk of premature death.)

Pudging the Truth Exercise matters far more to health than dieting

Our weighty obsession - this one should be required reading for teen girls you know. Eating disorders very often begin with a diet. And things have got so bad now that fashion gurus have started throwing emaciated models off the catwalk.

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