Video on Body Image and Media

A nice little video, with some rather horrifying facts that would be useful for teaching. (Also some issues that might spark interesting discussion of a more critical sort– e.g. the use of BMI, of which there are some very good criticisms; issues concerning what teenagers are thinking about when asked what they fear most– is it what would be worst, or what they think is more likely?)

From here.

9 thoughts on “Video on Body Image and Media

  1. Um…Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but isn’t this kind of “old hat”?

    Yes, it’s stupid that most models and celebrities are applauded for dangerous, unhealthy behaviours. Yes, it’s scary that girls are more concerned about their waistlines than their futures.

    Rather than throw around facts and figures, wouldn’t a proper solution be to start magazines and websites that show REAL, healthy, NORMAL women? Normalize the average. Picture, show, inform, and mediate all bodies, not just the ones that are supposed to be “perfect.”

    Instead of models wearing designer clothes, magazines should be full of average women wearing clothes that show how clothes are SUPPOSED to look on the body, not the hanger.

    The world will be better for it. Maybe young women will be able to look at a magazine and say “hey, there’s someone who has a body like mine,” rather than “There’s a body I’ll never have.”

  2. I’m a little disappointed in this video for its presentation of information and exclusive focus on women. I certainly understand the focus on women, since they are disproportionately affected (no argument or doubt in my mind there)–but I can’t help but wonder about the 800 000 American men who went unmentioned after the first few seconds. I also can’t help but wonder to what extent gender bias may affect diagnosis (or even seeking out treatment), and hence the stats (does anyone know of any studies on that front?). I’m also unclear about some of the stats: it looks as though numbers for anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders (such as muscle dysmorphia–aka megarexia and its ilk–or other types of body dysmorphia) have been used interchangeably/lumped together, occasionally in ways that may not be appropriate.

    As a male who has wrestled with one of these disorders at various times in his life, I know all too well how easy it is to forget about us, and how difficult it is to find proper care–and even just acknowledgement. Which is why I’m a little disappointed (if unsurprised) by the video, which started out by pointing out that at least 10% of people with an eating disorder are male.

  3. The 8,000,000 seems high. That would be close to 4% of the population when other stats have it more at around 1%. Further, it is at odds with the claim that 1,000 people will die this year. That would be only a .01% mortality rate, which is very low and out of step with stats I have read elsewhere which say around .5% mortality rate for those with the disease. This make me curious about the source of the numbers.

  4. If the stats are out of sync with each other or inaccurate, that would be a problem.

    It is unfair if men like you Michael X cannot easily find treatment or even acknowledgement of how they are affected by eating disorders; however, given the different relationship that the media has to the (ideal) female body, than to the male body, this group has a reason to focus on how women are affected by eating disorders. That’s not to say that men with eating disorders don’t deserve awareness, too, but I’m surprised that your disappointment is with this specific group who is trying to focus on a connection between the media and women’s health, and not on the larger forces at play that adversely affect what is considered legitimate topics in men’s health. It sucks because you deserve acknowledgement that men struggle with his too, and yet, you’re slipping into a “but we don’t talk about the men enough!” argument….on a feminist website.

    And as for whether this is “old hat”, no, it’s not, since plenty of people still don’t think eating disorders are a serious or social problem. There’s a million ways to do activism; raising awareness is one of them. I wonder if Synaesthetik is engaging in a “proper solution” or just telling someone else that their activism isn’t good enough.

  5. Logoskaieros: Michel, not Michael. I completely understand why the focus is on women; I was surprised and disappointed because the video mixes far more general points with the exclusion of the other portion of the stats (e.g. 400% increase in *eating disorders* since 1970 + 69% of *girls* are influenced by magazine models + the average *person* is exposed to 5000 ads a day–I can’t help but wonder what is the percentage of men affected in all those cases, especially when we’re only told about women’s exposure. Consequently, it’s very difficult for me to tell whether the more general points are supposed to be general, or whether it’s assumed we all know they apply only to women, or what else may be going on.). I get the strong impression that the focus is almost exclusively on depictions of women in the media (which is fine), but then why the more general statistics minus the other group affected? While much smaller, at ten per cent it’s certainly not an insignificantly small group of people (and again, to be honest, I’m not sure how accurate the stats on men are). Unfortunately, anorexia and bulimia are not the only forms of body dysmorphia, and I suspect that’s why men tend to be left out of these discussions (since the prevalence of these diseases does seem markedly lower in men–then again, if you look at the way men are portrayed, it makes sense that they would suffer different kinds of dysmorphia). So, as I said, I understand and appreciate the message, but as usual (in these discussions) I feel quite left out.

    To be honest, I don’t think that there’s a huge difference in media representations of ideal female bodies and ideal male bodies: both are largely unattainable and lead to very unhealthy behaviour, even if they purport to focus on different aspects of the body (to give you an idea, those bodybuilder abs that all the men sport require you to eat no more than ten calories per pound of body mass all while maintaining a vigorous workout routine, since those abs mean nothing unless they’re paired with large arms, shoulders, and chest–why the back and legs are left out beats me). If you attend a gym regularly, you will notice that the free weights are almost exclusively used by men, while the cardio machines tend to be used overwhelmingly by women–that division alone, I think, says a lot about the different (yet so very similar) pressures and expectations that are exerted.

    Unfortunately, it’s also clear that there’s far more social tolerance for a wide variety of male bodies than there is for a variety of female bodies. There’s no doubt about that, and I have no doubt that the numbers of women affected grossly outweigh those of men, which is why ad campaigns such as this one are important. But let’s not forget the other people affected.

  6. Engaging? All the time. Unfortunately, I’m one tiny voice that no one hears.

    Michel –Yes, male eating disorders and body dysmorphia are a problem, and growing at a scary rate. However, I do recall reading somewhere that the numbers of men with issues are about 10 per cent of the numbers of women. It’s still too high for comfort.

    My point is…I’m re-reading _The Beauty Myth_, by Naomi Wolf, and the facts and figures are almost identical to what they were 20 years ago. It seems to be the same numbers, the same groups.

    Why hasn’t anything changed?

    Because we live in a visual, mass-mediated culture. The issues won’t change until the images we see change.

  7. The video is fun and eye-catching, but it does suffer from some problems.

    There is no adequate referencing of sources in the video. The website for it has a list of sources at the bottom, but we are not told what the source is for each fact, and even more worryingly some of the linked websites just parrot the same unsourced information!

    Some of the use of satistics is questionable too. For example, they tell us what percentage of girls who, e.g., engage in vomiting read women’s health magazines. But this information is completely worthless in telling us about correlation unless we know what proportion of girls in general read such magazines.

    Neither of these things are encouraging in a video that aims to encourage media responsibility. So whilst it might be a useful starting point for debate, I’d treat it with some caution.

Comments are closed.