Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

The Cause and Never The Cure.

The Cause and Never The Cure. The Times Attacks Our Girls.

Before Vince Cable was revealed as a shifty double dealing poll agitator - or whatever - and the media began baying for the blood of Clegg. The leading headline in The Times was this....

"British Girls Have Become The Fattest In Europe"

And it is a startling statement. It grabs attention. No doubt it sells well online and in the shops.

Where it will also be seen by many, many girls getting up and thinking about skipping breakfast and the need to fit into the currently trendy skin tight leggings.

The article gives figures.

"With 29.2 per cent of British girls under the age of 19 obese or overweight, Britain has the 27th-worst record in the world, falling between Dominica and Mexico. Only Iceland and Malta have worse overall rates of obesity in Europe, while Switzerland, France and Italy are among the least overweight countries on most measures."

Right. So our girls aren't right up there at the top of the charts then. Europe is not The World. Europeans are not as one in their physical appearance. But taking the figures away from the World makes headlines. Our girls also aren't girls. Women of 19 are women. Where does the term "girl" start and end for this study? Because under 19 some girls will be doing that weird thing called "growing". They will be battling hormonal changes and they may not be on a certain trajectory towards obesity.

What really worries me is the terminology and imagery. The picture features what I would identify as a woman eating a big burger. Now we recently had the horrible phenomenon of women being shamed for eating in public. Feminists responded to this ludicrous notion but nevertheless the idea that girls and women should not publicly enjoy food got out there. One of my own daughters parroted just that last week. "I hate people seeing me eating!" Here is a national newspaper suggesting that this is also an unattractive image. Young girls have absorbed that message even at the same time that feminists took to Twitter and called it stupid. Should the media be backing up that stupidity or challenging it?

Further down the figures is this one.

According to the 2011 census, there were 7.38 million girls in Britain, meaning that at least 2.1 million are obese or overweight. The problem is marginally less acute for boys in Britain, but more than a quarter, about two million, are clinically overweight. Among adults, two thirds of men and 57 per cent of women are overweight or obese.

Oh. Well. Where's the headline then? The one that puts both sexes together? Because clearly the obesity problem is not as divided as it first appeared. So perhaps pointing out that Britain has a problem with obesity which becomes more marked amongst adult males might have been more accurate than the victim-blaming one The Times chose. The Times also skips right on by the fact that obesity is actually lowering in Britain. It cursorily mentions...

"A spokesman for the department of health said: “Obesity is a problem faced by many countries across the world — and while we know there is much more to do, in England we are making progress, with child obesity now at the lowest level since 1998.”

Perhaps a more immediate focus on one of the key problems, which is the food pushed at our young people by aggressive fast food companies and their vast marketing machines, might be the first target? It comes certainly but far down the article...

Instead who does the "chief knowledge officer at the government agency Public Health England" (I KNOW - who the shit came up with his job title?) blame?...... Other girls of course!

John Newton, chief knowledge officer at the government agency Public Health England, said that the “worrying” prevalence of obesity among British girls was partly due to peer pressure to eat fast food.

“We have to look at the environment in which people are living, and the constant pressure to eat unhealthy food means things are particularly a problem for girls more than boys,” he said. “Speaking as the father of a teenage daughter, girls are particularly prone to peer pressure.”

And his figures for this investigation into peer pressure? Where? Because my observation of teen and pre-teen girls sees them heavily pressuring each other in quite the opposite direction. Girls are worryingly obsessed with how much other girls consume and are more than happy to shame them for eating too much. I also have teenage daughters and it is a real battle to have them go easy on each other and their friends about body image. They are merciless. I know that some of them eat secretively. Such is the pressure for girls to be thin and enjoying food is not an option. So if there is a rising problem with obesity where should we be looking? The food industry perhaps? The media, which places incredible pressure upon young women and girls to conform to a specific waif-like body image? The fashion industry who parade size zero women in clothes whose cheaper imitations then line up in Top Shop in their thousands to taunt the perfectly healthy size 12 and above girls who already feel they have failed to live up to that ideal?

In her chapter "Think Yourself Thin" in the recent book 'What Should We Tell Our Daughters?' Melissa Benn despairs at how

"excessive body anxiety also has a preventative, self-limiting function, particularly for clever middle class girls who have more options and choices. Displacing worry about life - its freedoms, its risks, its very possibilities - onto the body, can have a twisted kind of logic. I have read enough accounts of anorexia to understand it is often the blight of highly intelligent girls who have not yet figured out the simple-complex question of how to be themselves. Anorexia after all, is a way of channeling a formidable organising capacity, only one turns the power inwards."

The Times -you are reinforcing this negative image girls already have of themselves. You are behaving irresponsibly with your victim-blaming headlines and selective data.

And what about Mr Chief Bloody Know It All Anecdotal Bullshit Artist and the following piece of vitim-blaming......

He said that Britain’s obesity levels were made worse by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland because of their relative poverty and unhealthy diets

He should be stripped of his make believe job for that bit of shitty avoidance of responsibility.

Of course this report does not even go into the territory of what is happening to our working class girls and young women. It does not dip a toe into the effect of the current government's relentless attacks on the poor or the effect this will be having on the ability or even inclination to buy and cook healthy nutritious food. This government is actively pursuing policies which harm women. Those women are then challenged with feeding young girls on an ever-decreasing budget with ever-decreasing services to help them combat the pressures they face from increasing male violence. Where's that in this report then The Times?

And what will these young girls be doing this morning after reading this? If indeed they can do anything at all whilst paralysed by the relentless pressure to be thin and perform acceptably in the male gaze, whilst also trying not to get raped or objectified as a result.

They will perhaps log onto Facebook or Instagram or any other of the myriad sites where young girls now adopt a pose for camera, which frankly frightens me. It is this one.

The gaze has a raised brow to reveal unnaturally widened eyes. Then cheeks are sucked in and lips absurdly pouting. The selfie will be taken from above and reveal a sort of skeletal face with blank, frightened look. Eyelashes are doll like and the extreme feline eyeliner drags eyes out of all proportion. They will then crop this picture to make the sides of the face thinner. They will then adjust the contrast so that only the key features glare out.

If you have a daughter. I dare you to look. The " startled waif" look is big. Your daughter may be anything but waif like. She can be a perfectly healthy teenager or pre-teen and this is still the look she will be presenting.

This teen sees others do this. She mimics. She may then look in the mirror and realise that this is only the image she can present for camera and social media and then become annoyed at her "real" self. Her real image lets her down. I've seen my own daughters tucking their thighs under themselves and grabbing and pushing at their perfectly healthy flesh as though it was alien to them and it makes me want to cry.

So, what about some balance journalists before our girls topple under the weight of the pressure to be too thin or too fat or just right. Our girls aren't Goldilocks. This is not a fairy story.

 

I'm @JeanHatchet on Twitter.

Download this post as PDF? Click here Download PDF

, ,

Comments are currently closed.

One thought on “The Cause and Never The Cure.

  • TheRealThunderChild says:

    And. AND….the BMI thresholds for obesity have been lowered from >35 to >30, (can’t remember when but as a medic a can tell you it DID happen)but guess what? Nobody seems to notice any concurrence with a rise in obesity figures.
    Also, young women and girls are doing more sport than ever, which builds muscle mass, ergo weight, ergo higher BMI.
    Fat shaming as a public health policy is fraught with pitfalls, not least of which is that it deters people from seeking medical care.
    Now, given that a metabolically (hormones/lipids/liver function) normal person with cardio vascular function with in norms, who happens to be overweight, is at no more risk form ill health as a slimmer person, what’s the point?
    It certainly doesn’t help public health or reduce obesity, unlike the less scapegoating “health at any size” movement.
    This has the stench of misogyny ALL over it.