Moving past the blame game on body image
Sarah Murdoch and Mia Freedman are hot. Like really, really hot.
But I don’t reckon that fact takes away from their years of experience, their first hand insight and the value of their contributions on the subject of tackling negative body image.
That was exactly the reaction we’ve seen this week though, from some who argued that these women were too beautiful to have a valid role to play in the debate and were misplaced on the Government’s Body Image Advisory Group that reported this week.
Putting aside the point that negative body image is a scourge which affects tens of thousands of Australians of all different shapes and sizes and is a psychological pressure which one cannot diagnose from the outside, perhaps it’s useful to provide some background on why the members of this group were selected.
The Government could have gone for a team of purists. Sure. We could have appointed a group who imagined an ideal universe and then painted us a beautiful picture of what it looked like and who was to blame for it being a total fantasy land. And it could have a nice report to gather dust but make us all sleep easier at night.
But my view is that we’ve already had far too much talk and far too much finger pointing on this issue. Anytime body image comes up somebody has blamed lets say, skinny models, who then in turn point the finger at the fashion industry who pass the buck to the media who might then shift attention to advertisers and it goes round and round. More talk. More blame. Zero action.
Meanwhile we have young Australians who are subjected to more images and messages and pressure than any generation before them. All images of one ideal of beauty. A beauty that in itself is aided by massive increases in technology and digital manipulation and comes through new mediums. This week one high school girl reported that even whilst playing computer games she was completely unable to select any female character that even nearly resembled a body shape to which she could realistically aspire.
This is not to mention to advances in cosmetic surgery which mean that one has less of an excuse for not measuring up than ever before.
I reckon when we’re at a point where young Australians are listing body image and self esteem as their number one concern in Mission Australia surveys, when we see dwindling confidence and self assurance from those who cannot possibly live up to the entirely unrealistic images that they are being bombarded with and aspire to replicate- then the time is probably long overdue for us to actually see some action.
We decided we actually wanted results and took the pragmatic approach.
If we are to make any progress on this issue then we only do that in partnership with industry and the community.
We selected a group who had the experience, who had insight, who could bring people with them. So it included the media industry, it included the fashion industry, advertisers, models, health experts, parents, academics, young people, advocates like Claire Vickery of the Butterfly Foundation- the people who can actually inspire change.
And they came up with some innovative and workable recommendations.
A voluntary media and industry code of conduct for example, where diverse images of beauty, acknowledgement of digital alterations massively changing the shape and appearance of models and role models, shops actually stocking clothes which fit average healthy women, a focus on those trivial little things like health - that sort of sensible and real stuff is encouraged through market driven incentives.
They proposed a national strategy to increase resilience and awareness through our schools, families and communities. They put forward a path by which we can actually move forward and start to confront some of these pressures and reinforce the diversity of real beauty.
None of these issues are going to magically disappear, but we can’t turn a blind eye to the sort of absurdities we saw recently with the digitally altered Ralph Lauren model whose waist was roughly the size of my knee cap.
I am really grateful for the time and efforts of an amazing group of Australian women - chaired by the wonderful Mia Freedman - and even more so I’m hopeful that we can now move forward and adopt real action to start negating this.
It seems odd to me that when mounting an argument that looks alone aren’t the be-all and end-all, that some can dismiss the contributions of individuals based solely on their looks.
The reaction of some surely just proves that we still focus too much on the looks alone of people - particularly women. Do you think now get on with the substance of the issue?
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