Eating Disorder Awareness Spreads

Flip through a magazine, any magazine. Chances are you will be bombarded with images; images of women without wrinkles, blemishes, and as a matter of fact, pores. These women have body types unrealistic for most of us. Now, you may be thinking, what does this have to do with me? Well, that was one of the questions addressed at “Killing Us Softly,” an event involving a filmed lecture by Jean Kilbourne regarding her movies Killing Us Softly and its sequel Still Killing Us Softly. This was followed by a discussion put on by the Sophomore Class Council here at UVM. Leading the event, put on in spirit of body image awareness week, was Elyse Gambardella, from the Class Council, as well as Gabriela Helfgott, the Student Health Promotion Coordinator. Sitting in the center of Christie Wright Patterson, either on the floor, in chairs, or on the wooden bench, approximately 25 to 30 students snacked on pretzels, popcorn, carrots and dip while listening to the insight of Jean Kilbourne on the media and body image. And yes, the audience consisted of both boys and girls. Whether we realize it or not, we are each affected by messages that the media sends us. As Annika Frodi-Lundgren pointed out during the discussion, “It tells men what to desire, and women how to be desired.” Too many of us know people who have a negative body image. Although this does not always result in an eating disorder, more often than not, it results in disordered eating, which can be just as dangerous. One ad for a watch had an image of a woman with the watch around her bicep and read, “Put some weight on.” Now, that may mean the watch, but what about the model whose bicep is thin enough to fit a watch? Why is the media to blame? Well, where else do we find these picture perfect images to which we try to aspire? Only five percent of women have the body type portrayed in the media. So, what about the other 95%? Women come in all different shapes and sizes; what women should be striving for is health, not for the “perfect” image. In these images, women’s body language is passive and vulnerable, portraying us as weak. We are told how to act in society. One fashion ad displayed in the video read: “The more you subtract, the more you add.” In an ad for a treadmill, “Soon you’ll be taking up less space.” What are these messages saying to us? Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all affected by the media. It is everywhere. And it is not only affecting girls. More and more men are being portrayed as objects with only parts of their body being used to sell a product. Over and over we have heard that sex sells. Sex is used to sell all sorts of products, with women being depicted as enjoying domination, but there is no emphasis placed on relationships or intimacy. You may be asking, what can be done about it? Well, keep in mind that we are the consumers. Without us, the advertising industry would be non-existent. We need to make our voices heard. How, you ask? Well, one suggestion made at the discussion was sub-vertising. That is, write a message on a subscription card and send it back at the company’s expense, return the magazine to the sender and write a note, or write a message on a free postcard advertisement and send it in. Make your voices heard.