These days I spend a lot of time in the car since I am the designated transport official for our resident kindergartener. Stereotypes alive and well, as any male he is awfully hard to engage in conversation. In fact, it is just amazing how at barely 6-years-old, all on his own, he has figured out a technique of providing a selection of rehearsed answers to my ever predictable questions inquiring about the contents of his school day.
So during school runs, I listen to a selection of my favourite radio stations chief among which is Radio Canada (which, if you are anywhere within their bandwidth, 95.1 FM, you should too, and if not listen to them online). One of the topics discussed recently was a new information campaign issued by Anorexia and Bulimia Quebec. The campaign consists of two images (which can be seen below) both featuring the same glamourous looking model sporting a flowing gown. In the first picture the gown is opaque and features the slogan “Fashion is everywhere.” In the second image, we see the same model wearing the same gown only it is rendered transparent revealing a painfully thin body and the extended slogan “Fashion is everywhere. So is anorexia.”
I am no Sherlock Holmes (although I might have a tad of Watson in me), but my powers of observation tell me that the not-so-subtle images A) point to the fact that the problem is widespread; and B) lay the blame for this scourge at the doorstep of the fashion industry.
Stats alone speak to the sad truth behind the first point. According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, an estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia, while 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia in their lifetime. Research also suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia, and that women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder.
But is fashion to blame? Or the media? The recent years have borne witness to an ever louder cacophony of the body image warrior’s cries decreeing the evils of fashion and media for creating an increasingly unrealistic standard of beauty in our society. And truth be told, you can’t throw a rock and not hit an image of a bikini-clad starlet who seems to have farted and lost her pregnancy weight. But is that the whole story? After all, these are profit based industries, and they respond to consumer demands. Theoretically, all we would have to do is tune out and the message will change in no time.
The core of the issue, in my opinion, lies in the position and role of women in society which is still largely decorative ultimately leading to the creation of beauty standards. And once the standards are there, they can be manipulated. Thus in the West, society’s ideal of female beauty is someone who looks somewhat of a heroin addict; while in some parts of the world, they like ‘em big, they like ‘em chunky.
The solution? A continued effort to improve the position of women in the society which will move us away from focusing on appearance and bring us closer to the importance of women’s health.
In the course of her tumultuous life, Danina Kapetanovic has played many roles and held many titles. Daughter, sister, war chick, UN staffer, Bosnian, Canadian, women’s advocate, wife, mother, fashion-loving feminist are but a few. No stranger to adventure, she has lived in some of the world’s most beautiful, dangerous and fascinating places. Along the way, she has learned a lot, met some amazing people, picked up a few languages, and hopefully made a bit of a difference. After many years of a bedouin life, she now calls Montreal, Canada home where she lives with her husband and son, and blogs about her two favourite F-words. Look for her on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.