Saturday, February 5, 2011

A bit of a research paper...

I was on facebook today and came across a link for this website,  The website is really interesting (if you have time it's worth going through).  Here this is easier, this is part of the "About Us" page on the site:

                We are Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite, 25-year-old identical twin sisters working on our PhDs in Communication at the University of Utah, studying representations of female bodies in popular media. We have a passion for helping girls and women recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like. Beauty Redefined represents our work to take back beauty for girls and women everywhere through continuing the discussion about body image, women’s potential and media influence through this website, our Facebook page and most prominently through regular speaking engagements in both secular and religious settings, from high schools and academic conferences to girls’ camps and church firesides for all ages.

This is something that has been on my mind recently, but the papers and articles on their website really got me riled up (actually, I told Greg I wanted to call someone and yell at them!  Unfortunately, there's not really anyone to yell at, and it wouldn't do any good anyway.)  

The other day I read somewhere that the whole BMI thing was a bunch of crap, but I didn't really think much of it.  One of the articles on the website starts out by talking about it and guess what, it really is a load of crap!  They talk about it more in depth on the website, but the short of it is this:  the BMI was a formula created by a scientist in the 70's.  The health insurance companies and medical community picked up on it immediately, despite the scientist saying that it was meant to be used for large diagnostic studies on general populations and was not accurate for individuals.  Despite the warning, by 1985 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was defining obesity by the BMI.  The main problem with the BMI is that it doesn't take into account an individuals frame, build, race, age, etc, etc.  In other words, it didn't take into account the fact that people are different.  Then, in June 1998 the NIH changed the BMI standards, dropping it by 10 pounds.  Overnight, a 5'4'', 155 lb women went from being average, to being overweight, without gaining a pound.  There are lots of other problems with the BMI, but if you want to know more, I would just go read the article on  I am starting to feel like I'm writing a research paper...

Now here comes the scary stuff, the stuff that really got me thinking and got me mad.  From the 80's to 1993, the number of college age women with eating disorders TRIPLED, and it has continued rising since then.  From 1999 to 2006 there has been a 119% increase in the number of children under 12 who were hospitalized due to an eating disorder.  The Department of Health, though they haven't said anything conclusively, admits that they have found evidence that low self esteem, fear of becoming fat, and media exposure to idealized bodies is linked to the development of eating disorders.  12 years old and YOUNGER!  They said that girls as young as 3 have shown signs of being worried about their body image!  I can't even believe that we live in a world where children are already worried about their weight, enough that they are developing eating disorders.  It's disgusting to me!  And it makes me furious!!!  

Grrr... Okay, I'm going to take a break because I'm a bit worked up.  

Okay, I'm back and feeling a bit more calm.  So another thing they talk about on their website is the "Media Ideals," in other words, Hollywood.  So here's a quote with some statistics:

"The average American woman today is 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighs 163 pounds, which is a size 14 dress, the sisters told the students. The average model is 5-11 and weighs 117 pounds, and wears size zero or smaller clothes."

Wow.  At least that's what I thought when I read it.  I mean, I kind of knew that, at least about the models, but seeing the numbers for an average woman in comparison really puts it in perspective for me.  See, I just started a new exercise program and I'm getting ready to start weight watchers in a couple weeks and my end goal for my weight was 150-160.  And I felt like I was slacking!  I had used the BMI to figure out my "ideal weight" and according to it, the most I should weigh is 150 and really, I should weigh closer to 130 or 135 to be healthy.  Now, I have been 135 before.  I was a stick, and I was also a teenager.  Honestly, I don't feel the need to be that thin again.  And, even when I was that thin, I still wore between an 8 and a 13 in my clothes.  So, my point in all of that.  At my very skinniest, which was 135, I was almost to the point of being unhealthily thin.  And these models, who are advertised as the epitome of what we all should be, are 3 inches taller than me and 15 pounds lighter!  No wonder so many women have skewed views of themselves!  And on top of them already being extremely thin, the images are altered to give them flawless features that are unattainable for anyone.  

In looking into all of this I was looking around for an example of the miracle of photoshop.  I was amazed the first time I saw what my mom could do with photoshop.  In just a few minutes she can make a picture look completely different.  I have seen her fix blemishes, erase whole buildings, and once she even replaced a building with a bridge!  If my mom, with only a few years of experience and no professional training can do that, think what a professional with several years of experience can do.  Here's an example of what photoshop can do:

 I read somewhere that many pictures of celebrities and models are completely reconstructed using parts and features from models that may or may not be the person who's face is on the body.  
Here's an example of that:

This is Oprah's head, on actress Ann Margaret's body in 1989.  That's over 10 years ago.  With how far technology has come since then it's become faster, easier, and much more common to see this.  Here's another quote from the article:

"They’re sad facts that many of us know: You will never see an average American woman represented in the mass media as a “beauty ideal.” And it is completely reasonable to assume that every image of women you see in the media has been digitally manipulated. So why is that where we get our standard for what is normal and beautiful?"

Good question, right?  

So on that note I'm off to bed.  Here's on last quote, this time from President Hinckley.  He said:

“Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth” 
(“Understanding Our Divine Nature,” Liahona, Feb. 2002, 24; “Our Responsibility to Our Young Women,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 11).

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