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J’accuse! Grazia – utter body-image hypocrisy

24 Mar

 

I’ve been roused out of my slightly muddled baby-brained existence by a fit of rage in reaction to the contents of the sleek pages of this week’s Grazia magazine (27 March 2017 edition).

Rarely do I ‘treat myself’ to such written fodder, but needing some light relief from the  cerebral audio-book I’m working my way through, I forked out the requisite £2.20 for the mag. Thinking to myself, well, at least this is one of the “MORE INTELLIGENT” titles on the glossy mag spectrum.

For a while it lived up to its name. Alongside the usual celeb gossip (“Scarlett: Divorce turns toxic”), there was a feature on Syrian refugees in the UK, a surprisingly uplifting interview with Khloe Kardashian about her new clothing line that genuinely caters for women of all sizes, and a “modern stepmother’s survival guide” piece to coincide with Mother’s Day.

Then there was a poignant feature on eating disorders, featuring three women who were turned away by GPs “in their hour of need” for apparently not being thin enough. The piece talked about how eating disorders, “have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses – with up to 20% of those seriously affected dying prematurely.”

Naive me was fairly impressed with this array of important social issues affecting women that Grazia was devoting its pages to.

And then I turned to the fashion pages, and this image jumped out of the page at me:

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Here before my eyes was a positively skeletal, half-starved, dangerously under-weight model squinting morosely into the camera, bones jutting out of her chest above her strange bandage-like top that binds her miniscule torso. Long bony arms hanging on either side, she looks extremely unhealthy, with a BMI that must be in the single digits. Poor girl has clearly starved-detoxed-beetroot-juiced her way up the slippery pole to get her foot through the door of those cut-throat model agencies, and then starved herself further to win the ultimate prize of a photo shoot to appear on the pages of a high-profile glossy magazine.

The utter hypocrisy of claiming to care about young women suffering from eating disorders on one page and then featuring emaciated dangerously under-weight models on the next. The contradiction smacked me in the face.

J’ACCUSE!

Yes, Grazia, YOU, your editorial board, your staff writers, you and your glossy-paged competitors, the whole women’s magazine press, YOU are all complicit in the problem, the eating disorder epidemic you wrote so very poignantly about just a few pages earlier. Do you not realise by now that young women aspire to achieve these unattainable looks you feature on your fashion pages? That you are irresponsibly encouraging young women to deprive themselves of food in an effort to look like these supposed fashion ‘role models’?

Grazia writers, editors, do you have so little self-awareness that you failed to spot the rather enormous piece of irony of placing a feature about eating disorders and images of strikingly under-weight models side-by-side in your publication?

Grazia, please don’t pretend you don’t know by now that young women who develop body image issues do so in part because they try – and fail – to achieve the impossible body shapes that you continue to portray on your fashion pages, sometimes entering into cycles of severe food deprivation in the process?

Women of the world, unite and boycott Grazia and all women’s magazines until they commit to good and responsible practices with regard to model body size.

I, for one, will be saving all my £2.20s from now  on for loftier reading material – and in the meantime, am going back to my intellectual audio-book for solace.

Tackling eating disorders in the Jewish community

9 Mar

Just had a piece published in The Sisterhood column, in The Forward; a Q&A with Aviva Braun, a psychotherapist specialising in eating disorders and body image issues in young women. She has a very interesting, feminist approach to treating these issues.

Braun is teaming up with Rabba Sara Hurwitz to talk about these issues this coming Saturday night, 12 March 2011, at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

Here’s the first half of the article – (Alternatively, click here to read the full version of the article ):

Rabba, Therapist Team Up To Fight Eating Disorders

By Rebecca S

Aviva Braun, a social worker and psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders in young women, and Rabba Sara Hurwitz, a pioneering Modern Orthodox spiritual leader at New York’s Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and Yeshivat Maharat, are teaming up for an event that will focus on body image from feminist, therapeutic and Torah perspectives. The event — aimed at bat mitzvah-age girls through college age women, and their parents — will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. There will also be a screening of “Hungry to be Heard,” the Orthodox Union-produced documentary about Jewish adults struggling with eating disorders.

“Judaism supports the notion that our bodies are sacred,” Hurwitz told The Sisterhood. “Philo, a Jewish philosopher said, ‘The body is the soul’s house. Shouldn’t we therefore take care of the house so that it will not fall into ruin?’ We have an obligation as a community to help foster a positive body image in our own selves and in our children.”

Braun spoke recently with The Sisterhood about the specific challenges of treating eating disorders in the Orthodox community, Braun’s use of a feminist therapeutic model and her forthcoming book that is part memoir, part recipes.

Rebecca S: Generally speaking, what are the pressures placed on young women in the Orthodox community?

Aviva Braun: The pressures on Orthodox women are about looking a certain way; the pressures to look good and stay thin are very much part of the community. But on the other hand, there are all the ceremonial meals we eat on Shabbat and the holidays, when there’s always lots of food on the table, so the messages Orthodox women get are conflicting. Then there are the pressures to do well at school, and pressures to get married at a young age.

What is the prevalence of eating disorders in the Orthodox community?

There is not a higher incidence in the Orthodox community per se, but the fact that Orthodox women wait longer to seek help means it is really difficult to treat. There’s a fear of being found out, and shame or stigma for the family. Women feel it could affect the status of their family, even shidduch [matchmaking] prospects.

You talk a lot about using a feminist therapeutic model in your work. What do you mean by this?

After receiving my master’s degree in social work, I was professionally trained at the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute in New York, where I studied eating and body image problems from a feminist psychoanalytical and cultural perspective.

The feminist perspective is that women develop eating disorders because they are told by the culture at large to deny their need for hunger, for food and for other things. Women’s needs in general should be shrunk so their bodies become shrunk. … So my therapeutic work is about getting women to be able to identify their hunger.

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