Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Yet more unbridled greed


Mixed with a cynical disregard for society and the damage being done
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What am I talking about?
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The huge industry devoted to making people feel bad about how they look.
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There is simply too big, noisy and powerful a commercial drive behind making people feel bad. 
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Why? 
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Because of the fortune to be made in making them feel just a little better again.
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At the base of this industry are the drug companies that are pushing "wonder" cures and diets.
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Tanning firms and heavily advertised cosmetic surgery specialists.
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Not to mention all the mainstream cosmetic firms. 
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They all depend on the advertising and fashion firms that are selling an idealised, youth-obsessed beauty cult that is far beyond the reach of most real humans. 
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And they in turn squirt glossy profits into the media spreading the cult.
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Against all this, what chance does an impressionable, insecure 14-year-old have? 
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Or for that matter an insecure man in his early 20s? 
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For this is not a women-only problem. 
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Though girls are still vastly more likely to suffer from anorexia or to go for cosmetic surgery
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The growth of male anorexia in recent years is very striking. 
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Endless appeals to the fashion gurus to rethink the models they use have received a cold-hearted brush off. 
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You can wonder just why that would be?
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The death at 28 just over a year ago of the anorexic French model Isabelle Caro, who had bared herself to shock the fashion industry, ought to have produced a dramatic rethinking. 
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Go and look at the images, if you can bear it, on the web. Isabelle said. 
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It is everything but beauty… I have psoriasis, a pigeon chest, the body of an elderly person.
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I even look like a young gay male.
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No further comment then.
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There have been some advances, notably the ban on digitally altered body images in advertising.
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But battle has hardly been joined so far, nor have any serious efforts been made to censor or control blatantly offending media ads. 
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How we feel about our bodies, comparing them with waif-children in magazines, the adolescent gamines and beardless urchins of the runways. 
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It is also about our general happiness and self-confidence.
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So the question is, what can be done? 
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The first thing is the proper, widely cast investigation the committee in London was doing
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Among witnesses were companies such as L'Oreal, Boots, Unilever and Proctor &Gamble.
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As well as the publishers and editors of young people's magazines. 
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An earlier hearing brought some electric evidence from Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and author of Fat is a Feminist Issue.
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This when she confronted Weight Watchers over what is thought to be the most expensive (£15m) advert ever shown in the UK.
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You can't legislate for what's in people's heads, nor should you try. 
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It  would not be good to see a new censorship. 
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But  as governments today all  try to influence how much people drink. 
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How much exercise people take. 
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And their eating habits.
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And their smoking.
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And their recreational drug habits.
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And their health and safety in increasingly unimaginable detail.
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Then it can certainly do more to help support people who are being made miserable merely by being ordinarily shaped. 
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It could and should regulate the advertising and the practice of cosmetic surgery more closely. 
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It could insist that commercial dieting plans carry independently monitored evidence of their effectiveness, and not industry produced highly suspect one sided information.
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Or very often a complete lack of it.
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This in the same way as we now expect calories and additives to be listed on food labelling.
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Above all, though, simply by raising the issue and constantly talking about it, politicians and journalists can change the culture, or at least nudge it. 
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This is, after all, how all campaigns start. 
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Perhaps because it provides such lucrative advertising, the mainstream media has been ludicrously slow to ridicule and attack the skinny-model fashion houses and the snake-oil diet sellers. 
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We have been far too polite, and two faced; and as a result we have done our children a terrible disservice.
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Jackie Ashley

1 comment:

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