Friday, November 29, 2013

Rebecca Adlington's body image

Recently, during an episode of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, Rebecca Adlington, winner of four Olympic medals, made a tearful confession. In a conversation with model Willertonthat, she admitted that the pressures of looking good made her feel “very, very insecure” and that she had “ to look a certain way”.

Rebecca elaborated by stating that since she had become well known, she has had to endure regular (weekly) abuse about her appearance:

“For me”, said Rebecca, “I was an athlete, I wasn't trying to be a model, but pretty much every single week on Twitter I get somebody commenting on the way I look."

Reflecting on Amy, Rebecca said that [Amy] "doesn't know what it's like on a day to day basis.

"She's stick thin, she's got these push-up bras that make her boobs seem massive. She's stunning.

“To me it’s not to do with her as a person. It’s the image she portrays that girls should be stick thin and beautiful.”

In a show of support, actress Laila Morse (Eastenders), told Rebecca she was "beautiful".

It is not the first time the Rebecca has mentioned her concerns about the pressure on women to look a certain way.

In 2008 she formally complained to the BBC about Frankie Boyle’s (Mock The Week ) ‘joke’ that stated, the she "looks pretty weird... like someone who's looking at themselves in the back of a spoon".

In response the BBC Trust issued a reprimand and labelled the statement, "humiliating" and "offensive".
"It's hard for a woman”, said Rebecca looking back at the incident. “ A woman has to deal with it - and that's never easy.

"A guy doesn't get comments on his weight or his looks. They just don't care, guys, do they? But for women it is difficult because we get criticised for our weight or how we look. It's just how it is."

Rebecca Adlington has to her credit significant sporting achievements and she is also an excellent female role model. Yet, despite this, it is clear that she is just as susceptible, to the body and beauty pressures, that society places on females.


Monday, November 25, 2013

'Inner a beauty doesn't exist ...'

Venezuela has won the Miss Universe competition 3 times; in 2008, 2009 and 2013. This has fuelled the countries focus on appearance, beauty in particular and has lead to a steady rise in those undergoing cosmetic surgery.

The countries appearance lead society has also resulted in the growth and success of companies in the beauty industry.  E.g.  According to The New York Times,  Venezuelan mannequin manufacture a Eliezer Alvarez has transformed his business by designing a fibreglass model with “a bulging bosom … wispy waist and long legs. ”

Controversially, in a statement that sparked an outcry,  head of Miss Venezuela pageant Mr Tiselius stated  “Inner a beauty doesn't exist ….“un-pretty women invented [it] to justify themselves.”


Friday, November 15, 2013

Body Image and Hunger (Games)

It is movie promotion time again: the Hunger Games’ sequel Catching Fire is out on the 21st of the month. In this outing Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, ) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) return to the arena as opponents, in a battle to the death.

In a bid to publicise the film, actress 23 year old Jennifer Lawrence, who plays heroine Katniss, gave an interview to Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer.

During the interview, Jennifer veered off the film Catching Fire, to openly discuss her views on body image. She made her disproval of the notion that actresses should look like “perfect models” or “hungry to make other people happy” crystal clear. In the Question & Answer session she said:

“The world has this idea that if you don't look like an airbrushed perfect model…… You have to see past it. You look how you look, you have to be comfortable.

“What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That's just dumb.”

Read Article


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pretty in the front, ugly in the back

On Wednesday, a former hostess who worked at the French restaurant Georges, situated in the famous Pompidou Centre, spoke to Le Canard Enchainé (print only newspaper).

The topic of conversation centred on her bosses, French brothers Gilbert and Jean-Louis Costes, unusual seating policy. The restaurant is organised “inside-out"; diners are visible to passing museum visitors.

Simply put, the policy (imposed) required that “handsome and beautiful” customers were placed at the front of the establishment, while less attractive ones were hidden away towards the back of the building.

The former employee said that Gilbert Costes regularly reiterated the restaurant’s appearance based seating policy.

“He drummed these house rules into us”, she said. “He was very proud of them because he came up with them.

“Beautiful people”, she added quoting Gilbert, “you put them here.… not-beautiful people, you put them there, it's really not that complicated."

She then elaborated on how the policy was enforced stating that seating a customer, who management did not find sufficiently attractive, at the front of the restaurant would result in a reprimand because, it was “bad for the image of the place.”

In the case of phone reservations, when the customer’s physical appearance could not be determined, callers would be told that they would "do their best". Once the prospective diners had arrived, a decision on whether or not and where to seat them was made.

Celebrities, she said were exempt from the “pretty in the front, ugly in the back” policy.

When asked for a response, the Costes group refused to either confirm or deny the allegations.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

The objectification of women by both sexes

A new study, looking at the objectification of women, has been published in Sex Roles (journal).

For the study researchers Sarah Gervais and Michael Dodd (psychologists) from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, asked 65 participants (29 female and 36 male students) to look at pictures of 10 women and to rate each woman on personality and appearance.

The objective of the study was to see if/how males and females looked at (objectified) women and to note any similarities and differences.

Participants were shown three photos of each woman. One showed the woman’s true size, while the other two were enhanced to depict fuller chests, hips and bottoms. One of the enhanced photos was more curvaceously enhanced than the other. Eye tracking technology was then utilised to track each participant’s eyes.

The results were as follows:

Both the males and females put equal focus on the enhanced areas of the woman’s body, rather than their face. The more enhanced photos received the longest attention.

The results surprised researchers, who had anticipated that a focus on ‘personality’ would result in more attention being paid to faces, rather than the women’s body. Both sexes looked at the body as well as the face; males rated the more enhanced curvier photos of the women more positively than the slimmer versions.

They concluded:

"We do have a slightly different pattern for men than women, but when we looked at their overall dwell times, how long they focused on each body part, we find the exact same effects for both groups," Sarah said in a statement. "Women, we think, do it often for social comparison purposes."

She also concluded that men had evolved to be more drawn to curve, because they imply better childbearing abilities.

Objectification, the researchers contended, negatively impacts women.

"It can undermine (women's) work performance. It can cause them to self-silence and it's related to increased perceptions of sexual harassment," Sarah said. "If you think about all of the negative consequences, figuring out what's triggering all of those consequences, that's the first step toward stopping it from happening."

The study will form part of a bigger study aimed at understanding why people objectify women, in the hope of limiting (by controlling behaviour through self awareness) objectifying behaviour. Michael outlined the wider study’s aims as follows:

"By characterizing the manner in which people fixate on the body when engaging in objectifying behaviour, it also becomes possible to determine methods of reducing this behaviour”. He said. "It's not as though looking at the body of someone has to be, or is, a default behaviour. It just may be the case that cognitive control is required to engage in more appropriate, and less damaging, visual behaviour."


Monday, November 04, 2013

Trick or treat letter

A Halloween story from the US caught my attention last week. During the ‘trick or treat’ festivities, a woman from North Dakota decided to use the opportunity to inform some of the children that they had a weight problem. Whenever a child that she deemed “moderately obese” came to her door; she handed them a letter rather than the expected ‘treat’.

The letter read:

“Happy Halloween and happy holidays neighbour.

“You are probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.

“Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.
My hope is that you will step up and parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.

“Thank you”

Commenting on the letter the woman said:

“I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight… I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it”.

“While this woman may have good intentions”, said Julie Court (My Body Beautiful’s founder) ,” it is important to consider the possible consequences of such action; particularly if the letter is given to a sensitive, self-conscious or vulnerable child.”

“[Health is] not something that someone can judge, just by looking at them”, said Dr. Katie Gordon (NDSU Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology). “I think that’s the main thing. Even if a child is overweight, they might be very healthy because of what they eat and how they exercise. It’s ineffective anyway because it’s not likely to help the kid.”

Over the years there have been many public debates about social responsibility. It can range from an obligation to check on an elderly neighbour to reporting suspected child abuse cases.

Giving a letter to an overweight child (stranger) on Halloween, is taking social responsibility a step too far.