Monday, April 10, 2006

Thin thinner thinnest

So JK Rowling thinks stick thin models are "empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones" does she? Underneath all that misdirection she has got a point - it is after all fundamentally important that young girls grow up to be “independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny” and to understand that self worth will never come from achieving the ‘right’ kind of body. However criticism that focuses on the individual will never achieve this end.

My own experiences of this issue are fairly commonplace. I have only the ‘usual’, the ‘ordinary’ hang-ups. In recent years I became quite depressed and lost a lot of weight. Skinny wasn’t everything I had been led to believe it would be, particularly as it was a constant reminder of my own unhappiness, and as I got happier my body returned to its customary shape and size. I was happy, my body was happy, everything was hunky-dory. Then I went to see a doctor. Who told me I had put on weight since she last saw me. Quite a lot of weight. And didn’t I think I should watch it? Well, no, I had thought I was doing fine. Then sneaking misgivings crept into my thoughts. Which I hasten to add were promptly put to one side as I was reminded that the last time I went to the doctors I was very definitely underweight. So why didn’t they say anything then?

Friends have had similar experiences with doctors. One particular friend starved herself to the point where her periods stopped. She was tiny and it was frightening. Aware that she had gotten herself into a problematic situation she went to the doctor for advice. Who told her perhaps she should go on the pill. That would restart her period. I have received excellent treatment from GPs and am sure another doctor would have been more perceptive, realised that what was required was more than a ‘jumpstart’ from a pill. Nevertheless my own experiences, and those of people around me, all point to a normalisation of the need for thin. It is good that Rowling has spoken out about this. She discusses her own experiences, but nevertheless misses the point. It is the anonymous people at the book awards, the ones more interested in her weight than her writing, who are the problem. It is these she should teach her daughters and her readers about, not the individuals who for whatever reason have already succumbed to the pervasive societal pressure to be thin.

I’m not sure I’m expressing myself very well. This is such a big subject and perhaps not one to be discussed briefly – I may well make mistakes and certainly have not discussed the subject in the depth it deserves. Nevertheless I wanted to express the conflicting feelings I had when Rowling’s comments invaded the news on Friday. Satisfied that a public figure is voicing concern and also that her blog was having an impact, irritation that it seemed misdirected, frustration with much of the comment and debate that seemed to miss the point, and sadness that it passed so briefly through the coverage, forgotten by the weekend editions.


At 3:12 pm, Blogger Fox VS Hedgehog said...

Have you seen the new dove sopa campaign? It's a fund to prove the self esteem of young girls. I went on the dove website to see how they planned on doing this, and it's fairly unclear. To be honest, it's more of a gimmick than anything else, and certainly (as far as I can see) will make very little difference to young girls self esteem issues. All very worthy, but pretty ineffectual.

At 6:07 pm, Blogger la somnambule said...

Just had a look at the website. Although challenging ideas about beauty and its role in our society is important it is difficult to take a campaign funded by the producer of slimfast products seriously. Furthermore how can anything change if only girls are educated?? Seems like a fluffy marketing campaign and nothing more!

At 4:21 am, Blogger spotted elephant said...

Oh, that hurt to read. You lost so much weight when you were depressed (classic symptom) and you went to the dr. and they didn't notice. Who cares that you might have been spiraling toward suicide?

Then you return when you've regained your weight and your health, and the comment is uh oh, you've put on weight! The only thing coming out of that dr's mouth should have been "I'm so sorry I ignored such a serious symptom."

I'm sorry, I don't mean to rant on your comment space. This is a very touchy, personal subject to me. And the medical staff who should be the first lookout for symptoms are worrying about whether you fit the societal standard for thin. Shit, I'm ranting again. I will stop.

At 1:14 pm, Blogger la somnambule said...

Yup I ranted for weeks! I honestly felt that doctor's comments were appalling and I make sure I don't see her anymore but it scares me how often this kind of thing seems to happen to other people too.

At 12:13 pm, Blogger TP said...

It's even more depressing to hear it was a female doctor that made those comments. I expect better from a woman.

How utterly ignorant of her. Sounds like to right decision to stop relying on her advice :o)


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