What’s the ideal body? Who says the media gets to tell us? A constellation of sociocultural factors that are making us sick.

We all know that gender roles in media affect people mentally, and consequently physically. During childhood and adolescence these media exposure events become part of a constellation of sociocultural factors that promote a thinness schema for girls and the muscularity schema for boys amongst other ideals.

Consider these facts about the development of body image which begins developing when we are just newborns. A child immediately begins to explore what his or her body feels like and can do. This process continues his whole life. A child’s body image is influenced by how people around her react to her body and how she looks. A pre-adolescent becomes increasingly aware of what society’s standards are for the “ideal body.”

It is long known that the media (television, movies, magazines, etc.) have, since World War II, increasingly held up a thinner and thinner body image, (and now ever more physically fit image) as the ideal body configuration for women. The ideal man is also presented as trim, but muscular.

the association of attractiveness and thinness was present in over 100 female characters appearing in 23 Walt Disney animated films (cel cartoons) produced over a 60-year period.

Thin female characters in television situation comedies were more likely than heavier female characters to be praised by male characters, and less likely to be insulted by male characters.

Since the 1980s magazines have increasingly depicted the male body in a state of objectified undress, such that a significant focus for the camera and viewer is raw, exposed (“chiseled” or “ripped”) muscularity. This might be the reason my oldest son was chomping at the bit at fourteen to gain permission to start working out. (He didn’t get that permission until he was sixteen, but at that juncture he jumped right into it, buying a gym membership and start working on a “six pack.”

Most working class adolescent girls are dissatisfied with their weight and shape. A study done by ‘Field, et., al in 1999, found that 70%  the girls stated that pictures in magazines influenced their conception of the “perfect” body shape, and over 45% indicated that those images motivated them to lose weight. Further, adolescent girls who were more frequent readers of women’s magazines were more likely to report being influenced to think about the perfect body, to be dissatisfied with their own body, to want to lose weight, and to diet.

Teen-age girls who viewed commercials depicting women who modeled the unrealistically thin (yet ideal by media standards), type of beauty, caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, more angry, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance. I wonder what the percentage is of girls that go on to form medical and psychological maladies like shyness, depression and others?

In a study on fifth graders, 10 year old girls and boys told researchers they were dissatisfied with their own bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears or a clip from the TV show which showcased people thin “media ideal but uncommon in real life’ bodies.

In another recent study on media’s impact on adolescent body dissatisfaction, two researchers found that:

Teens who watched soaps and TV shows that emphasized the ideal body typed reported higher sense of body dissatisfaction. This was also true for girls who watched music videos. Reading magazines for teen girls or women also correlated with body dissatisfaction for girls.

Many children watch between two and four hours of television per day. The presence or absence of role models, how women and men, girls and boys are presented, and what activities they participate in on the screen powerfully affect how girls and boys view their role in the world. Studies looking at cartoons, regular television, and commercials show that although many changes have occurred and girls, in particular have a wider range of role models, for girls “how they look” is still more important than “what they do.”

In a 1997 study designed to study how children described the roles of cartoon characters, children (ages four to nine) “perceived most cartoon characters in stereotypical ways: boys were violent and active and girls were domestic, interested in boys, and concerned with appearances” (Thompson, 1997).

In another study, three weeks of Saturday morning toy commercials were analyzed. Within the sampling,
50% of the commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referenced appearance.
What are we teaching our young girls and boys?  Young males interacting with the toys or items being advertised, acted aggressively in 50% of the commercials aimed at them, while none of the girls behaved aggressively. Even voice-over for young male’s toys was overly presented with speed and aggression.

With regard to work roles depicted on television in a study doen by Sobiera in 1995, no boys had unpaid labor roles, while girls were mainly shown in traditional female jobs or roles of unpaid labor.

Dr. Nancy Signorielli, Professor of Communications at the University of Delaware examined the types of media most often viewed by adolescent girls: television, commercials, films, music videos, magazines and advertisements. While the study did find positive role models of women and girls using their intelligence and acting independently, the media presented an overwhelming message that girls and women should be more concerned with romance and dating (as it follows how they look and looks supposedly determine how successful they will be at their roles), while men focus on their strength, aggressiveness and occupations.

I would like to extrapolate out the conversation and ask you to consider the lasting effects of this ‘body image / gender moulding pre-occupation”. Can the high incidence in male and female dissatisfaction and deprssion be linked to these practices in our media or in a larger context, in our society?

Can we further say that physical maladies such as bulemia, anorexia and a host of anxiety disorders are a result of such seemingly unbalanced ideologies? I have to venture a ‘yes.’ Don’t forget about the boys.   Consider the boys who are twelve and thirteen and already asking for ‘muscle building supplements.’ or ‘chin up bars.’ All you have to do is visit any  MySpace profile pics for young boys and we see them flexing their muscles, which have yet to even finish developing!   Our society is sexualizing, under contextualizing / and gender moulding our children into very narrow roles causing them to see a narrow purpose that is connecting attractiveness with general personal worth.  These are dangerous times.  Kids are worried that they don’t fit in. Worried that they don’t measure up.  Some of them have acquired negative mental and physical manifestations of these anxieties and are killing themselves slowly or in a quick and deliberate way.

What can we do at a grass roots level? I invite discussion.



If Slaughterhouses had glass walls….EVERY BODY WOULD BE VEGETARIAN!!!!

Going Veggie can change the world. It can make us healthier, it can relieve suffering, it can even make a huge dent in slowing down global warming…

What to do...what to do.....ho hum...okay, let's get going!

For some of us, it’s an easy decision and lifestyle to adopt, and for some of us, we wish we could but for some reason we can’t and when we try… we get thwarted and we end up slopping a motherlode of “Redd Eye sweet relish” on a swollen juicy Nathan’s on a fluffy sesame seed bun. I’ve been there, and I also consider myself a former veggie.  My ‘Veggie Identity began right around 1988 and lasted right on up until 1991. I had broken free from my ‘amino acid -savory-meats-addiction. I became a non flesh eater and felt wonderful, and free.   Eventually I came back to meat like a battered lover.  I was  catapulted back into a bad symbiotic relationship. I needed the meat and the meat industry needed me. But my flash point incident slinging me back to my savory suffering wasn’t some juicy steak or In-n-out burger, ‘animal style’ It was a “Nathan’s Best” one of those lightly scorched colored ones that promises to plump and sweat with fat, (and yes a small percentage of indigenous nitrates).

Oozing, feel the snap of the casing of the hotdog in your mouth, or think of the lives that were lost to give you 3 minutes of gastric pleasure.

I couldn’t say no to that sunburned torpedo of  willy nilly fleshy matter, but it was more than that. I got off the health gravy train and back in bed with the helpless drooling flesh-o-philes mostly because people close to me were ‘feeding me nutritional propaganda.’  I was newly pregnant at the time and I was constantly warned about the supposed  “dangers of staying veggie while pregnant!”    Yes my first son, Garet, was proudly on the way and I craved  female input on all things neonatal. Anything from the standard, “which diaper type is best for baby?”  To,  “what feeding pattern should I adopt?”  or, how about “Should I pick up the baby every time it cries?” I was interested in all things relating to pregnancy health, happiness and of course maternal diet.

Some dubious advice offerers said, ‘You need to eat beef!  you need the high amounts of protein that chicken and beef give you!  All the while coyly nudging their left over plate of slow roasted BBQ toward me,  “Think of your baby!” “HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY GET ENOUGH B12 FOR GOD’S SAKE.! or, HOW WILL YOU GET ENOUGH IRON AND  MAGNESIUM FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BABIE’S BLOOD WITHOUT EATING BEEF?” …”And one of the most ill thought out prods was, “Look…this  is SLOW ROASTED…and I CAN’T POSSIBLY eat it all, but  you?  you’re eating for two!  You’ve got  THAT BABY’S HEALTH IN YOUR HANDS! Well, impervious woman of steel I am not.   But nor am I a shrinking violet.  I was mostly ‘advice challenged and not so willing to go out on a lonely limb of nutritional independence I didn’t want to  forge a new territory sans friends, their parties, their eating fests. I didn’t want to be the one with the Scarlett “V” on my Princess cut maternity sweater.     Suffice to say I was a bit spineless and totally awash with pregnancy confusion.  You see fending off Gale force female pressure with no basement to quickly duck away into, was a very tough gig.   Soon I would be  ‘restarted’ on a pattern of nonchalantly eating my mooing, furry and feathered friends.

My well-meaning but sadly mis-informed friends howled again and again “we just CARE for you!!!”

Whaaaa Whaaaaa, Would U pleeeeze...just do it for us? You're baby depends on it!

They bellowed painfully as their faces crunched up and eyebrows turned up in sadness. I began to think I was very wrong about my position without meat. It was a pseudo-warm-fuzzy guilt-laden blitzkrieg. In the end I didn’t have good information to help me resist their wails of impending disaster.

Since Al Gore hadn’t yet tweaked his nose a la Samantha Stevens style, and blinked the internet existence, I couldn’t simply surf The “INTERNETS” which we all know he invented. I couldn’t find out where the pregnant veggie women went to get their goods.  I also couldn’t drill down to the street level and even check out the neighborhood I was  to waddle through.

Suffice to say I had no way to substitute the ‘quick and dirty’ slab of animal meat for something wonderful healthy and tasty. Had I been able to do do all this back in the time of analog, I wouldn’t be dealing with my animal flesh habit right now.

Meet the truth / Meat the truth....How kicking the meat habit can help the environment in a big way.

I don’t consider myself ‘meat conflicted,’ incidentally, an ingenious little term, which by the way was thought up by my dear cousin Marcie, now has the esteemed etymological distinction of coining on Facebook last night. (We’ll see if Urban Dictionary picks this up by next week), and my suspicion is they do…

Unfortunately I consider myself  “relapsed.” It’s a renewed torture this minor animal flesh habit.  This sounds pretty gross but I hate to tell you people shoveling a piece of medium rare steak a piece of  Ikea flatware, or gnawing on the leg of Wilbur the pig, we’re all in this together.  Can ‘meat lust’ be like any other addiction?  I would return a vote of ‘yes.” Can Dr. Drew Pinsky build an MTV show on this addiction?  Not sure,  but my tendency is to say no.  Is it the most pervasive addiction?  Strangely enough… probably.  How many of us see the act of keeping animal meat in our diet as an unrelenting and purely human instinctual ‘need?’ Many of us think so. We can’t live with out it we say. Well I offer…maybe not.

Maybe we can actually ‘break the habit!’ This is the good news for the “meat conflicted.”  What if we can stop this ‘gastric meat lust’ and simply employ some logical strategies to help us lose this “taste?,”  No longer do we have to feel the dichotomy of,  hate for the animal processing industry, and the relenting and guilt we feel as we reach for a burger or a big fat drippy rib eye. Now we can look at our desire to eat animal meat as an addiction.  Every other ill in our society for which we cannot seem to control soon gets deemed an addiction anyway! So why not?…For every ‘addiction’ there are  plans consisting of  4, 5, 7 or 12 steps.  And when the plan doesn’t work,  sadly, some type of pill is usually dispensed to finish the job.   The addiction to meat CAN and should be corralled. Why not? there are tons of healthy people who really ‘get’ why going veggie is a good thing, There are people who have either lost their desire for meat or never developed it. For those of us former Wilbur-eaters, it will take a commitment, reminders, commaraderie and support.

Here are some ways to quell “meat lust” and live a happier, healthier life:

1) slowly cut the ounces of meat that you include in your diet by 1/2 oz each week. Add more fluids, and increase your regular serving of vegetables on your plate by 1/4. Decrease the meat and add veggies, nuts, flax, grains and root vegetables.

2) Add 2 oz of your favorite snack nut to your dessert or just have the snack nuts (watch the salt if you have to! – unsalted is usually available) as your after meal treat. Jazz up the nuts if you need to, add some cane sugar, but don’t dust them like a bad 70’s christmas tree.  the point is to slowly move away from the craving and introduce alternate proteins.

3) Utilize the many forms of soy! Soy is a joy. Cook with soy, use soy as an additive!  Soy’s come a long way.  Don’t hate on the soy. Make it your friend.

3) Research protein alternatives (It’s easy since Al Gore discovered the Intertet(s).  …Be diligent and add enough each day so as to keep up your specific recommended daily amount correct per your weight.  Especially if you are pregnant.  It’s really not that hard.  Thanks to Al, there are tons of websites that you can peruse for tips, even full on meal plans.

4) Inform yourself of the latest events in the political action against processors that run askew of general respect, health and humanity of animals.  Make your voice heard.  Have a vested interest in seeing the animal processing industry clean up it’s act.  Donate funds, your time or just plain talk, blog, or communicate about it.

5) Find friend and social networking groups that will encourage you. Veggies have risen and shirked their negative generalizations.  Advocate.  Renew your commitment to life and all living things each year.

6) Dine with people who support your convictions and respect you. Talk about the issues facing animals, people and nutrition.

7) Visit a slaughter house (if you are brave), and see firsthand why you are committing to a life without the contribution to cruelty.

Being a vegetarian is not trendy, cool or hip. Respecting living things THROUGH BEING A VEGETARIAN is cool and hip!

Let’s help each-other and let’s help animals.   Break the meat addiciton.  Implore animal processors to play by the rules (if we can’t initially shut the bad guys down), at least they can and should be accountable to ‘we the people.’  We are the consumers. We are the people who create the demand at the markets in the first place!