*This post contains potential triggers for disordered eating*
Fury. Rage. Anger. Disgust. Shame. Hopelessness. Empathy. Actually, to perfectly describe what I’m feeling, it would be misleading to tell you that my blood isn’t (figuratively) boiling. Sometimes, I wish I were blind. I wish I were blind to the society we live in, to the unacceptable (and mostly impossible) standards we create for the young girls (and boys). I wish I were blind to the cruel world we’ve created; a world in which girls are nothing short of mean to cover their own insecurities. They monitor everything they put in their body, they compare and contrast their bodies against their peers’, they crave attention from anyone and everyone, and there are no limits to obtaining the “perfect” image. But to be blind, I would be ignoring the problem that rampantly runs through the cliques and the ever malleable teen (and pre-teen) mind. Whether I choose to see it or not, our future is headed in a horrible direction.
Insert Brandy Melville*: a “one size” clothing line for teens, designed and produced for only the smallest figures.
Recently, there has been an overwhelming amount negative press associated with this designer. The majority of these responses are spitting out facts from the National Eating Disorder Association, and providing their input in the form of “what-if” or “would be” scenarios.
I, however, come to you from behind enemy lines. If I were blind to body image issues I could have (very realistically) avoided the Eating Disorder Treatment Facility in which I spent Christmas 2013. If I weren’t so self-critical with a “perfect girl” mentality, the thinspo and fitspo movement wouldn’t have caused me to miss New Years celebrations with my family. Hear this: I know firsthand the detrimental effects a company like this can have.
The difference between the 1990s teen I was and the average teen today is tremendous. Social media didn’t exist. Now, it’s essentially ecstasy. 12-year-olds have Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter; they follow and hashtag in resounding numbers. The images they see speak louder than any thought they have or any word they mutter. Sure, reading Twitter can be triggering because words have the potential to be powerful, but Tumblr and Instagram are different beasts. They create insecurities kids don’t always realize they have. They also create insecurities they know they have but don’t see a problem with. Tumblr has plenty of “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” accounts giving instructions and encouragement for those with anorexia and bulimia instead of treatment options and information on the detrimental health effects associated with an eating disorder. Instagram gives these teens a visual outlet, complete with hashtags and the capability to be commended and applauded via comments and new followers.
skinny: [skin-ee] adjective, skinnier, skinniest. 1. very lean or thin; emaciated 2. of or like skin.
These kids throw around that word like it’s a side dish that goes with their lunch (if they’re even eating lunch). It’s seen as a compliment; it’s coveted by most. Read that definition again. Emaciated. That’s what they want to look like. Some of these kids don’t even know what the definition of emaciated is, but what they do know is that they want a thigh gap, they want their collarbone protruding, they want their hip bones to show when they wear their low rise jeans and midriff shirt.
I lost all composure a few months ago when I read a piece about JCrew, the triple zero, and the XXXS. The triple zero, in an adolescent/young adult store, is appalling with a 23” waist and the XXXS with a 30.5” bust. I thought I was infuriated with JCrew until I dove into Brandy Melville. The fitted shirts I looked up had an 11”-14” bust while the oversized or baggy shirts were in the 18-20” range and the jackets were a whopping 16-19” bust; the pants vary from a 10” to a 13” waist. The thing that disturbs me the most upon looking through their Instagram page*, is that I see girls that look perfectly normal (which, according to their measurements, these girls are well below a healthy waist circumference for their height and age). The clothes are fitting baggy; they look free-spirited and happy. That’s the illusion our teens are subjected to.
What exactly would it look like for an average, real-life girl to get to the point where they would fit into clothes with a ten inch waist? It’s not so free spirited, it’s not so happy, and it for damn sure isn’t glamorous. It’s hours upon hours of lying to their parents about what they had for lunch when they actually didn’t have anything but ice water. It’s convincing their dad that they need a few bucks to run to Target for a new tube of mascara when they’re really buying laxatives. It’s being scared to death over gaining a decimal of a pound. When their mom requires them to eat dinner in front of her, they immediately go upstairs to “do homework” and instead they find themselves heading straight to the bathroom to purge. It’s getting a gym membership to up their game for soccer tryouts when the underlying reason is actually the shame and guilt they shoulder.
This is not ok. Some people may defend the companies that indirectly promote eating disorders by saying “there are plenty of other stores to shop in,” “the kids can make their own decisions,” or even “those stores don’t promote anorexia or bulimia, they’re just selling fabric.” But, if you look around, you’ll see these kids surrounded by the ever-present fear of weight gain. Your average child isn’t scared of being too thin. However, they should be.
I was babysitting a few weeks ago and a child under six years of age said “I can’t eat my lunch because it’ll make my belly too big.” Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Convincing a child to eat a balanced diet is tough, but how do you convince them that it’s ok to eat at all when their parents have treated food as an enemy? It’s virtually impossible. These parents are guilty of chronic dieting, skipping meals, and excessive exercise to justify eating in general. If the parents are displaying these behaviors, it’s only a matter of time before the children pick up on the same techniques and implement them in extreme ways.
Our world is running so rampant with the side effects and the health concerns from obesity that we fail to see the opposite side of the spectrum. For the ED patients in recovery, food is an ally. But society rarely treats it as such. Instead we are forever surrounded with calorie counts on menus, low-fat or fat free options, diet pills, meal replacement shakes, etc. The grim reality is that this will not change. What should change is how we market to children. Any form of body-shaming is unacceptable (i.e. fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, etc.). My genuine concern is for the health and wellbeing of the generation we’re raising.
We all saw the movie “Mean Girls.” Deep down we know that on Wednesdays we wear pink, every school has The Plastics, and every girl crushes hard on Aaron Samuels. Every town in America has a Regina George that makes someone feel inferior and worthless. Our children are overwhelmed by peer pressure and power that the socialites create through snide, sarcastic comments, and sometimes flat-out bullying. I have my own daily battles but lately, I find myself feeling helpless when it comes to the rising generation. I find myself hurting for these tweens and teens. Being a kid in the 90s was difficult, but being one today? I can’t even imagine. Girls are meaner than ever and boys make it evident that looks trump personality. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, and that should embarrass us. Even worse is that it doesn’t seem to matter how many people I reach, it is still going to take a revolution with everyone on the front line to make our society see this tragedy for what it really is. Imagine a world that rallies behind the eating disorder epidemic like we have the obesity one? The potential is exponential.
Moms and Dads, you may tell me you don’t see a problem with your little girl following the latest fashion trend. But how will you honestly answer me when I ask you: what’s the ultimate price you’re willing to pay for your daughter to get that $30 shirt? If you continue to turn your head, ignore the issues, and think your daughter is “different” or “not in danger” of succombing to the pressures of the teenage world, you may find yourself planning her funeral and buying her coffin instead of taking her Christmas shopping.
*I almost didn’t link to their website for no other reason than I absolutely don’t want them to get a spike in site visits. However, omitting their website would be poor writing on my part. Including a hyperlink within the article allows you to form your own opinion separate from my personal choice to boycott and petition against this company.
If you were as confused by these sizes as we were, here’s what Brandy Melville had to say when we expressed confusion as to how anyone could have an 11 inch waist. It should also be noted that this convoluted sizing seems to only be reinforcing the dangerous obsession for women to be the smallest size possible.