Has an emancipated women's body become "normal"?

(75 Posts)
MadonnaKebab Thu 14-Mar-13 09:09:35

At a museum today I saw lots of photos of prisoners of war liberated from Japanese camps
The men were shockingly, horribly emancipated
At first glance the (nursing corps) women didn't look too bad
But when I compared scrawny limbs , exposed collarbones etc I realised that they were in fact equally malnourished
It was just that after years of seeing photos of Hollywood stars etc, this undernourished look has almost become acceptable to me (but only on a woman )
I scared myself (as a mother of a DD) that my "acceptable" has become warped like this

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 09:11:26

I think you mean "emaciated", not emancipated...

MmeLindor Thu 14-Mar-13 09:15:04

<prepares for flood of 'I think you mean emaciated not emancipated' posts>

Interesting point. I think that there is a gap between the perceived 'normal' and the reality. While the pics in magazines are getting thinner, we as a nation, are getting fatter.

wrongsideoftheroad Thu 14-Mar-13 09:15:12

Clicked on the thread as I couldn't make out why I couldn't make sense of the title!

But in answer to whether an emaciated body has become normal...I'm in two minds really...on a hollywood celeb/model I might expect a certain body size, but wouldn't expect the same of a mum on the school run, if that makes sense?

I have two friends with ectomorph body types who are both very, very slim and quite tall. Within about a week of having each of their babies they were back to their (entirely natural for them) very slim sizes and I would say they are noticably very thin, to the point that people notice and talk about it (not in a derogatory way).

MmeLindor Thu 14-Mar-13 09:16:37

Yes, Xpost with Wrongside.

I think we have got used to seeing images of emaciated bodies in the media, and you're right in that it send a bad message. But then again, what we are used to seeing in the media and in real life aren't really the same thing. When I see super-skinny folk on TV I don't think twice about it, but when I see super-skinny people in real life it's definitely something I do notice, like your school run mums.

It's the same as how in real life I'm used to cars being on the left-hand side of the road, but because we watch so much American TV, I'm more used to seeing cars drive on the right, so on TV cars on the left look odd.

They're two different realities - one which is real life and one which is TV fantasy.

That's not to say that the subliminal messages from the fantasy world don't seep through to tell us we're not good enough, and that looking like a malnourished prisoner of war is the ideal.


popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 09:23:32

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MadonnaKebab Thu 14-Mar-13 09:25:34

Sorry about the autocorrect-related confusion
Glad you could still understand my confused point!

MadonnaKebab Thu 14-Mar-13 09:30:42

The point I was tying to express was that this extreme point of undernourishment was obvious to me on a man, but I failed to recognise it on a woman, which makes me worry that we could fail to pick up anorexia in our DDs because of the photos of famous women that we are bombarded with.
Badly expressed obviously

popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 09:30:56

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I do get your point though.

MadonnaKebab Thu 14-Mar-13 09:51:48

Anorexia may not be the most common problem
But it is a problem
And it kills young women more rapidly than obesity does
I don't think that the fact that obesity is more common, would be considered a valid point to negate concerns about HIV , skin cancer or anything else less prevalent than obesity

MadonnaKebab Thu 14-Mar-13 09:57:14

Plus, as Annie says, the more widespread effect on perfectly normal-sized women and girls being made to feel inadequate against an unhealthy ideal

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 10:00:57

The problem with weight/body size is the same problem that most people seem to struggle with: moderation and being normal. We live in a society that sends constant messages about how we need to "shine", "be exceptional", "excel", "find our talents", "be famous". Being normal, moderate and leading a normal, moderate life is despised. Excess is all - and that is reflected in people's eating habits.

juneau Thu 14-Mar-13 10:03:10

I honestly think obesity is a far greater problem. Anorexia has always been around and models/actresses have been unnaturally thin for several decades.

However, I do take your point that perhaps we're so used to seeing unnaturally thin women in the media that the images have lost the ability to shock us - or even register that they're abnormal. Having said that, the recent photos of part-time anorexic Nicole Richie made me shake my head, as does any photo of her mentor Rachel Zoe. That anyone can want to look like such a scrawny bag of bones as they do, is beyond me.

drjohnsonscat Thu 14-Mar-13 10:07:10

popularmost I think that's almost the point though. That body shape is not particularly common (actually never has been if my family photos are anything to go by - lots of turn of the century women looking rather stocky). But we now read it as the norm and everyone else is therefore "off".

Obviously obesity carries its own health problems but just being a normal , slightly fat or slightly thin woman doesn't. The problems madonna is referring to are the problems related to (mostly) women's inability to accept their normal bodies as the norm. We don't count the cost of this to the NHS but in misery terms, it's quite significant.

devilinside Thu 14-Mar-13 10:21:56

Couldn't agree more. If you look at old photos of princess Diana, she looks a bit podgy, compared to today's standards. although at the time everyone said how thin she was. Shows how our peceptions have changed in such a short time

popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 10:22:20

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Bearing in mind anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental health problems, yes it is a problem.

And even if anorexia isn't something you are aware of everyday, you don't know that you aren't seeing anorexic (or bulimic or ED-NOS sufferers), they don't wear badges FFS.

MmeLindor Thu 14-Mar-13 10:43:55

Obesity and anorexia are not two separate issues.

The problem with the image of the undernourished models is that it strongly suggests that this is an ideal, to which we should aim.

For many girls this leads to body confidence issues, as this 'ideal' is one that is either genetic or achieved by relentless dieting, and calorie restriction, which can lead to eating disorders.

Eating disorders that may manifest as anorexia, bulimia - and some say as obesity.

I think some of you may be missing the point. Yes, obesity is a big problem, and more widespread than anorexia. But that has nothing to do with the fact that we are now so conditioned to seeing images of horribly underweight women in the media that we don't recognise malnourishment in women the same way that we do in men. The obesity argument is a red herring.

Perhaps one of the reasons more people are obese is that we know we can never "look beautiful" in the same way as the women in the media so we don't even bother trying.

MmeLindor Thu 14-Mar-13 10:52:14

Exactly, Annie.

It is every dieter's Monday morning. 'I am going to look like X'

Monday and Tues you only eat salad and tasteless Ryvita.

Wednesday, you step on scales. Bugger. Put on a pound.

Thursday. Invited out to lunch. Fuck it. Have been starving all week and haven't lost any weight. Gorge.

Repeat weekly till you can't look in the mirror without cringing.

popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 10:53:02

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popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 10:54:35

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drjohnsonscat Thu 14-Mar-13 10:54:40

also this is only part to do with anorexia. this is about ordinary women with perfectly normal fat/thin/whatever bodies carrying the burden of this extreme thinness as a norm. Most people don't go on to develop anorexia - but there is a huge amount of body dissatisfaction out there which is entirely destructive and unhelpful.

drjohnsonscat Thu 14-Mar-13 10:55:57

popularmost you seem to have your fingers in your ears grin

Nobody said there weren't any fat people. There are lots. Too many. That's absolutely not what this thread is about. At all.

If you look at the kind of websites where you get "thinspiration" photos you are just as likely to get seriously underweight anorexics, as "normal" bulimics, as overweight compulsive over eaters, and of course ED-NOS is a catch all for those who fit into multiple categories. So ED-NOS sufferers could be any weight.

And part of the problem behind many eating disorders is the distorted (often digitally so) view of what women should look like as presented by fashion magazines etc. It's easy to become convinced that we should look exactly like the women in the magazines, and while you may assume that this would manifest as anorexia, it is just as likely to manifest as one of the other ED's.

I know that many of my EDd friends did not count as anorexic and yet would spend 50% of their time starving themselves, taking laxatives and over exercising, and then 50% of their time binging, sneaking food etc. Because, despite being polar opposites in superficial ways, they are all part of the same continuum - it's self punishment for not being perfect. It's why many ED sufferers are self harmers and drug users.

That's really fascinating annie, that comparison made something 'click' for me. I think you're right.

I think obesity is not partly because it is cheaper to fill up on cheap, processed, fatty food, especially if you haven't got good cooking facilities wherever you live. So it is partly a poverty issue. As is having time to exercise. It used to be if you were poor, your job would be physically demanding but would quite likely also be a good work out. These days you might do something that is physically very draining, such as working long night shifts (there is a correlation between disturbing your sleep pattern and bad eating, if I remember rightly). But it may well not be good exercise. If you are working two sedentary jobs, you're fucked, really. So there are lots of reasons why income levels correlate with obesity, I think. And I think that also leads us to stigmatize obesity because being slim and toned is more associated with rich people.

Obviously got a stray 'not' at the start of the second para.

'I think obesity is not partly because it is cheaper'

popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 11:01:41

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MmeLindor Thu 14-Mar-13 11:03:36

Is there something getting lost in translation? Several people have explained in several different ways that obesity is part of eating disorders, and that a contributory factor is unhealthy body image.

Why are you still harping on about obese people, and refusing to see it as part of a larger (no pun intended) issue?

Popularmost I'm sure you'll ignore this but..

Most popular catwalk models from autumn/winter 2012
Celebrities often used on magazine covers
50 most beautiful celebrities

Overwhelmed by larger ladies there..

Does the discrepancy between the average person on the street and the people in the magazines not stand out to you at all?

Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 11:05:39

Since when is it a competition between anorexia and obesity? They are such similar things, misuse of food, but being overweight is rarely (if ever) the kind of medical emergency that anorexia and bulimia create

popular Look, I'll try and keep this simple.

Unrealistic expectations of women as presented by magazines/TV/movies/music industry can cause the average women on the street to develop a mental health problem related to her own body image.

This most often manifests as an eating disorder.

Eating disorder does not necessarily mean anorexia.

Eating disorder also does not necessarily mean thin.

Eating disorder can mean overweight/obese.

And even without a full blown ED, the emotional/mental damage is high.

popularmost Thu 14-Mar-13 11:11:16

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Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 11:16:53

you are just being silly, they are two sides of the same coin although children don't miss whole years of school locked up in ED units because they are a bit podgy

KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Mar-13 11:17:12

Hullo everyone,

There appears to have been an unsavory presence on this thread - they won't be bothering us again. As you were.

Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 11:17:40

oh thanks for deleting that tedious poster mnhq

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 11:20:31

Anorexia and bulimia may be rarer than obesity, but they are all sides of the same coin. I don't think we can blame the media though. It's far more complicated than that.

maintaining a low weight carries just as many risks as a high weight, heart attacks, low immunity, lowered bone density and often problems with your kidneys and liver. the fact that there is a hige problem with obesity doesn't detract from the damage that anorexia does, and vice versa. By holding the two against each other and competing for the title of Most Unhealthy Eating Disorder, you miss the point and promote the myth that one is better than the other.

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 11:21:08

thank you Katie, doncha just love pro-ana's.

usernameyoudlike Thu 14-Mar-13 11:39:08

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usernameyoudlike Thu 14-Mar-13 11:40:00

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"By holding the two against each other and competing for the title of Most Unhealthy Eating Disorder, you miss the point and promote the myth that one is better than the other."

Absolutely. Which, aside from being stupid, is also likely to make people hurt themselves more due to not having the "right" eating disorder.

usernameyoudlike Thu 14-Mar-13 11:41:08

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znaika Thu 14-Mar-13 11:44:53

with the high profile exceptions of victoria beckham and anjelina jolie I don't see emaciated women in the media. I really don't. I'm not showbiz inclined though. I do know that my healthy, naturally athletic, size 10, BMI 22 body, when in the UK, is constantly criticed for being too thin. I just think people have lost sight of what healthy is. I was in St Petersburg recently and saw pictures in a museum of women from the siege. There is absolutely no fucking way I see images of women in the media who look like that, women on the cusp of dying

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 11:45:50

its a red herring though. While being overweight is more common, being underweight is held up as more desirable. and theres this constant infighting and attempts to belittle anyone on the opposite end to you.

If you are overweight you describe yourself as a "real woman", thin people are "stick insects" and not sexy, etc.

If you are thin then fat people are "lazy" disgusting, have no restraint etc.

We do ourselves no favours.

I am anorexic. I know that, and live with it every day. It's not Heat magazine's fault though. I have a bug in my brain that copes with stress by rejecting food.

One of my best friends in an overeater. It's not Adele's fault, she has a bug in her brain that copes with stress by overeating.

Its not a competition.

Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 11:47:58

anyway, collarbones are supposed to be visible

I think

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 11:49:16

Absolutely. Which, aside from being stupid, is also likely to make people hurt themselves more due to not having the "right" eating disorder.

yes. and promotes the swinging between EDs.

znaika Thu 14-Mar-13 11:53:37

I also think that people forget that women and girls develop at different rates. I've seen slim but full chested, wide hipped 14 and 15 year olds, but I certainly didn't fill out until my mid 20s. Now post child and in my mid 30s, my ribcage is just so much wider for example.There is no point in women in their 30s and 40s looking at perfectly normal bodies of "kids" in their late teens and early 20s and thinking that looks impossibly thin, but forgetting the massive differential in age and physical development, esp if these women have not carried children.

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 11:54:31

znaika, yep.

"I am anorexic. I know that, and live with it every day. It's not Heat magazine's fault though. I have a bug in my brain that copes with stress by rejecting food. "

Sorry to hear that. It's a hard way to live sad

I agree that it is far more complex than just blaming the media, but the media definitely plays a role. Maybe not in all EDs, and maybe not as the cause, but IME it tends to back up many ED sufferers views of themselves.

And if definitely affects non-ED sufferers views of themselves, as shown by the sales of magazines etc selling diets based on what the celebs are doing.

I remember watching a TV documentary that involved talking to primary school children about body image, and a lot of these very young girls saw themselves as fat, and when shown a variety of photos of different size women they all said they wanted to look like the thinnest one as the others (even the healthy weight ones) were too fat.

ED, when talking about media depictions of body types, is somewhat of a red herring. As ED is about more than just how people look. It's the fact that it is seen as totally normal for all women to diet, to aspire to photoshopped figures that is so damn disturbing.

lissie Oh yes. It does that. I know that I still feel proud of the time I spent starving and ashamed of the time I spent binging, even though both are equally unhealthy. But as our troll friend so happily pointed out, there is a definite view that I should feel that way.

Getting on this thread, interesting point op.

TheSecondComing Thu 14-Mar-13 12:00:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 12:00:11

The age that the ed manifested is also relevant, the younger you are, the less driven you are by aspiration. I was 6. And even now hate the way I look when too thin. It draws too much attention. But its the addiction to the starvation high and knowing that I CAN that drives me.

Teenagers are more likely to not want to be fat.

Does that make sense? On twatphone.

I remember seeing some before and after pictures of a photoshopped model. It wasn't until I saw the after picture that I realised they'd airbrushed her ribcage to make it slimmer. The realisation that I'd accepted the before picture as totally normal without any thought scared the hell out of me.

Makes perfect sense lissie

I was early twenties, so definitely more affected by media.

Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 12:10:04

when I was misdiagnosed had a similar problem it had nothing to do with being fat, I was just terrified of everything and couldn't eat

also isn't the 'fear of fatness' thing a fairly recent addition to our concept of anorexia?

Lancelottie Thu 14-Mar-13 12:14:00

Are you sure we recognise emaciation in men and boys?

I'm struggling to get help for my teenage son at the moment. He's stick-thin, with a longstanding habit of rejecting food (partly Aspergers problems with textures, partly a control issue, I think).

All I've had from health professionals is:

'Oh, that's just boys, isn't it, eat for England [no he doesn't] and stay so slim with it.'
'He's fine, he's 25th centile for weight for his age' [but he's 6 ft tall and his bloody BMI is below the 1st centile for his age, you twit]

The fact that he is grey-faced and skull-like with a visible heartbeat through his clothes, never mind his ribs, is something only I can see, apparently.

Lancelottie Thu 14-Mar-13 12:14:51

Mitchy, cross-posts! DS says he can't (not won't) eat when he's stressed, too.

Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 12:22:00

oh lancelottie good luck getting help, it is hard enough with girls, my daughter was in a unit where they had only ever had one boy despite, you know statistically, there obviously being more than one boy in the area throughout the history of the unit who was unwell enough to need a bed there

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 12:22:05

Lancelottie, my heart goes out to you and your ds. The support is still not great, which is awful. Do you have a support network? And yep. When I'm struggling I couldn't even eat a slice of toast if my life depended on it. Can't swallow it. My throat closes up and bile rises. Dh and I have been in tears over attempts to eat a bowl of plain pasts. That's why the "just eat"s are so unhelpful.

lissieloo Thu 14-Mar-13 12:23:42

Have you contacted B-eat?

And sorry op, I know we have derailed your thread blush

"also isn't the 'fear of fatness' thing a fairly recent addition to our concept of anorexia?"

I don't know, I remember it being a part of it at least 15 years ago when I first joined an ED/self harm support group.

It's like all mental health disorders really, no universal cause. So some will be affected more by desire to be thin/fear of fat, some will be motivated by fear of food, some will be using it as a form of self harm, some will be motivated by fear of growing up/desire to be pre-pubescent, some will be motivated by the control side of it, and so on and so forth.

Lancelottie Thu 14-Mar-13 12:33:59

Hadn't heard of B-eat, but I've just looked at it and it looks good, thanks!

Lancelottie Thu 14-Mar-13 12:34:39

I think it was the attitude of 'staying so lovely and slim' that really got my goat.

Mitchy1nge Thu 14-Mar-13 12:35:28

when I say recent, I mean in the context of anorexia mirabilis and that whole religious thing which arguably predates the media (not to downplay its role at all)

TeiTetua Thu 14-Mar-13 13:44:24

If women are now emancipated, how come so many of them want to be emaciated? And now "anorexia mirabilis"...

I've spent some time volunteering at a facility that was used by people on long-distance hikes, where they were on the trail for months, with constraints on how much food they could carry. And I have to say, many of the men (the large majority of the hikers) don't look good by society's standards. They tend to be very thin, and an unkempt beard doesn't help, even though they're obviously very fit. I can't help thinking "shipwreck" or even "concentration camp". On the other hand, when women show up, they look great. Even under physically stressful conditions, women evidently keep enough body fat to keep a normal shape. But of course there's some selection involved--the people who can't do it, have to get off the trail.

But one thing the women and the men agree on--the need for food. Seeing a half-starved man put away a large plate of food isn't a surprise, but it's quite a novelty to see a normal-looking young woman pile food onto her plate and eat it with a good appetite, then politely ask if there's any more, but that's the reality of burning 4000+ calories a day.

MadonnaKebab Thu 14-Mar-13 15:15:58

That was my first thought, Tei
That either the POW women's physiology had allowed them to withstand starvation better
Or that their conditions had not been so severe
But when I looked at the physical features that made the male POW photos so confronting, they were all present in the women
It just seemed that it didn't look so awful to my eyes
And I wondered if (like the pics of a young princess Di mentioned above) I had seen these photos 20 years ago I would have found them much more shocking than I did today

znaika teenage girls or even younger are being dressed as adults though in women's magazines. they stick fucking 12year olds in heels on the cover of Vogue and tell us to aspire to it. Grown woman aren't seeing the young models in cosmogirl they're seeing then in magazines written for women.

znaika Fri 15-Mar-13 13:22:07

There aren't 12 year olds on the cover of vogue, this is a total exaggeration look

TeiTetua Fri 15-Mar-13 14:01:17

Au contraire. Look what you can find with a simple Google search on <12 year olds on the cover of vogue>.


Follow the link. The picture jumps right at you.

znaika Fri 15-Mar-13 17:37:36

But she's clearly a child, and that's clearly a one off. Click on my link for a clearer picture, Einstein, and you'll see Kate Moss, Rachel Weisz, Charlize Theron all in their 30s and 40s. Others are model of the moment Cara Delevigne (early 20s/late teens) and actress of the day Jennifer Lawrence (early 20s) hardly contraversial choices.

znaika Fri 15-Mar-13 17:39:17

And the point is, Cara Dela, and Jennifer Lawrence have the entirely appropriate bodies for their ages and there's no point women in middle age trying to emulate that.

PromQueenWithin Fri 15-Mar-13 18:00:06

I watched Pretty Woman again recently (I know!)

What struck me was I remember watching it in my teens and thinking how small Julia Roberts' torso was. Now, she looks to me to be a bit chunky. Not fat, you understand, and still lovely, but chunky. I think you have a point OP.

Whataboutthemenz? I know that teenage boys with eating disorders are on the rise (can't find the report I was going to link to, it's moved. Can look harder if you're interested though). I also wonder whether teenage boys are putting undue strain on their bodies by building muscle. I know one of my friends did this when we were teenagers. Two sides of the same looks obsessed coin perhaps?

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