Posts Tagged ‘gay’

My eyebrows raised after discovering some interesting news about body images issues overseas. In an effort to stunt the spread of eating eating disorders and body image issues, a new Israeli law is now in place that bans underweight models from its local ads. You heard that right—UNDERWEIGHT models.

Imagine that.

There’s more: The law also insists publications disclose when they use altered images that make the ladies—and even the men—appear thinner. Yes. Thinner.

A bold move indeed. The law, which just passed last week, could generate a ripple effect throughout Europe and into the Americas. It’s the first of its kind, really; a delicious attempt by a government to use legislation that directly combats the oft-misaligned fashion industry, which has for years been accused–and rightly so—of fueling eating disorders and body image issues through the kinds of photographs it uses and sends out into the mainstream.

It’s curious to note that in Isreal, about 2 percent of girls 14-18 years of age actually have serious eating disorders. According to anthropologist Sigal Gooldin, a prominent researcher of eating disorders, that statistic is similar to those found in other developed countries.

And we thought this was only prevelant in America.

The new law would also mandate that models produce a medical document, which would date back about three months, at every photo shoot in Isreal’s ad market. Basically the document would assure that the model is not—wait for it–MALNOURISHED by the standards listed from the World Health Organization.

Imagine what would happen if this could spread into the Americas; if the ad industry actually took a valid interest in the health and well being of its models; where any size would be considered acceptible, enjoyable, celebrated? Better still, imagine what could happen is even more scrutiny were placed on male models, especially the ones found scantily clad in many gay publications like The Advocate, or Out and their close and distant cousins? True, these magazines feature men sporting muscles but, and I am sure I am not the only one, you can’t help but wonder how many of those men are actually in perfect health. Their bodies may appear to be in fine form but how they arrive at their current frame is often questionable.

It’s one of the reasons why my co-author, Dr. Maria Rago, and I featured a chapter on the issue of men and body image (and eating disorders) in our book “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!”

So, who’s at the helm of the law? Adi Barkan, an Israeli model titan who’s worked in the field for about three decades. Barkan noticed young women becoming skinnier and skinnier over time and downright unhealthy as they kept “shrinking” into the mold outlined by the ad industry.

Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of NEDA, recently said in a statement: “It is just so impressive that the Israeli Parliament has taken these serious steps in an effort to save lives. We know that eating disorders are so dangerous, and yet in the U.S. we continue to turn a blind eye to the problem and the many contributing factors. We hope that our Congress will begin to address the problems here at home.”

Dr. Rachel Adatto, who chairs the Health Lobby at the Knesset and was an initiator of the bill also released a statement: “This law will erase the anorexic image of beauty transmitted by the media, the fashion industry and advertising and will help protect the health of Israeli youth. The law will change the current situation where underweight male and female fashion models represent the ideal for children and youth and so, in effect, push them towards the terrible curse of eating disorders that attack not only the mind but the body. With this law, we are bringing the ideals of beauty back within the limits of logic, of health, within reasonable limits that will prevent our children sliding down the slippery slope into eating disorders. This law sends a message to our young people that thinness may be popular but that there is a limit and it is possible to be too thin.”

The law is already generating buzz, especially because it factors in the BMI (Body Mass Index) issue. The WHO reveals that a body-mass index below 18.5 suggests malnutrition. The new law would include BMI tests, among other things.

The BMI issue unleashes plenty of debate–both pro and con. Some argue that a person’s overall health should be taken into account—not just their BMI. Consider the flip side: people with higher BMIs—those deemed “overweight” and unhealthy because of high BMIs. Is initiating that same kind of thinking for people considered “too thin” an ideal method to revealing their true health?

I lean toward taking a person’s overall health into account and not just using the BMI-index as the ultimate guide. Regardless, it’s refreshing to finally see some countermovement out there; one that directly butts creative heads with an industry whose obsession—and indulgence in generating ad dollars—has single-handedly been one of the worst offenders of promoting unrealistic body image.

Thoughts?

The booksigning for “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!” the book I cowrote with Dr. Maria Rago, was a success last night at San Francisco’s Books Inc. A good crowd turned out and I was jazzed that I could get the word about the book, its message about body image, obsession with thinness, eating disorders and more.

But something happened about three-quarters of the way in. The energy in the room shifted. I was reading from the chapter dubbed “Shut Up, About Excluding Guys.” At first I thought I was reading too fast but then it sunk in: Perhaps the group was intrigued by what we had written in this chapter—that, when it comes to discussions about body image and eating disorders, men, especially gay men, are rarely brought to the table.

BEEFY ISSUE

Where's the (emotional) beef? Gay men and body image—can we talk?

I thought about all this, too, when, days earlier, I was walking around San Francisco’s Castro district putting up fliers for the book event. Don’t get me wrong—I love me some handsome—but even though I’ve grown accustomed to how much body-building and working out are now a staple in gay culture, I was still surprised by how many men were buff, sporting the body beautiful.

What was this? The Mr. Gay Universe Pageant?

This all came to mind as I read from the book, discussing Kenny and Juan, two gay men including in our book who have battled with their own body image issues. The silence in room suddenly commanded my attention. I looked up and spotted a tall man standing in the back. He appeared as if he’d just left work and he seemed to be listening intently. I found another man seated in the center of the crowd. I didn’t know if he was gay, or what really brought him out to the book talk, but his eyes said it all: “I get it.”

Later that evening, a friend who had been at the booksigning forwarded me an article he found on Gawker dubbed: “The Real Reason Why Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.”

Brilliant, I thought—finally, we’re beginning to talk about this stuff.

And we need to keep talking about—gay and bisexual men are more prone to develop body image issues or eating disorders than straight men.

I can’t help but think of the super trooper of a man who launched N.A.M.E.D., The National Association of Men with Eating Disorders. It’s a delicious hotline and resource directory that points men—both gay and straight—to individuals or treatment centers that can help guide them though their experiences with body image and eating disorders.

In the meantime, Gay Pride month ventures forth. Waving a rainbow flag is divine. Celebrating diversity is necessary. But, I propose we’re hungry for more meaty discussions—something beyond all the underwear parties taking place at local bars.