Friday, March 14, 2008

Oh for fuck's sake

I was already feeling testy when Kate Harding forwarded me a link to this abomination.

Titled "What Does the War Have to Do With Your Weight?," it's an absurd conflation of talk about terrorism and overeating. The worst part is that it's aimed at adolescent girls.

Here's a wee sample from the opening paragraph:

Are you one of the millions of teens who overeat when they are under stress? If you are, we've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that rarely in history has there been a more turbulent time. Since 9/11, it seems as if the problems of the world are growing larger and scarier... and looming closer than ever before. The good news is that you are not alone. Fifteen percent of Americans confessed that after the towers fell, they turned to comfort foods while another 14% reported eating more sweets. Two months after the terrorist attacks, one in ten Americans had gained weight. Anyone versed in psychology is familiar with the relationship between mood and food.

If this was a writing assignment I'd give it a big red F for conflating disparate ideas that have nothing to do with each other (9/11, eating), for catastrophizing and distortion of facts (if 15% "turned to comfort foods," that means 85% didn't--a much more significant number), for piss-poor organization (the "good news, bad news" conceit is grossly inappropriate), and for failure to show cause and effect (even if 1 in 10 Americans gained weight after 9/11, it does not prove the central point here). We'll throw in a bonus point for that last line, which does a better job of rhyming than of proving any kind of point.

Of course, the next line is pretty over the top, too:

Whether it's the war with Iraq, hard decisions abut college, or troubles with friends, some of us use food to provide the good feelings we're missing.

I don't know about you, but I often reach for the Oreos when I think of the Iraq War. Doritos, on the other hand, are my comfort food of choice when I think of Vietnam. The Korean War takes me straight to the freezer for some Ben & Jerry's. World War II? Gotta be those Jello pudding cups!

It's more than just fodder for satire, though. The site goes on to suggest 9 ways for girls to improve their eating habits, including:

1. At the moment you grab for something to eat, tell yourself you can have it if you still want it but you have to wait 30 minutes. The craving may pass, you might get distracted, you might become wise enough in that half hour to find a more life affirming way of getting rid of that creepy stress.

2. Write down everything you eat. Icky, we know, but we also know there's no better substitute (except looking at yourself in the mirror naked), that's better than tracking what goes into your mouth to get you into the habit of thinking before you eat.

I remember strategies like these from Weight Watchers. And from my own daughter's spiral into anorexia.

One of the worst parts of the site (created by Proctor & Gamble) is an unmoderated discussion for girls. Some of the comments on the site made me want to weep.

To tell P&G what you think of its site, click here. (You have to give a birthday to send feedback; I always type in a fake birth date.)


Rachel said...

I'm particularly appalled by the suggestion to stand in front of a mirror naked and to write notes to yourself with things like "What will the scale say tomorrow?"

Still working on those contact details...

Anonymous said...

You know Harriet-for once I am speechless.(almost) Now, Proctor and Gamble putting this garbage out for all to read is shocking,but the comments from some of those girls are even worse. 'I am 13 and weigh 105 lbs and I am so fat-my thighs are just huge,I am so depressed,blah,blah. I cannot believe that some of these girls think like this. I can't remember doing that when I was young-at least I hope that I didn't. I wonder if people like Proctor and Gamble think about the effect that thier words have on these kids? I think that I will go back now and leave my 2 cents(for what they are worth) on the site.
By the way-I thought the title of your blog was quite on the money!


vesta44 said...

I commented, but they won't be able to contact me about anything (email: totally fictitious, same with name, b-day, and zip). This is just totally ridiculous, and a very good way to promote eating disorders. Asshats, they are.
Oh, and the title of the post, right on!

Anonymous said...

Oh, anonymous, when I was 13 I SO thought that about my body, and I weighed not much more than that. And that was over 30 years ago. Sure, I remember reading Go Ask Alice at 12 and her saying she had to "lose 10 globby pounds of lumpy lard." It's nothing new. But it is depressingly intractable.

Anonymous said...

I don't know which pisses me off more -- the implication that you should constantly delay eating by half an hour in the hopes of finding the "wisdom" to resist (and when, pray tell, would one eat in this scenario? It's like the "just lose 10% of your body weight" bullshit -- do I ever get to STOP?), or the idea that there's no worse punishment than looking at yourself in the mirror naked. Boy, that kind of torture will sure keep you on the straight and (ha) narrow! I'll do anything, I'll track all my calories, just please don't make me look in the mirror!

This is incredibly irresponsible and harmful and I plan to tell them so. We do not need to feed teenagers more of this shitty rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

Ye gods and little purple fishes!

(sputters with incoherant rage)

How vile can people get in shaming girls about their bodies?

(weeps for editors everywhere that this drivel was allowed past even the first draft)

Harriet said...

let us know when you dig up those details. The contact link I gave here is just for email. I'm guessing real live phone calls or letters might carry more weight, though you never know.

There's big bucks in girls hating their bodies. Just like there was big bucks in napalm 30 years ago. And people wonder why I hate capitalism.

Shannon said...

That was just insane. I'd also be interested in a snail mail address. I filled out the online one but I think real letters are often more effective.

Fiona said...

I'm going to have another go at the online comments - it didn't work the first time. I wonder whether they've got wise to us

Rachel said...

I posted some additional contact information on my site, but I probably can't find out more detailed contact info till Monday at the earliest.

Anonymous said...

That's just fucking stupid. As if there isn't enough crap about what the "accepted" body image is supposed to be...

Anonymous said...

Oh my God! I read the article and started feeling really angry. Not only is the message defeating, but the author is talking down to readers in such a condescending way. "Icky, we know" Who are "they" calling "we"? The author is attempting to sound like authority by calling herself "we." Sickening, depressing, useless garbage. Don't teenagers already have enough to worry about?

tori_927 said...

That's horrible! It's so sad and disturbing that they're actually TEACHING impressionable young girls things like this, when, in fact, those are the very behaviors my counselors and dietitians have been trying to teach me NOT to do. I wish I could just get on that site and scream at those poor girls to log off the website before any long-term damage is done...

Anniee451 said...

Horrifying. The whole thing is horrifying. Harriet, thanks for posting about this.

And THANK YOU for making me laugh even though this is obviously not funny - "I don't know about you, but I often reach for the Oreos when I think of the Iraq War. Doritos, on the other hand, are my comfort food of choice when I think of Vietnam. The Korean War takes me straight to the freezer for some Ben & Jerry's. World War II? Gotta be those Jello pudding cups!"

That? Is really good. I hope you'll be writing a book at some point :)

Harriet said...

The thing is, I know how websites like this operate. Some very young writers are probably working on the site with very little oversight. And I'm afraid that's how so much of this kind of thing gets perpetuated--in ignorance, not with forethought.

Thanks, Annie. I was trying to give myself a laugh. To keep from crying about this.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mary said...

I think I need an oreo just reading this kind of crap. I will settle for a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of chocolate ice cream in it for cream. (no oreos in the house)There, that's much better.
I agree, the message is meant to make us sick.
We are a lot stronger than we think. If I have a craving for chocolate I indulge. If I want an apple or an orange they win. Rice? I'll eat it. Hot buttered bread? Sure. In fact without binging a day in my life I can eat and no one is going to tell me it's a method of dealing with the fears of the world coming to an end. We need to eat. Then again, I'm a warrior chick and I need lot's of different foods to nourish my ever changing needs.
Imagine if we taught our children to watch out for this wolf in the world and ignore the message it wants us to believe is true. Someone would be out of business, for sure. If we spoke to our children of their great resilience and how capable they are it would give them confidence in their ability to fight. I know I grew up in a time when "fighting" was given a negative meaning. We need to change that. Sometimes a fight is the best darn thing we have in us and it's the most loving thing we can give ourselves. Sometimes we need to call BS BS as that's what it is.
Sorry Harriet, I've been away again and my fingers are itchy. I've been measuring miles from Syracuse Rochester Vt.just to see if you'll be close to one of my hangouts I call home.

Anonymous said...

um ... yeah. i read about this over the weekend and haven't commented anywhere because it is sort of one of those instances when my brain freezes up. like when you're learning a foreign language and find yourself for the first time amid a group of its speakers and you're trying to form something coherent in your head but you can't because you just don't understand what they're saying. it's like P&G is saying "Hey girls! Starve!" and all i hear is "Blah blah! Blah!" this really makes zero sense to me.

just ... i mean, the TIPS! and "looking at yourself in the mirror naked"???? just... AAAAAAAAAAAAA! i can't form complete sentences!! AAAAAAAA!

also, this is a totally nitpicky point, the LEAST of my worries, but as someone who makes her living in children's book publishing land, i found the language used here to be really odd. (and i'm only bringing it up because it's the one subject i can comment on without exploding.) "turbulent"? "well versed"? "affirm"? and then all the ridiculously long introductory clauses? the whole thing is just so baffling to me. i hope whoever wrote it gets his/her ass fired -- for the message, i mean, not the writing. god knows shitty writers have to eat too. (or, well, maybe these ones here don't.)

redhead said...

Hey Harriet, I linked to your post in my blog - this is just so purely awful. I can't believe, but at the same time believe all too much, that things like this are being put out there for young girls.

Harriet said...

It's a heapin' helpin' of self-loathing, and it's being dished up to our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, ourselves. Appalling. Rachel, any news on an address for writing?

e. said...

Doritos? Puh-leeze.
When I get extra stressed out about Iraq, or WWI, or the civil war...I go to PIZZA HUT.

bad humor aside, some people are so dumb.

Are diets really suggesting looking at yourself naked in the mirror? I remember doing that at my sickest almost all the time...certainly not a healthy way to lose weight.

Going to go check out the site. Thanks once again for your insight.

Anniee451 said...

I have no problem with people looking at themselves in the mirror naked. In fact, that's one of those things Carson Kressley does on his show about helping women love the body they're in. What KILLS me about the mirror message in this horrifying article, is that they want you to look at yourself naked - at 13 years old - and HATE WHAT YOU SEE. Hate it enough to deny yourself food.

That' God. You're right, Harriet, if we couldn't laugh we'd surely cry reading that. And the comments - "It's better to starve urself than to stuff urself"???? Well that's the message of the article, isn't it? Starve? It's better than eating? I pointed out to the f***wads who run the site that there aren't any teenaged girls dying of being fat, but there ARE teenaged girls dying all the time from anorexia. My God, how irresponsible and loathsome. Beyond words.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Yes, there's alot to be disturbed by, with this article. Still, I find that there is some truth to it, for myself. I turned to comfort food after 9/11 (even More, after, then I was already turning to it, before). Is this wrong to admit? It's the absolute truth and one reason why I don't watch the news (it's terribly upsetting and, I think, more often than not unbalanced and biased). I still turn to comfort food, of course, but I do think it defintely intensifed, all this "turning" after the profound trauma of 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Because if girls learn to accept and love their bodies as they are, the terrorists win?

Because if women aren't in a self-enforced state of semi-starvation, the terrorists win?

Good grief.

As fauve said, the only "turning" I do when the news of the world distresses me is "turning" off the damn tv news. I turn to food for other reasons (namely: I'm hungry and need nutrients. Or it just tastes good.)

Anniee451 said...

Score one for FA - they took down the article! :)

(Hell they'd be crazy not to - all it was missing were thinspiration pictures to be pro-ana.)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Hello ladies,

Happened upon this post by chance (I typed fuck sake into google to see what I would get :) )
Not sure if I am wanted here, being a big hairy man and all but my two cents on this is,
I have never understood how women can have such a wrong impression of themselves. Healthy, beautiful women obsessing about their weight. If women could just see themselves from a blokes perspective for five minutes they would be very confident! I and most men I know find very thin women to be extremey unattractive. Now I'm not saying it is all about what men want or that that is why you lot do the whole weight thing but it is most perplexing to us men-folk. Whilst I agree that aiming that sort of complete bollox at young girls is completely irresponsible, I do think that adult women have got to take some responsibility and teach girls a little common sense. Maybe when their mothers stop fretting about their weight and image so much they will follow suit