By Rajina Shrestha
I interned in Women LEAD for a year, during which I learned about the misrepresentation of women in the media. I was shocked by the realization that I had never noticed it before and had ignored its effect on our daily lives. Currently, I am also writing Women LEAD’s own media misrepresentation action points for the participants of the 2012 Program. I am trying to make a difference by talking about it to people and raising awareness. I’ve found this has the biggest impact. This article on skinny mania comes from seeing all the girls around me get obsessed with their weight – even kids!
My 10 year old cousin is proud of herself. No, she didn’t recently win any academic or extra-curricular awards (though I should mention, she’s fabulous at both). The thing she boasts about is actually her body. I am not exaggerating when I’m saying that she probably has more bones than flesh on her tiny 3 feet body. I offered her a packet of chips the other day and she said, “No thanks, they’ll make me fat.” We all laughed at the time but now that I think about it, this response should really make all of us question where the next generation is heading.
With the superficial world taking all over all our lives today, it is not surprising how the glamour world has fit in as well. But the alarmingly level that this has caught up teenagers and kids today needs serious reviewing.
There has been this huge movement in the West about how the media’s portrayal of “skinny photoshopped images” creates insecurities among teens and kids. There have even been debates on how “perfect” and “beautiful” Barbie dolls actually make kids as young as four become image conscious. Sounds like a far-removed story? Look around: how have we been turning out in Nepal? What kind of toys do we buy for young girls?
Sometimes it’s the fear of being called fat in school (let’s face it, everyone hates that), sometimes it’s seeing our own mothers and sisters being obsessed with “skinny fashion” and sometimes it’s just the unrelenting bombardment of media on innocent minds. Whatever the causes, skinny mania is spreading like an epidemic.
When I see kids avoiding delicious food (this sounds funny, but they ARE literally missing on so many delicious things in life), I believe that they shouldn’t be concerned about dieting – not at their age! Even with teenagers, the fact that some of us care so much about our appearance and would go to extremes to have ourselves shaped like a thin bamboo makes me go out of my wits!
Not only is this obsession crazy, it’s also bad for our health. Obesity is not only the thing that could invite medical problems in later life; being underweight (having a Body Mass Index below 18.5) causes anemia, infertility, diabetes and osteoporosis. A report on nutrition in Nepal shows how the already high infant mortality rate is increasing even further due to ‘would-be-mothers’ being underweight.
It might sound crazy to talk about maternal health to kids and teens, but the example of my cousin clearly shows skinny mania starts at a young age. Young girls are told by their peers, their relatives and the media that having a skinny body matters, so they spend more time and energy on what they look like rather than what they want to achieve in life. Their priorities get messed up and stay that way.
Obsession with your image, especially weight, looks like a small problem but we need to see the bigger picture of how it’s destroying the childhood of the younger generation. In between school bullying, family problems and political interference in education, we sure do not want anorexia to be an issue among kids too, do we?