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Misunderstanding The ‘Say No To Size Zero Campaign'

Last week I read several articles calling upon us, as women, to say no to the ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign.’ The argument being, that we should not be judging any women just because of their pants size. In fact, most of the articles I read (including one on HelloGiggles and one on XO Jane) say this campaign is about weight discrimination.

But is it really?

First let me state that, yes I know some women are naturally thin. There are even healthy women who have a very low BMI, which would be considered unhealthy on paper. And yet, these women are healthy in real life. Their metabolisms are just different, as all of our metabolisms are.

The ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign’ is not about those women. It isn’t even necessarily directed to us “regular” women at all. It’s directed to the fashion industry and the media that continue to push for unhealthy women as their models.

These women just aren’t unhealthy on paper; they are unhealthy in real life too as they aren’t simply maintaining strict diets (which is unhealthy in its own right). They either teeter close to eating disorders or are already suffering from them.

Eating disorders have serious health consequences for those suffering from them and when we glorify that image in the media, it has psychological consequences for the rest of us. In the U.S. alone 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life. A more accurate number is hard to come by as many of these disorders go unreported.

The primary contributor to such large numbers of sufferers comes from body dissatisfaction. Just think: girls begin to worry about their weight or shape at the age of six! Also, 40 – 60% of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight or becoming too fat, a concern that follows them through life.

And this is not just about girls that are already thin and who are striving to maintain what they believe to be a perfect body. Girls who are not even overweight are reporting that they are dieting! Also, this is no longer a disease prevalent to females, or even Caucasian females. More and more men and people of different ethnicity are suffering from eating disorders.

While there are many psychological, personal factors and maybe even biological factors that contribute to one’s eating disorder, we cannot overlook the fact that there are social ones too. And it’s not just our glorification of the ultra-thin or certain definitions of beauty. It’s the cultural norms the modeling industry, media and even us “regular” women continue to push, such as valuing physical appearance rather than personalities.

What we glean from the media is extremely important, especially today when we are so saturated with advertisements featuring unhealthy models. And, this body type is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females. So the arguments on HelloGiggles and XO Jane don’t really have any teeth.

I’m not saying we should shun the 5% of American women who do naturally have this body type. However, we also shouldn’t reject the ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign’ because of them. The reality is the rest of us, in fact 95% of us, look nothing like the models we see in the media today and for us to try to look that way is incredibly unhealthy and dangerous.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder: 4% of those suffering with anorexia will die, 3.9% of those suffering with bulimia will die and another 5.2% of those suffering with an eating disorder will die, including from other complications such as heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or even suicide. You can find even more sobering information in this article, which details the lives of five models that died from eating disorders back-to-back in 2006.

The scariest part of it is all that 47% of girls in 5th–12th grade report wanting to lose weight because of magazine ads and 69% of girls in 5th–12th grade say that magazines influence their idea of a perfect body shape. This is a serious problem and this is what Katie Green’s campaign is all about.

It’s not about body snarking women who are naturally thin or healthy or pushing for heavier, curvier women as the new “perfect” body image. This campaign is about “how uncomfortable even healthy women and girls can be made to feel” and the “fashion designers and clothing brands [that] target young impressionable teenage girls and make them feel uncomfortable about their weight” which “can often lead to eating disorders,” as Katie Green’s website clearly states.

This is a campaign we all can and should get behind, whether you’re a natural size zero or natural size 12.

You can read more from Ashley Strain on her blog.

Featured image via.