Monday, May 23, 2011

Jo Swinson MP launches All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image

Jo Swinson is one of those people who literally never stops. In the last 6 weeks,  she's run a marathon, got married and last week launched the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image.

Central YMCA is doing the administration work for the Group which will be:

  • Bringing together interested parties, from a range of sectors including:
    • Advertising industry
    • Health and fitness sector
    • Media
    • Youth organisations
    • Fashion and beauty sector
  • Highlighting areas of best practice
  • Examining potential causes of negative body image
  • Showcasing new research on body image
Last week's celebrity magazines were covered with pictures of Cheryl Cole, about to start her new job as an X Factor judge in the US. The pressure on her is immense, anyway, given the shallowness of Amercian tv anyway, as anyone who watched the tv series Episodes will know. She is apparently petrified that her size 6 (US size 2) figure will be seen as too, well, portly, by American viewers. This is, depending on which publication you read, leading her to eat virtually next to nothing and spend every spare moment in the gym. She's in a city where complex carbohydrates are strictly non grata, and there's very much an "if you don't have it, get it surgically added" philosophy. I think putting anyone under that sort of pressure is horrible and Cheryl Cole's reported anxiety, if true, is a cause for concern. It's much worse than that, though. It's not just Cheryl Cole these papers and tv executives taunt, it's me, and my daughter and all of her friends and every other impressionable girl and boy in the western world.

This crushing conformity when it comes to body image is so dangerous. Our kids are getting the message from almost before they can read, that how you look is more important than what you do. So, you could find a cure for cancer, but if your teeth aren't white enough, or you have grey hair or wrinkles, or are a healthy weight, well, that's just not good enough. 

There is so much that has to be done to tackle this sort of pernicious culture and Jo's work and that of Lynne Featherstone, who, as Equalities Minister, is in a position to make a difference is to my mind one of the most important things that this Government is doing. Jo herself said:

“Body dissatisfaction in the UK has never been higher, particularly among young people. The pressure to conform to the impossible stereotypes we are bombarded with in advertising, magazines and on the catwalk is overwhelming and damaging - one in four of us are depressed about our bodies.
Low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders are all increasing, along with unhealthy behaviours: half of young people have been on a diet, one in 10 would take laxatives to lose weight and the number of young men taking steroids has doubled in the last 10 years.
These problems urgently need addressing and the APPG on Body Image will bring together some of the key players in this debate in a cross-party forum – youth organisations, the advertising industry, health sector and media. We will challenge some of the root causes of negative body image, highlight best practice and work towards building a society in which people feel more body confident.”

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