Attack on the Music Industry for Feeding Problem of Teen Eating Disorders; INQUIRY WILL LOOK AT BODY IMAGE ANXIETY AMONG GIRLS

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Byline: JULIA MCWATT

THE music industry's objectification of women has contributed to a rise in body image anxiety in young girls, a leading eating disorders campaigner has claimed.

Bethan Jenkins AM, chairwoman of the Assembly's Cross-Party Group on Eating Disorders, will tell 1a parliamentary inquiry into body image that the industry has gone backwards in its portrayal of women and is contributing to eating disorder problems.

In her submission to the inquiry, Ms Jenkins includes evidence from sufferers in Wales and claims there is a profound message delivered to girls and women that they must be sexually attractive to men and be sexually available.

Ms Jenkins said: "I'm very disturbed by what I have heard. Basically, while women have made advances in almost all other walks of life, the evidence that I called for suggests that the music industry is in a state of regression, featuring as it does videos that dwell upon scantily-clad women.

"The consequence of this is that women and girls believe they are under more pressure than ever to appear attractive, and this can only contribute to increased incidences of eating disorders and associated mental illness, as they struggle to present the perfect body."

The written evidence in-cludes comments from the mother of a teenager, who wrote: "I strongly believe that music videos have a lot to answer for on the impact they have on girls and young women's own sexual identity, self confidence and body image.

"The messages that girls and women receive from music videos, advertising, video games - even TV presenters - is that their primary concern should be how attractive they are to men and how well they will satisfy the sexual desires of men.

"The worrying thing is that the next generation of women are likely to think nothing of it, yet subliminally they are being subjected to this on a daily basis pretty much since birth. Is it any wonder that they are growing up in complete conflict with themselves and their bodies? "And here is another real concern for me as the parent of a teenage girl. There is a whole generation of boys growing up believing that it is their absolute right to make judgements about all girls and women based on their appearance - from profile pictures on social networking sites to actresses in soaps. This obviously filters through to the playground, the park, etc and results in girls being constantly scrutinised by boys and men.

"The impact of this is that a girl who does not have a 'perfect' body, who has spots, stretch marks, flabby bits, thin hair, small eyes (the list of perceived flaws is endless) is likely to feel inadequate and try to change the 'flaws'. And here is where eating disorders rear their heads."

Other points raised in the submission to the inquiry include: * A proposal for lessons in self-esteem to be included in the curriculum; * concern for the rise of eating disorders among men; * a call for more research into the impact of steroids and how body image anxiety is driving their consumption; * criticism of continued media focus on the size of popular figures such as Adele; * gym owners and others in the fitness industry to receive training in order to identify signs of eating disorders or over-exercise in their customers, and * more regulation in advertising and fashion industry, including a ban on retouching images. …