Highly influential peer pressure
But what’s more of a concern to me as a mother is the fact that airbrushing has moved into the social media space, courtesy of Instagram, with teenage girls now able to alter pictures, before posting these touched-up selfies, giving their desperate-to-be-pretty peers opportunity to ‘compare and despair’. Because peer pressure, I discover, is highly influential. A survey* revealed that while the thin ideal is in fashion, and advertising and the media do influence teenage girls’ body anxiety, it’s teenage girls’ peers who exert the most influence.
Not everyone is quite so happy to let fashion, advertising and the media off the hook though. A recent report by the UK Government drew the conclusion that the finger of blame for the two-thirds of the adult population they say suffer from negative body image points squarely at the fashion industry and media.
And certainly I can’t help feeling that I’m in some way to blame – not least because having been a part of that world (I’ve worked in magazines for 15 years) not once did I use a plus-size cover model. I’ve even taken my daughter to fashion shoots and we’ve looked at images together, passing comments on the model. How often did I criticise someone who is paid good money to look beautiful, picking fault with her appearance? Had I raised my own daughter’s expectations unrealistically high?
Certainly, Dr Al Labban believes the problems emerging in the UAE regarding body image are associated with the unrealistic expectations set by body image ideals in advertising and the fashion industry. “Adolescents accept as their reality that fashion models are the true representation of beauty,” he says.
Faced with a constant barrage of idealistic, unobtainable beauty – super-skinny airbrushed supermodels and Botoxed-brow celebrities – it’s little wonder we not only have a low opinion of our own worth, but will go to “any lengths to conform to standards set by Hollywood and the fashion industry,” says Dr Wyne.
It’s the ‘any lengths’, which as the mother of a teenage girl who’s considered dieting, keeps me awake at night. These include drastic dieting (according to the UK National Eating Disorders Association, 50 per cent of teenage girls use unhealthy behaviours like smoking to suppress their appetites); eating disorders, which have scarily doubled in the past 15 years; and submission to the surgeon’s scalpel. A