Highly in­flu­en­tial peer pres­sure

Friday - - Society -

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

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