by Jesse Rae West

Recently I was invited to listen in on a three hour conference discussing Eating disorders and Self image in the media. I find it really irritating when people blame their problems on other people, and though I enjoyed some of the speakers, I found that most seemed to be playing an immature blame game.

I would like to start out by saying that I am no expert on the subject of eating disorders, and that I am only sharing my opinion. Many women are naturally very thin, and many women have mental and emotional disorders which make them more prone to eating disorders.

The main focus of the conference seemed to be on the emotional and physical problems that are affecting specifically women, but also young boys and girls. Anorexia and bulimia were hot topics, as well as the emotional stresses women face daily regarding their appearance. I do not take issue with these things being talked about, what upsets me is the finger pointing and blaming of media for the majority of the problem. I am not a scientist, doctor or therapist who is educated in the causes and effects of eating and emotional disorders – but I believe that magazines, television, and the internet are not the main cause of the problem. What happened to parents educating and building self esteem in their children? A huge part of the problem is that there are so many parents out there who rely on the education system and television to raise their kids. Instead of focusing on tearing down and taking the fun out of superficial things like beauty and sexualized media, maybe we should work on teaching young boys and girls to have a good sense of self, and to use their mind. We can’t (and shouldn’t) filter everything impressionable minds will see, but instead educate them on building good self esteem. Surrounding yourself with positive people who make you feel awesome and having a healthy lifestyle should trump exposing the truths of what we see in magazines.

I don’t always agree with the choice of models, or editing techniques used in ads – but I also have the choice to not buy or use things advertised this way. Everyone does. I know that most of what I see is fake, as well as completely unattainable. It is important for young people to know that too, which should be part of the whole process of building a strong mind. I appreciate when I see natural, healthy and beautiful woman used in fashion advertising-and I believe that should be seen more. More importantly, I would like to see happy, self assured and confident women who don’t need to blame their common insecurities on magazines.