Saturday, 11 February 2012

If It Takes A Village, Where Are The Villagers?

I watched a television show this week that made me cringe. Not in a small, mildly disconcerting way but in a what-the-hell-followed-by-outrage kind of way.

Gok Wan is back on the trail of positive body image again, this time with his show The Naked Truth which explores the issues surrounding teen body image in our society.

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I like Gok and have enjoyed his other shows but to be honest, I was not sure about what appeared to be a bit of bubblegum psychology so when I chose to invest an hour of my time in this versus Holby City, The Fixer, The Exit List and Cowboy Builders, I was prepared to be a bit disappointed. 

(Actually having just read this list back, I do know why I chose it but I digress.)

Of the three stories featured, it was Paige's that made me see red. A gorgeous, slender 15 year old so obsessed by looking like the airbrushed photos online that she photoshops pictures of herself. The thinner thighs of websites like thinspiration (although having looked at the site, there are plenty of  'healthy' pictures too) and seeing a 'gap' between the tops of her legs were her holy grail and while their visit to see a real life fashion shoot (and the digital manipulation involved afterwards) seemed to do the trick, it disturbed me to think how this beautiful girl had arrived at these conclusions in the first place.

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Gok's also out promoting his 1-hour Body Confidence sessions to the education community and while I whole-heartedly agree that this is an important investment in the self-esteem of our future generation, I wonder - aside from it being one hour in a whole year - how this can ever be enough. 

It seems to me that the current obsession with style over substance and the appeal of easy-celebrity has led to a loss of meaning in contributing to community and being proud of your work. Images in the media are insidious and further efforts to promote healthy bodies and un-touched pictures can only help. But doesn't the key to all of this start at home?

Back in September last year, Chris Lloyds' Wallbook Weekly Why Children Fail inspired a bit of a Gidday rant on a similar theme. If parents really are at their wit's end in knowing how to deal with this, then shouldn't part of the investment pie be directed here too? But then who decides what to 'teach' and how to 'measure' the outcome is a thorny issue at best. 

In response to my post back in September, some of my followers of the parental variety mentioned their strong belief that 'it takes a village to raise a child'. For me, a village starts with a sense of community. And the prevailing community for our teens is the online one.

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Last year's riots in London shocked the world capturing image after image of violence and arrogant entitlement. But what it also showed was the power of social media.

So does the answer (or at least part of the solution) lie here?

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