More than 68,000 people signed a petition posted on Change.org by eating disorder survivor Benjamin O’Keefe that held Abercrombie & Fitch accountable for comments Jeffries made shaming plus-sized teenagers. O’Keefe met with Abercrombie executives and advocates with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)at Abercrombie’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss the online consumer outrage sparked by the CEO’s controversial comments.
After the meeting, the retailer issued a public apology for Jeffries’ comments, and pledged to take steps to show their commitment against bullying and to creating a store culture where all customers are welcome.
Bulimia, anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, long thought to be serious problems for many women, are showing up among surprisingly large numbers of men, some of whom are starving themselves or exercising obsessively to look like the pictures in men’s magazines.
Yet neither men themselves, nor most doctors, think of males as being at risk for these illnesses, experts say.
Community-based studies suggest one case in three of anorexia nervosa is a male, said Dr. Blake Woodside, director of the program for eating disorders at Toronto General Hospital. For bulimia, it is about one in four. “And that’s a dramatic finding, because in clinical samples (based on people in treatment) it’s more like one in 15, or one in 20,” Woodside said.
The stigma, isolation and confusion around suffering from what has long been perceived as a “girl’s problem” can make men so reluctant to come forward that many arrive in treatment sicker than women.
During the meeting, 18-year old activist Benjamin O’Keefe — whose Change.org petition urged A&F to carry larger sizes – Lyne Grefe, the CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association, among others, urged Abercrombie executives to add bigger clothes to store shelves, feature larger models in their branding efforts, cease hawking hyper sexualized advertising to its teen audience and redefine its warped, harmful notions of cool, O’Keefe told Forbes.com.
Although the CEO was not at the meeting, the retailer offered a tacit apology for Jeffries’ remarks seven years ago, which included this gem: “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes] and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
A&F’s DNA is about “telling people they can’t be cool unless they look a certain way,” O’Keefe said.
In turn, “Abercrombie is not synonymous with cool. It’s synonymous with cruel,” O’Keefe said he told the executives.
“I framed the discussion around redefining cool … we also made suggestions about holding a bullying symposium, because the comments of Mike Jeffries were those of a bully,” he said.
20 MAY 2013
More men are being diagnosed with eating disorders, researchers say
There has been a dramatic rise in the number of men diagnosed with eating disorders in the last decade, research suggests.
The number of men who are diagnosed by the GPs with eating problems increased by 27% between 2000 and 2009, the study found. Across the UK, the number of newly diagnosed cases rose by 15% in the same time frame, researchers said.
The authors, who looked at data from 400 GP practices, identified 9,000 new cases of eating disorders. Many of the new cases were “eating disorders not otherwise specified” (Ednos) – which meet most, but not, all of the criteria associated with anorexia or bulimia.
The research found a 60% increase in women with this type of disorder and a 24% increase among men.
Lead author of the report, Dr Nadia Micali, senior lecturer and honorary consultant psychiatrist at the University College London’s Institute for Child Health, said: “There is a clear increase in men and women being diagnosed with eating disorders.
“Mostly we see new diagnoses of the Ednos category, reflecting people who have an illness as severe as anorexia or bulimia, but who don’t have symptoms as frequently as the official threshold. For example they may use strategies for weight loss-such as fasting or self-induced vomiting less than twice a week.
“It should be stressed these people, who are understudied, are extremely ill. In fact changes in the classification criteria being unveiled this week in the US mean that what we are currently calling Ednos will now be diagnosed as full cases of anorexia or bulimia.
“What is unclear at this stage is whether the reported increase is down to a true increase in people becoming ill with an eating disorder or better recognition of these disorders among GPs. Our findings highlight that about 4,610 girls aged 15-19 and 336 boys aged 15-19 develop a new eating disorder in the UK every year.”
A spokeswoman for the eating disorder charity b-eat, added: “Recent studies show that there are more biological factors relating to eating disorders than we ever previously thought, but the social and cultural influences are now affecting a wider range of people.
“Socio-cultural issues such as the media, peer pressure and body image are now seen to be affecting boys and men and also younger children.”
Children need to know they don’t have to be sexy or successful to be loved. Let’s start by valuing ourselves and each other.
- By: Glen Poole
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 May 2013 19.00 BST
- By: Glen Poole
Boys as young as 10 are beginning to worry about their body image. Photograph: Corbis Sygma
The news that the number of girls and boys in the UK with eating disorders is on the rise is a timely reminder that we have a body image problem. However, it’s not a problem we can hope to solve unless we consider the role that perceptions of gender play in the nation’s emotional wellbeing.
According to new research led by Dr Nadia Micali of University College London, the number of diagnosed cases of eating disorders rose 13% between 2003 and 2009. While the majority of cases are still found in girls and young women, there is a growing awareness that this is a male issue too. Indeed, the highest rates of new cases are found among boys aged 10 to 14.
In March, teachers claimed that the promotion of ideal body types in the media is reducing both boys’ and girls’ confidence in their own physiques, a problem that is estimated to affect 78% of girls and 51% of boys.
There’s a well-worn but useful saying in gender debates that while men look at women as sex objects, women look at men as success objects. In simplified terms this translates into ideal cultural images of men who are strong and successful and of women who are sexy and slim. It is perhaps not surprising then that men in general are known to underestimate their body weight, while women tend to overestimate. As a result we have men convincing themselves “it’s all muscle” and women convincing themselves “it’s all fat”. Part of the issue, according the American feminist Hugo Schwyzer is that too often we’re taught that “men are revolting and women are flawless” – and those extreme perspectives are damaging to both and girls and boys transitioning into adulthood.
Of course, there is always a danger in reducing any problem to a simplistic gender binary as this not only excludes the experiences of LGBT people, but also gives the impression that all men are x and all women are y. There are both men and women who defy these general trends and men in particular seem to experience a broad diversity of gendered experiences when it comes to eating disorders.
Recent research from Australia found that men with a high drive for muscularity, as manifested in the muscle dysmorphia of “bigorexia”, had a greater preference for traditional masculine roles, whereas men with a high desire for thinness (as in anorexia nervosa) displayed greater adherence to traditional feminine roles.
According to Dr Stuart Murray, who led the study:
“This does not mean that the men with anorexia were any less masculine, nor that the men with muscle dysmorphia were less feminine. It is, however, an indication of the increasing pressures men are under to define their masculinity in the modern world.”
It’s interesting to note that while anorexia in some men and boys seems to be linked to a rejection of traditional masculinity, anorexia in some girls is sometimes explained as a rejection of femininity. It appears that the body image anxiety suffered by children is often caused either by striving for an unachievable gender ideal, or fighting against a perceived gendered norm.
The sexualisation of young girls is now a common topic of debate and we need to recognise that boys face pressure too. One study found that men were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies after they were exposed to pictures of muscular men, while another revealed that men’s body self-esteem was linked to how hopeful they felt about romantic relationships. Interviews with teenage boys (paywalled link)obsessed with bulking up reveal the aphrodisiacal motivation that is forged in girls’ responses to images of muscular models and celebrities on facebook.
Being a success symbol (or a sex symbol) in the game of relationships will always be a driver for young men and women. So how do we create a culture where boys and girls don’t feel the need to damage their bodies in an attempt to feel happy in their own skin? Last week I was invited to the Government Equalities Office with representatives of charities such as Men Get Eating Disorders Too to discuss body image and the role of fathers as potential change agents. I was left with the thought that if we want adults to be role models who show children that they don’t have to be sexy or successful to be loved and valued, then we adults need to start by valuing ourselves and each other irrespective of gender. I don’t believe that we do show our children that men and women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds are loved and valued in equal measure. And until we do, we may struggle to be the role models who can convince them that striving to be a sex object (or a success object) is not the healthiest road to personal happiness.