Seven of every ten women appearing as centrefold models in Playboy magazine during the past 20 years are clinically underweight
December 11, 2000 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Seven of every ten women appearing as centrefold models in Playboy magazine during the past 20 years are clinically underweight "Given the perception of Playboy centrefolds as culturally ideal women, the notion that 70% of them are underweight highlights the social pressure on women to be thin and helps to explain the high levels of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating," "It's not just a case of models getting skinnier, but also that the numbers of overweight and obese people have gone through the roof in recent years."
posted by lagado (21 comments total)

Please, when we yanks objectify our undernourished women, we refer to them as centerfolds, thank you very much.
posted by aladfar at 9:35 PM on December 11, 2000

This is the state of modern research? They did their analysis based on the weight and measurements that were printed in the magazine. Even the researchers acknowledge the unreality of this:

"'The women in Playboy do not appear to be clinically underweight and malnourished,' Katzmarzyk and Davis point out. Perhaps, the duo suggests -- as the models supply their own measurements -- 'body weights and measurements are not strictly accurate'."
posted by smackfu at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2000

posted by DragonBoy at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2000

Does anyone happen to have an URL with evidence that anorexia or bulemia (pokémon creatures in the next movie!) are linked to The Media[tm] > people's perception of themselves?

I recall reading an essay several years ago that showed only a slight increase in populated areas. The point being that the percentage instances of anorexia and bulemia were pretty much even throughout inner city to wild desert (the desert having no hand of the media on it - I assume).

From what i've read (and who I've talked to, pity) bulemia and anorexia are more about control than not eating (or induced vomiting). Control being the root need, rather eating or trying to maintain a certain look.

Can someone put me right? Cheers.
posted by holloway at 10:17 PM on December 11, 2000

Self-obsessed Westerners (male and female) who worry about their "body image", and the like, don't strike me as especially worthy of sympathy in a world where 40,000 children die every day from hunger-related causes. People in the First World should stop primping self-consciously in front of the mirror, and start thinking about the impact that their wasteful, morbidly obese lifestyles have on the rest of the planet.

America: nobody cares about your petty derangements.

posted by johnb at 10:19 PM on December 11, 2000

I can’t find it on Harper’s braindead website but they had an Index item that went something like this:

Number of anorexic or bulemic girls in a Turkish village before television was introduced: 1 in 5

Number of anorexic or bulemic girls in a Turkish village after television was introduced: 3 in 5

posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:40 PM on December 11, 2000

I think you're taking an overly harsh line there, johnb.

That would seem to me to say, "Don't worry me about mental illness in the First World, there are people dying of influenza in the Third".

Unless you've got something concrete to propose there that sounds like a great way to dismiss *any* issue as insignificant.

Anorexia is a real disorder, it can be fatal. It affects working class people as well as the rich. It has its roots in alienation, powerlessness and low self-esteem.

posted by lagado at 10:52 PM on December 11, 2000

Lagado - you're right. I went a bit overboard there.

Anyway, here's a related point. Westernization doesn't increase happiness. It may increase GDP (although arguably not median wage), but it also brings with it a host of other problems -- diseases of affluence like obesity, heart disease and cancer, as well as the "civilized" mental diseases you mention (alienation, powerlessness and low self-esteem).

My original point was crudely expressed. But what I wanted to emphasize was: the problems of over- and under-consumption are connected, and should be looked at in parallel as predictable consequences of the same oppressive economic system. And so on, and so forth.
posted by johnb at 11:26 PM on December 11, 2000

Starvation is usually caused by a much different oppressive economic system then capitalism.
posted by Mick at 5:45 AM on December 12, 2000

So, Mick, are you saying that most Third World nations which have famines or an undernourished population are not part of capitalist economy?
posted by lagado at 6:14 AM on December 12, 2000

Mick - in this context the labels "capitalism" vs "socialism" are pretty meaningless. The gulf between theory and practice is too large. What we should be talking about is: the current global economic system vs a system that differs in respects X, Y and Z. (e.g., with or without intellectual property sanctions, with or without a tobin tax, etc).

In light of the recent upsurge in mass activism, it's encouraging that even the "mainstream" think tanks are publically rethinking the "Washington consensus" model of development. See for instance Alleviating Poverty: Five Decades of Under-Achievement (PDF), from the IISD (which takes an approach inspired by Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen)

Ahem, back to Playboy bunnies and other matters of central importance.
posted by johnb at 6:44 AM on December 12, 2000

TV brings eating disorders to Fiji

"In 1998, the researchers surveyed a group of Fijian girls, whose average age was 17, and found that 15 percent reported they had induced vomiting to control their weight. In a similar group of girls surveyed three years earlier, just after TV was introduced, only 3 percent reported that they had vomited to control weight."
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:14 AM on December 12, 2000

"They did their analysis based on the weight and measurements that were printed in the magazine. Even the researchers acknowledge the unreality of this..."

As one of my friends pointed out, "5'10" and 115 lbs? Yeah, if she's hollow."

johnb, good points. Just be careful not to lump all Americans into the primping, self-conscious, wasteful morbidly obese category. Most maybe, but not all.
posted by jennyb at 10:10 AM on December 12, 2000

Wow. Doing a little back-of-the-envelope math based on the Fiji statistics, I estimate that the percentage of US women who will have died from TV-inflicted anorexia will equal . . . hmm . . . 100% . . . in, let's see . . . 1964. Good Christ! We're out of women!

I love how in the USA we want it not just both ways, but all possible ways. "TV is causing teen violence, poor body image, and racial unrest!" "Free speech!" "Our women/men/kids are morbidly obese!" "TV/supermodels/actors are causing (same) to starve themselves!" "Advertising is turning us all into mindless consumerist robots!" "Did you hear? You can win a free TiVo!"

I can't wait to find out what I'm supposed to frump about tomorrow.

posted by Skot at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2000

As long as people like Skot believe ethics has no place in media, his attitutde will continue to perpetuate agressively exploitive media. If we ask for accountability in our media producers — if we believe media matters — the texts that influence our lives daily could represent reality, instead of an unrealizable fantasyland.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2000

Sigh. I hadn't realized that I was perpetuating "aggressively exploitive media." Nor did I realize that I was dismissing accountability. Here I thought I was trying to make a point about consumerist hypocrisy and healthy skepticism (although clearly not making it very well). I was even more surprised to find out that I believe ethics has no place in media--as if it can exist in media without it first existing in its consumers anyway. Forget it. It probably only proves that I shouldn't post without having my AM coffee anyway.
posted by Skot at 11:29 AM on December 12, 2000

No, it's just that his crack leaked out of his handle into his pipe... :-)

posted by baylink at 1:18 PM on December 12, 2000

You can’t disassociate apathy from hyprocrisy. If you see one, the other isn’t far away.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:54 PM on December 12, 2000

Wow. You people seem to believe a lot of things very strongly. That's probably a good thing.
On the subject of the accuracy of stats in porn: I don't know if anyone here has ever checked but in the porn magazines that I've seen there is usually a small print statement along the lines of "the contents of this magazine are fictitious". Don't know if that's true of Playboy though.
posted by davidgentle at 5:05 PM on December 12, 2000

I have no idea about any other centerfolds in Playboy, but Bettie Page appeared as a centerfold in the 50's, and was identified by that name. I have no idea what else they might have said about her, though, or whether it was true.

But that truly is her name; I've seen a reproduction of her birth certificate. (I'm a big fan.)

Also, Stella Stevens appeared as a centerfold in 1960, under that name.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:03 PM on December 12, 2000

So does playboy state that it's contents are fictitious? I've never actually seen a copy.
posted by davidgentle at 8:49 PM on December 12, 2000

« Older Feed redesigns.   |   The Kensington Runestone. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments