Fox and Burger King just don’t get it

Over the weekend Fox and Burger King ran a cartoon ad during their NFL games mocking Jessica Simpson and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (whom she dated last year).  The spot included comments like “Unlike Tony, at least Jessica comes up big when it counts!”and “Say Tony, is Jessica around? We could use a defensive tackle!”

Fox has apologized ( ), but this is so over the top I can hardly believe it.  Except that it’s Fox.

If this bothers you, you can contact News Corporation which owns Fox here:

Primary Press Contact Secondary Contact
Brian Lewis, Executive Vice President
Corporate Communications
Phone: 212-301-3331
Fax: 212-819-0816
Irena Briganti, Senior Vice President
Media Relations
Phone: 212-301-3608
Fax: 212-819-0816

The Problem with Press-Releases (and over-generalizations)

Researchers at USC released a new report with findings that suggest that “Black Girls are 50% more likely to be bulimic than White Girls“.

This is the headline I found when doing my usual search for news related to eating disorders and body image issues. So, I followed the link because the headline struck me as unusual because in much of the research I have done, I don’t find many resources and studies being done on the overlap of race and body image and eating issues.

The first thing that struck me as “off” was the use of the word “girls”. I was going to ignore this, but I still find it problematic. Girl is often used to demean women, however it can also suggest are certain age group of women (i.e. 18 and under).  I would like to point out that there is another term available to use, that being young women. I would find it most helpful in understanding their findings if they numerically reported the ages of their surveyed population.

The study then goes on to compare those statistics with the statement “more than 9 million females suffer from Bulimia in this country”. So how does that compare to the findings of this new study, since that one focuses on “girls”. What percentage of the 9 million females are under the category of “girls”. Semantics are very important, especially when making bold statements that could potential overturn stereotypes and assumptions around eating disorders (the assumption being that eating disorders mainly affect white, upper class women).  Say what you mean (and I can say this because I get my own science writing criticized when I don’t properly and concisely detail what I’m studying). But that is only the beginning.

The results reveal that:

  • Black girls were 50 percent more likely than white girls to exhibit bulimic behavior, including both binging and purging. About 2.6 percent of black girls were clinically bulimic, compared to 1.7 percent of white girls. Overall, approximately 2.2 percent of the girls surveyed were clinically bulimic, close to the national average.
  • Black girls scored an average of 17 percentage points higher than their white counterparts on the widely used medical index gauging of the severity of the bulimia, the researchers found.
  • Girls from families in the lowest income bracket were significantly more likely to experience bulimia than their wealthier peers.
  • Bulimia affected 1.5 percent of girls in households where at least one parent had a college degree.
  • For girls whose parents had a high school education or less, the rate of bulimia was more than double — 3.3 percent were bulimic.

Wait a second –  I thought the survey was focusing on the racial statistics of bulimic behaviors, not class? I dont like the assertion that the rest of the statistics are making – that not only are black [young women] more likely to be bulimic, but also be from lower class and less educated backgrounds.

Yes, this IS important research that needs to be carried out – the intersections between gender, race and class, and how they influence disordered eating. But should it be carried out by economists when the headline is suggesting they are looking at race?

Whether or not they meant their findings to be interpreted this way, I still feel like this is sloppy presentation of the facts, and not enough thoughtful/careful separation between the demographics analyzed (those being race and class). Instead, it plays into the assumption that blacks (especially, black women) are bulimic and from low-income, uneducated backgrounds.Yes, I appreciate the part where they talk about how eating disorder surveys have been biased in the past because of sampling techniques (sampling those who have been treated, therefore the strong correlations between class and eating disorders, since those findings were based on individuals who can afford treatment) but they are just overall conflating black with poor, and it really bothers me. It should bother you too!

I recognize the sad fact, unfortunately due to racial oppression  nonwhite populations tend to be overrepresented in lower classes. However, racial and class demographics due not determine one another. For instance, if  the authors of the study did wanted to examine eating disorders among black women, then they ought to have included in their study black women of various economic and educational experiences. On the other hand, if they wanted to examine the impact of being in a lower class can have on the prevalence of eating disorders, they ought not to have implied that all people in that class are black.

Most importantly, have we stopped to think about why black young women would feel pressured to engage in disordered eating? Could it perhaps be the media’s dominance and reinforcement of ideals of femininity and beauty, those ideals that are established and maintained by racist patriarchy?

Bottom line: yay for research that is trying to be more mindful of how body image can transcend racial and economic boundaries. A big BOO for research that is not precise enough in stating its findings, and seems to reinforce assumptions surrouding class and race.

Interview from BBC

*warning, could be triggering for those who have suffered with eating issues*

THIS is an interesting interview with a woman from the UK who suffered with anorexia and whose recovery was hindered by the lack of specialists.

Barbie: Good or Bad? Some interesting thoughts…

Research has shown that fantasy and play are considered important parts of girls’ socialization and development. Also, toys portraying gender and adult roles, like Barbie, provide girls with a tangible image of social values and social interactions.

Interestingly, a 2004 study in the journal Adolescence found that as girls approach late childhood and early adolescence they are less likely to engage in make-believe play with their Barbie dolls and instead increasingly expose them to “torture” or “anger” play — where the dolls are painted, shaved or pulled apart. The authors believe the latter, more hostile form of play is a healthy, normal outlet for expressing aggression and frustration that the children have learned would be inappropriate to do in public. The authors also noted that some girls likely attacked the dolls because they acknowledged they were “too perfect.”

entire story HERE.

Ethics? Medicine? Funding?

Thanks for sharing this, Dan!

Harvard has fallen behind, some faculty and administrators say, because its teaching hospitals are not owned by the university, complicating reform; because the dean is fairly new and his predecessor was such an industry booster that he served on a pharmaceutical company board; and because a crackdown, simply put, could cost it money or faculty.

Oprah’s Weight Battle?

So, after racing through my most recent edition of Bitch, it’s time to digest.

There’s a great peice commenting on the coverage over Oprah’s weight. Just to recap: Oprah lost a lot of weight back in 2005 and now 4 years later, is back “where she started”. Oprah’s doctors told her earlier this year that her weight fluctuation is a result of a thyroid problem.

What is startling, atleast to me, is the treatment of this very private and personal matter by the public (ie gossip magazines and blogs). And Oprah’s quoted in her latest issue of “O” where she talks about her weight issues saying basically that at one point, she thought I give up – fat wins.

This completely distresses me – here is a woman that broke racial and gender barriers in journalism/influence in the public sphere. And after her long dynasty, she’s still worried about what she looks like? She thinks that she’s only influential when she lost all of her weight?

I just think it’s ridiculous that someone who is such a role model for so many individuals, that the press – as well as herself – are eating her up and paying so much attention to her weight.

we could all take a cue from Serena

When Serena Williams won the Australian Open last week, she not only recaptured the number 1 ranking, she broke Annika Sorenstam‘s record for career prize money won by a female athlete. Excluding endorsements, Williams has earned $23.5 million in 14 years of professional tennis. NBC suggested she should just go ahead and change her name to “$erena.”

What an awesome role model for ALL women.