Archive for the 'Government' Category

Plus size models protest Australian Fashion Week

(L-R) Ivina Sotnikava, Kaila Conklin, Belinda Morgan, Kate Hislop, Mackenzie Sipos and Natalie Wakeling. Pic: Renee Nowytarger, Source: The Daily Telegraph

The Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) is over for another year, but it didn’t pass without controversy. Plus size models from BGM Models – who must have a fantastic PR department – protested outside the main venue over the complete lack of plus size models in this year’s events.

After all the attention plus size fashion has received in the past twelve months, Australia seems to be – quite embarrassingly – falling behind the rest of the Western world. As BGM agent Darrianne Donnelly states, “While the rest of the world is embracing women with curves, Australian fashion is going backwards. The public wants to see themselves, in all shapes and sizes not just size 6.”

(As an aside to BGM Models: I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but can you please lay off the whole ‘REAL WOMEN’ angle? You don’t advance one group of people by tearing down another. To imply that straight size models are not real is just another way of dictating what women should and should not look like. That’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from.)

Organisers did not make official comment, instead deferring questioning to individual designers as they are responsible for the model casting for their own shows.

First of all – because I have seen this incorrectly reported on other blogs – plus size models were not featured at last year’s RAFW. Last year’s City Chic fashion show was held during the 2009 Sydney Fashion Festival. They are two completely different events (though it is sponsored by the same company) and RAFW is The Big Deal – it is the exclusive, industry-only event.

Though that’s the point, isn’t it? Plus size consumers are given a free, public show in the less prestigious runway show yet continue to be snubbed by Australia’s top designers in our premier fashion event. It smells just a little bit like tokenism.

It is interesting to see how little impact the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image may have. In October 2009, the National Advisory Group on Body Image – which was established by the Australian government in March 2009 – submitted the Proposed National Strategy on Body Image to the government. Among the recommendations is the Code of Conduct on Body Image, which recommends using “a diverse range of people that are appropriate to their target audience. When considering diversity, particular focus should be given to including a range of body shapes, sizes and ethnicities”. The report is currently under consideration by the government, and they are due release their response this year. You can read the complete report here or, if you’re lazy, a summary of the recommendations here.

The key word to take note of is ‘voluntary’. It is up to each magazine and fashion label to sign up to the Code of Conduct and abide by its principles. However, with Australian designers so reluctant to use plus size models, we must question what a voluntary code could achieve. With no incentives or punishments, and with seemingly no champions in our fashion industry, I do wonder how we can move forward.

“Guys talk about female body image”

That’s the title of an article by David Penberthy currently up on The Punch. The Punch is an Australian opinion site, owned by News Limited. David Penberthy has been a News Limited employee for years, and is the former editor of Sydney’s tabloid, the Daily Telegraph.

The reason for David jumping on the self-esteem bandwagon is that Australia has been knee-deep in a body image discussion. Last month, the National Advisory Group on Body Image – which was established by the Australian government in March – submitted the Proposed National Strategy on Body Image to the government. Among the recommendations is a Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image, which recommends using ‘healthy weight’ models (a pretty ambiguous term), realistic and natural images of people and disclosure when images of people have been digitally manipulated. The report is currently under consideration by the government, and they will release their response in 2010. You can read the complete report here or, if you’re lazy, a summary of the recommendations here.

So that’s all pretty positive. There was a lot of consulatation and the report attracted a lot of national press. But David felt that this process what missing something, and that something was men.

The Punch has today assembled this special package of pieces about female body image through the eyes of blokes.

Nevermind that the report is aimed at both sexes (though it should be noted that there is a focus on females) and is primarily targeted to school-aged people. Forget that. David wants to talk about chicks he thinks are hot.

We were moved to embark on this project because the one missing feature from the important national debate about female body image is that at no stage has anybody asked the blokes what they think.

It’s a pity – because there is now some interesting evidence that women are laying a serious guilt-trip on themselves and reinforcing stereotypes about their size and shape which have absolutely no bearing on whether men find them attractive or not.

This is the most petulant statement I’ve read in a long time. ALL THIS TALK ABOUT HOW WOMEN FEEL ABOUT THEMSELVES AND NO ONE ASKED MEEEEEEEEEEE.

I get that this, though obviously sensationalist, was well-intentioned and that too many women think that they are unattractive to others. But it’s so fucking ridiculous for anyone to think that the magic cure to low self-esteem is what men find attractive. Get your hand off it, Dave.

It’s possible that men haven’t been quizzed on their sexual preferences as part of the consultation process because a woman’s body image should not be tethered to what men find attractive. How revolutionary.

“Federal Government cracks downs on weight-loss industry.”

That was the amazing headline I saw on News.com.au today. I nearly fell off my chair.

WEIGHT-LOSS programs and products will have to prove they can help people keep off the kilos long-term as the Federal Government cracks down on the $414-million-a-year industry.

The Rudd Government’s Preventative Health Taskforce is understood to have called for the weight-loss industry to be regulated in a report handed down last month.

I’ve blogged about (some not so great) recommendations made by the Preventative Health Taskforce before.

The Taskforce provided the National Preventative Health Strategy to the Government on 30 June 2009 and the Australian Government has been sitting on it ever since. This happens a lot with reports written by external Taskforces or Advisory Panels – they are submitted to the government (federal or state) and then various Ministers sit on them for months. There’s no indication when the Strategy will be released publicly.

It follows growing evidence that diets may actually be adding to the obesity crisis as overweight people lose weight rapidly while following programs but quickly put it back on after they stop.

 Amazing, right?

The taskforce said that young women in particular were spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on programs to manage their weight.

Despite this, the nation’s obesity rate was climbing with more than 60 per cent of adults now overweight or obese.

Not only that…

 The Dietitians Association of Australia is backing the recommendation.

O RLY?!

The association said regulation should require businesses marketing a diet program to provide evidence to a panel of experts showing what percentage of those who used the diet kept the weight off two years after starting.

Chief executive Claire Hewat said a good diet would result in weight loss of about half a kilogram per week.

“If you can lose 5 per cent of your body weight you are doing really well,” she said. “Diets are not the point, it’s lifestyle change that is needed.”

Then the article puts the boot to the diet industry:

A Choice survey of pharmacy diet programs published earlier this year found they were successful at helping people shed kilos in a hurry if followed closely – but they did little to change a person’s lifestyle in the long term.

Many were so nutritionally deficient that dieters had to take vitamin supplements, while some counsellors selling the programs had just three hours training.

And then, of course, the Dietitians Association of Australia has to ruin everything with:

The association also wants national exercise guidelines reviewed because the 30 minutes of exercise a day promoted by the Government is good for general wellbeing but not enough to tackle obesity. 

 Let’s break that down.

Thirty minutes of exercise a day is good for general health, but won’t “tackle obesity”.

General health means nothing if you are still fat.

After the Chief Executive Officer of the DAA explicitly said “Diets are not the point, it’s lifestyle change that is needed”, the Association still believes that one’s fat – rather than one’s lifestyle – is at the root of all our problems.

How can that make sense to ANYONE?!

Alas. We were so close, so tantalising close to a mainstream Australian article espousing health at every size…

“Obese could be paid to lose weight under Rudd proposal”

I want to address the articles that were published yesterday by News Limited: one in The Daily Telegraph/AdelaideNow and one in Herald Sun.

Some clarification for international readers: News Limited is the media company owned by Rupert Murdoch. In Australia it operates, among many others, the Daily Tele, AdelaideNow and the Herald Sun – all tabloid newspapers. Their equivalent in tone and style would be UK’s The Sun (but with fewer boobs), which is also owned by Murdoch. ‘Rudd’ refers to the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

The articles had two different tones. Daily Tele/AdelaideNow ran the headline “Subsidies for people to lose weight and get fit: Overweight people could be paid to lose weight under a radical plan to combat the nation’s obesity crisis” while Herald Sun ran the much more alarmist “Obese could be paid to lose weight under Rudd proposal: Fat people could be paid to lose weight under a radical plan to combat the nation’s obesity crisis commissioned by the Rudd Government”.

The articles led to predictable responses from both sides. The anti-fat brigade exclaimed that Kevin Rudd was rewarding obesity (obesity = evil, natch), discriminating against healthy people, that they should not expected to pay for the problems fat people bring on themselves. On the other side, fatties were blasting Rudd for failing to recognise health at every size.

When I saw the headlines, I expected to jump on the side of the latter. Until I actually read the article. Now I am convinced that the ‘FATTIES = BAD’ tone is more due to dodgy reporting rather than a fault with Rudd or within the actual report.

Not one of the expected recommendations is explicitly targeted at the obese and backs up these ridiculous headlines. The articles outline:

  • Tax breaks or subsidies for gym membership, fitness equipment and/or sports club membership
  • A ban on junk food advertising during children’s programs
  • Nutritional information displays for fast food outlets
  • Increasing the cost of cigarettes
  • Restrictions on opening times for venues serving alcohol

Leaving aside whether these measures will even be effective, all the recommendations listed in the articles stand to affect everyone.

The most disappointing thing about the Taskforce is that one of the goals they have set is to “curb the nation’s growing waistline.”

Though the attitude that obesity automatically equates to unhealthiness is frustrating, I don’t blame Kevin Rudd and I am not worried that this will be entered into policy. Rudd commissioned a report from an independent taskforce who will make a series of recommendations that the government is under no obligation to implement. I think that, for now, the fatties are safe from the Australian Government.

Edit: The ABC also covered this story. Apparently one of the recommendations could be that “overweight people would be given subsidies for gym membership or fitness equipment”, which was not explicitly outlined in the News Limited articles. Sigh. The National Preventative Health Taskforce was due to report on their recommendations this week but so far nothing has been released. Watch this space.


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