Tonight I finally had the chance to catch up on the recording of the members debate at the Scottish Parliament which took place yesterday. I’m sure Members Debate is the more official, professional sounding title, but for my own purposes it’s called the Mannequin Debate…although the use of the word debate is questionable since everyone was very politely agreeing with each other for the full 40 minutes!
Bear with me folks as I’m a little tired as I write this so prepare for a part 2 (3, 4, 216?) when I realise I’ve missed out all the integral, eloquent points I intended to make first time around.
Okay first off, what was my reaction? HARDLY ANY POLITICIANS WERE EVEN THERE! Honestly, if you decide to watch the footage, it’s like searching for Where’s Wally when he’s forgotten his jeans and stripy jumper. I really shouldn’t have started on a negative note, but hey, it was the first thing that came to mind and I had to address it. Thankfully the MSP’s who actually did participate acknowledged the lack of bodies and hinted at the reason being the late time slot of…5.05pm. Seriously? Obviously I know nothing of the working hours of the Scottish Parliament but it sounds like the quitting time bell went off 5 minutes earlier and everyone went home, except for some well researched speakers at the debate. Poor show people. Poor show. It doesn’t exactly install much confidence in those who have suffered with body image issues that the government gives a shit.
Right lets talk positives, this debate was very much focused on how to encourage healthy body image and reduce negative thinking so I shall aim to keep that in mind as I type.
I felt that all the speakers did very well. As I said earlier, no one was exactly disagreeing with each other. All of those who spoke reiterated extremely similar arguements on how fashion and media can have a harmful effect on increasing negative self-image and exacerbate eating disorders.
Now this was the particularly key point I felt throughout the whole thing. Yes the various MSP’s discussed the dangers of how the fashion industry predominantly showcases and represents tall, thin (and usually caucasian) women and how these images in magazines and TV can affect how we feel about ourselves and our bodies. However – and I was extremely glad that Dennis Robertson stated this towards the end of his speech – they are not specifically the cause of an eating disorder but a factor that can seriously influence someone who is predisposed to this condition.
Overall, although they never used this term, the debate focused on the power of observational learning. If you are not familiar with observational learning, go google Albert Bandura and Social Learning Theory. Now, later, whatever but look it up at some point if you can. When I studied counselling at college recently I found that this particular theory made a lot of sense to me whilst reflecting on my own history with eating disorders. I’ll probably dedicate a whole (or multiple) posts to my fondness of social learning theory in the future – and a whole bag of other stuff that cropped up during the debate that wouldn’t be fair to skim over just now as deserves its own individual and equal care and attention – but here’s a brief sketch of what I’m on about.
Albert Bandura felt that we can learn behaviours from observing what is going on around us, whether this is the through the people that raise us, our friends we socialise with or the media such as television, film, magazines and books etc. I am a big believer of this, especially when it comes to eating disorders. Although I know my eating disorders developed out of unhappiness in my life and a need to control, I am aware that language used around me has influenced how I speak and view my body. I also know that images of beautiful, thin actresses, female musicians and celebrities have also made me feel inferior in comparison to them.
So what I’m saying is that yes, we need a fairer representation of the society we live in. We need to live in a culture where different shapes and sizes is normalised and not ostracised from mannequins and glossy pages of magazines. We need young people and adults to grow up in an environment where we don’t feel shamed or locked out of some exclusive club because we don’t fit the size clothes on the giant plastic barbie in the middle of the sales floor. There needs to be more acceptance in the media that yes some people are thin, some people aren’t and some of us are in between all of those things at certain points in our lives. Malcolm Chisholm ended the debate on a lovely high note by mentioning that there is empowerment in accepting the bodies we have. I wholeheartedly agree.
Ok. Brain frazzled. Over and out. I will return with more thoughts soon…