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Call for action: Site for adolescent teens promotes eating disorders

15th March 2008

Call for action: Site for adolescent teens promotes eating disorders

A reader alerted Kate Harding to this disturbing article on the www.beinggirl.com website, sponsored by Tampax and parent company Procter & Gamble.

It appears that the American president and his grand old party aren’t the only ones catastrophizing and capitalizing on fears of terrorism. Titled “What Does the War Have to Do With Your Weight?,” the article “reassures” young girls that they aren’t alone in their emotional overeating. Unsubstantiated statistics claim one in ten Americans gained weight within two months of 9/11, and that after the attacks, 15 percent of Americans admitted turning to “comfort foods.”

If a girl didn’t think she had a problem before reading this article, she might be convinced she has one after reading it.

The article goes on to provide 9 “tips” (in bold, my comments follow) for young, impressionable girls on how to curb their emotional eating, such as:

At the moment you grab for something to eat, tell yourself you can have it if you still want it but you have to wait 30 minutes. We wouldn’t want to encourage intuitive eating now, would we? Hey, if you last 30 minutes, you can probably last an hour, maybe even several hours. And if you’re really good, you can make that whole carton of yogurt last the entire day.

Write down everything you eat. Icky, we know, but we also know there’s no better substitute (except looking at yourself in the mirror naked), that’s better than tracking what goes into your mouth to get you into the habit of thinking before you eat. This is the particularly heinous “tip” for me. Food journaling is one thing; the encouragement of self-loathing is quite another. Mental health isn’t promoted here as the goal, but rather the perpetuation of a cultural aesthetic.

Post-It notes are great for reminding you of the right thing to do. Stick them on the bathroom mirror, on the inside of your locker, on your computer. Be creative with your reminder. “How hungry are your really?” “Exactly why are you eating that now?” “What will the scale say tomorrow morning?” Another really heinous and destructive “tip.” While they’re at it, perhaps girls should post some thinspiration photos, too, to remind them not to eat, ever.

If you know where your most challenging places are, stay away. If you’re aware of the time of day you’re weakest, prepare for it ahead. Never shop for groceries when you’re hungry. A previous tip also encourages girls to “plan ahead” to keep themselves occupied during normal snack hours. Both of these are so eerily reminiscent of the excuses I learned to make in order to avoid eating with friends and family. And how many 10 and 11-year-olds do you know grocery shops? Or need tampons, for that matter?

Look, it’s one thing to encourage people to examine the issues affecting their food choices, but these are young, impressionable girls who are at the ripe age when most eating disorders develop. If a girl truly has a problem with emotional eating, chances are, she isn’t emotionally prepared to handle it herself. The site suggests professional help only as an afterthought, and nowhere does it encourage girls to talk to their parents or a trusted adult. Their advice is the equivalent of instructing a 10-year-old to perform surgery on herself without any medical knowledge or training.

What’s even more sad is that P&G has partnered with Hearst Magazines, so that the site and potentially harmful messages like this are prominently featured on Seventeen.com, CosmoGIRL.com and Teenmag.com, which collectively reach 1.5 million unique users per month. Apparently making girls feel bad about themselves and their bodies is mutually beneficial for these two companies.

Other bloggers have also commented on this story- see Feed Me!, Big Liberty, and Fat Lot of Good for their critiques.

Contact information to voice complaints is available after the jump.

P&G is headquartered in my hometown of Cincinnati, and I’m working on getting more detailed contact informtion. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far:

The beinggirl site has a generic Contact Us form you can start with. P&G’s corporate website has a similar Contact Us form. P&G has an 800 number staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday at 1-800-523-0014.

Here are the so-called “experts” behind the site. According to one profile, they’re also headquartered in Cincinnati. Address snail mail letters any or each of the following:

  • Dr. Iris Prager, beinggirl Content Manager
  • Tina So, beinggirl Interactive Marketing Manager
  • Jamie Kissell, US beinggirl Interactive Marketing Manager
  • Janis Carter, beinggirl Interactive Production Manager
  • Sonya Kirkpatrick, beinggirl Marketing Specialist

And also, Melanie Healey, Group President, Global Feminine and Health Care

One Procter & Gamble Plaza
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
United States

Suggestions on how to phrase letters of complaint can be found here. Remember: it’s important to express and articulate your concerns and outrage, but ranting vitriolic letters are often highly ineffective.

More contact information as I get it.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 15th, 2008 at 1:18 pm and is filed under Arts and Music, Eating Disorders, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 22 responses to “Call for action: Site for adolescent teens promotes eating disorders”

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  1. 1 On March 15th, 2008, worthyourweight said:

    What I will never understand is why emotional eating and comfort foods are only a problem when it comes to fat people. When thin people do it, it’s just dandy. WTH?

  2. 2 On March 15th, 2008, Brie said:

    This sounds like something right off of a Pro-Anorexia site. This comment, in particular , really got to me:

    “but we also know there’s no better substitute (except looking at yourself in the mirror naked)”

    They expect and almost desire girls to hate their bodies, is what it seems like. This is just disgusting.

  3. 3 On March 15th, 2008, Cyn said:

    Kotex and Tampax are almost guilty of having done loads of this kind of advertisements several years ago:
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=432373&id=562857920&op=1&subj=2467246125&view=all&aid=-1&oid=2467246125
    Procter & Gamble is also infamous for experimenting on animals to verify stupid things.

    I say we boycott them and wear alternative methods (the Keeper, DivaCup, MoonCup, good ol’ homemade fabric sanitary towels, etc).

  4. 4 On March 15th, 2008, apricotmuffins said:

    Cyn, every woman and girl should try a menstrual cup anyway, its a brilliant alternative and shouldnt even BE an alternative. it should be the main thing. environmentally safe, hygenically safe (unless you never ever clean it, but cleaning it is EASY)no risk of TSS, no uncomfortable dryness or feeling of sitting in filth all day, its pretty much the best thing in the universe for periods. And you only need to buy one every 10 years (ever wonder why they werent marketed much in the first place? not enough rebuying power!)

    besides that, I had a look round this site and i HATE it. Its just one massive advert for different products, and pretty disgustingly so. Very, VERY blatant. “You’ve gotta have silky smooth skin so you’ve gotta have the goods” I think, i read somewhere. Ugh. UGH UGH UGH. Way to make young girls feel as though they have to hate their bodies and spend lots of money to make it ‘better’. They dont give a fuck about anyones wellbeing. Then what advertisers do?

  5. 5 On March 15th, 2008, AnnieMcPhee said:

    The Keeper isn’t an option for me, nor tampons – but I do use Stayfree brand pads, so hopefully they’re not P&G.

    I’m glad the fatosphere is covering this abomination; it’s too important to let go. It’s like reading a pro-ana site ffs!

  6. 6 On March 15th, 2008, Cyn said:

    “Kotex and Tampax are almost guilty of having done loads of this kind of advertisements several years ago:” i meant, ALSO GUILTY. not almost. 100% guilty. 10000000000% guilty.

    yep, the keeper and such shouldn’t be an alternative in the first place. they should be the only thing one ever uses and needs. i’ve had mine for a year and a half and it’s still like new. if i have a daughter, that’s what she will wear since her very first period. that or other kind of non-sexist, non-polluting, cruelty-free menstrualwear.

  7. 7 On March 15th, 2008, onejewishdyke said:

    The keeper and diva cup aren’t for everyone. I gave it a valiant effort and could never get it comfortable due to my anatomy. However, there are other environmentally-friendly options, i.e. several small, woman-owned companies that make washable pads that will last for many years. I’m 33, started wearing them when I was 20, and am only on my second set. I do admit that after nine years or so they were getting sufficiently frayed that I decided it was time for some new ones, plus I found that as I got older I needed longer pads than I had at 20. You can also make your own as someone mentioned upthread, but I’m just not that good with the sewing machine. And for all the money I waste on stuff I don’t need, I think spending $10 on a pad that I’m going to use every four weeks for a decade is a bargain. I don’t know what a box of tampons or pads costs these days but I’m sure the initial investment was long ago covered.

    I also sent some pads to a friend as a gift once. She really liked the idea but was struggling financially and that initial investment was too much, where she could handle the monthly or bimonthly box of disposables. She was so tickled when she got her package in the mail and sent me emails like, “I’m wearing Christmas trees in my pants!” (They come in all kinds of patterns.)

  8. 8 On March 16th, 2008, AnnieMcPhee said:

    Look, not only can I not *reach* down properly to insert a tampon, but I can’t get them in. After two episiotomies, your vagina can change – in my case it’s practically collapsed (and spilling out all over itself.) I can NOT get a Keeper or a tampon in at all, even if I can reach. They’re not an option for me. Now, I could do the Luna Pads or something but it’s a fair amount of effort and cost, and frankly when my period hits, it’s pretty easy to go buy some Stayfree pads. When it’s bizarrely heavy I use towels and wash ‘em afterwards. Or hubby washes ‘em. I have been known to use the Jade and Pearl sustainable sea sponge things, but again reaching down to do that? Not really feasible most of the time. Anyway, I’m not terrified about the environment, though I do not wish to support a company (P&G) that promotes eating disorders. And we’re in good company. Remember, the religious right boycotts P&G too because they have some kind of satanic logo ;) (I dunno, the beard in the man in the moon has three swirls that look like 6 6 6 or some such shit, and he is dressed like a warlock or something. Heh.)

  9. 9 On March 16th, 2008, Alexandra said:

    hello, I just wanted to say that I found your blog today and I LOVE it, you’re putting in to words my experiences.

    I too have shed nearly half my bodyweight from one eating disorder (BED) through “diet” turned to another disorder (Bulimia).

    I now have a BMI of around 30 – making me a drain on resources & possibly likely to have a heart attack any time between now and dinner if the diabetes doesn’t get me first… ;-) , but I’m ultra fit and I eat WHATEVER I like, but try to focus on fuel for my body rather than good/bad – I also stay the hell away from chemicals.

    My mother is type I diabetic – you’re right, most people don’t know there are two types and type I is just a total pancreatic shut down. :-/

    As for this P&G article, I find it horrifying, especially as young girls are menstruating at a younger and therefore more impressionable age. :-( It’s deeply disturbing – I’d expect to see this level of shite aimed at the Cosmo-reading-generation.

  10. 10 On March 16th, 2008, apricotmuffins said:

    satanic logo? really? wierddd. I dont know any religious people who boycott P&G for that reason, and i know a lot of religious people. It has to be the stupidest one to be sure. Oh well.

    Also, It sucks that there are some women who are unable to use a menstrual cup. I knew that before, but maybe i should have clarified my statement about them being used by everyone – because of course there are some women who wont agree with them/can’t use them for medical reasons. Its a given.

  11. 11 On March 16th, 2008, Kasia said:

    Look, not only can I not *reach* down properly to insert a tampon, but I can’t get them in. After two episiotomies, your vagina can change – in my case it’s practically collapsed (and spilling out all over itself.) I can NOT get a Keeper or a tampon in at all, even if I can reach.
    ————————–

    THAT IS WAY TOOOOOO MUCH INFORMATION. Gross!

  12. 12 On March 16th, 2008, Jackie said:

    I told them they’re kicking themselves in the teeth, because if they encourage women to get an ED. Those women all will end up with Ammenoriah, a loss of period, and therfore won’t be buying their products.

  13. 13 On March 16th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Ha! Clever, Jackie!

  14. 14 On March 16th, 2008, pennylane said:

    Ha! You’re right, Jackie. Yeah, I was pretty disturbed reading that list of things because I engaged in quite a few of those behaviors while struggling with an ED, particularly the writing notes to myself and the self talk about the mirror and, of course, the obsessive food journaling.

    But I also really like the bizarre appropriation of 9/11. Yes, three thousand people died but you know the worst part–some people gained weight! Let’s take a tragedy and turn it into a marketing tool designed to make young women feel bad.

    Just grotesque.

  15. 15 On March 16th, 2008, thehoneybunny said:

    that article makes me want to cry. as a person who grew up being made to feel that not only was my period dirty and disgusting and abnormal, but hat my fat body was something i should be ashamed about, i feel really, really sad for the young girls who are taking it as gospel. and the 9-11 correlation to fat is just disgusting.

    as for the divacup and other alternative methods, they aren’t for me. i cannot use them because my cervix is so tilted. so, yeah…as crappy as pads and tampons are, some women don’t have any other choice but to wear them.

  16. 16 On March 16th, 2008, cao di said:

    These are such insane ‘tips…’ ones very similar to those i used to fine on ‘pro-ana’ sites i visited in my late teens. DISTURBING.

  17. 17 On March 16th, 2008, i-geek said:

    onejewishdyke: “The keeper and diva cup aren’t for everyone. I gave it a valiant effort and could never get it comfortable due to my anatomy. However, there are other environmentally-friendly options, i.e. several small, woman-owned companies that make washable pads that will last for many years.”

    Yeah, I’ve never been able to wear one of the cups successfully either. I love my Lunapads (super soft and absorbent washable cloth pads) and can use organic cotton tampons for times when pads aren’t practical. I do think there should be much more awareness that these products exist. I know a lot of women like the reusables once they’ve tried them.

  18. 18 On March 16th, 2008, kate said:

    I just commented on another blog entry on this subject, but I think it bears saying again: What makes us think this isn’t exactly what P&G is actively striving for? Giving girls a complex about their flawed, shameful bodies is something it behooves a cosmetics-and-feminine-products company to do as early as possible.

    Blech.

  19. 19 On March 16th, 2008, sarah said:

    “THAT IS WAY TOOOOOO MUCH INFORMATION. Gross!”

    This comment is pretty gross and offensive as well.

    Womens bodies are under so much scrutiny already and here somebody gets called gross because their vagina birthed children and is now anatomically different. Let alone have the gall to actually mention it!

  20. 20 On March 17th, 2008, Charlotte said:

    Using 9/11 to promote “healthy” eating habits? They should be ashamed of themselves.

    To me, it seems like they’re saying “eating=evil! Don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary!”

    *headdesk*
    Morons.

  21. 21 On March 21st, 2008, Quiwi said:

    Did they actually get rid of the stupid article? I just clicked on the link to it, and it is no longer there. If they really took it off, good job everyone, it means that they really paid attention to all of the letters and emails. I guess they were in shock about the sheer number of people who seriously cared about the mental well-being of young girls.

  22. 22 On July 23rd, 2008, Corporate Babysitter » Blog Archive » Welcome Walden University students said:

    [...] York Times) Quick Hit: Let P&G Know What You Think of Their Website for Girls (Shapely Prose) Call for action: Site for adolescent teens promotes eating disorders (The F-Word) Beinggirl.com promotes eating-disordered behavior, isn’t so safe or [...]

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