Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Israel Fights Anorexia, or Something

On Sunday, Israel could become the first country to make it illegal for agencies to use obese models.

"...Adi Barkan, an Israeli photographer and model agent, became acutely aware of the pervasiveness of obesity when he interviewed 12,000 females aged 13 to 24 in a televised interview of some of Israel's teenage children. He estimated that between 35 and 40% of these average children were obese, due to their increasingly sedentary lifestyle. This realisation, combined with repeated encounters with the illness, persuaded him to launch a crusade to combat it within his industry.

This Sunday, a committee of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, will decide whether to proceed with a bill to compel model agencies to monitor the health and body mass index (the ratio of height to weight) of models. Models would have to undergo regular medical tests to ensure their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or below. The most morbidly obese can have a BMI as high as 40.

If the Knesset passes the bill, Barkan, today sporting a T-shirt bearing the logo 'NO FAT CHICKS', hopes the effect will be two-fold. First, agencies will be forced to confront a problem they have for long ignored and, second, only "healthy" models will be seen on television, in magazines and on billboards..."


I am choosing, right now, to leave aside issues regarding freedom of the press, as well as the imperfections of BMI as a measurement tool. There are a number of points that interest me much more. The first, and most concerning, is the inherent hypocrisy that no one seems to see here. Why is it acceptable to write legislation which (in effect) condemns a body type? Isn't the attempted regulation of what women can and cannot show themselves in advertisements a step BACK for feminism, regardless of the laws' intended effects? In the drive to protect models and teenage kids from anorexia (it is, by the way, unclear which group the law is intended to affect more), this law is actually just reinforcing the idea that body image is something to be worried about.

Second, I am tired - both as a skinny person and as a person, in general - of the recent backlash the various "love your body" ad campaigns are creating against thin chicks. All of a sudden, now that it is ok to be "normal" or "chunky" or whatever you choose to call it, it is also ok to condemn people who are thinner than you for being "fake" or "conforming to the standards of beauty laid out by society" or what have you - and not only is it ok, it's actually implicitly encouraged. The sense of entitlement apparently gained by these so-called "normal" weight people by being oppressed by years of skinny people in advertising is rearing its ugly head as even more weight persecution.

Regarding this topic I say: first, there is no "normal" weight, size, or body type, so using this term to describe the, er, less-stickly women now on some billboards is not only incorrect but others those who comprise either end of the bell curve. Second, being thin is not an automatic guarantor of fantastic body image, ok? Believe it or not, but skinny women also feel belittled by advertisement; chances are, even if we do have the "right" kind of waist, we do not have the "right" kind of hips, breasts, or junk in the trunk. Not only do we receive, then, the same pressures as all other women, but we also get laid into by those other women, who make themselves feel better by making us feel bad.

I will repeat myself and in bold, because I've been wanting to say this for a long time to a lot of people:



So to require that all models have a BMI of 19 or above places another insult to add to the injury of the naturally-skinnys; now we have even more to worry about in order to make ourselves socially (or here, professionally) palatable.

Third, if we assume that this law will be in place to combat anorexia among models: anorexia is a disease, not a lifestyle choice. Not only will requiring regular BMI checks reinforce already-rampant body paranoia, but jeez - don't make these kids illegal, get them some medical and psychiatric help. You wouldn't pass a law saying no cancer patients could be in advertisements because the process might interfere with their treatment, would you? What about anyone with heart disease? You don't villainize the disease, you destroy the cause - which, in this case, should be effected by a self-conscious, self-governing association of advertising agencies who say they want to help fight anorexia, not a law which will probably just ensure more airbrushing and bare-minimum compliance.

Blogging from Work!

This is a grievous breach of professionalism, but I require distraction. Distract me!

No, see, the thing is that I guess I'm supposed to write a review of my internship in which I run down all of what I did while I was here, but I can't...remember. I can't remember the day I started, or what I did first, or my hours. It's just kind of this huge mass of stress-filled, weeks-long haze. I read the book 2983567209 times, I do remember that part. But I know I must have done something else...?


Monday, July 25, 2005

Palm Oil.

For the first time in maybe ever, I will now deliver a post I have promised to write. Oh goodness gracious, it's the Apocalypse.

So about palm oil. This post involves NGOs, corporate interests, and something vaguely resembling science (or anyway, what of science that my pitiful art-historical brain can wrap around). Whoa! Heavy. For me.

My problem with palm oil really has to start with trans fat, because if it weren't for trans fat I wouldn't be having this problem. Seeing as how I was raised by my mom, I sort of know what trans fat is from the in-house reading available. This is what I've gotten of it: so trans fat is sort of like saturated fat, except worse. It lowers the level of good cholesterol, ups the bad cholesterol, hardens your arteries, and basically kills you. Fast. Trans fat occurs, fairly rarely and in pretty low levels, in normal, natural food - but the levels found in fruits and vegetables and beef and all that aren't really enough to kill you. The problem with trans fat stems from the demon-child of all food groups:


Partially-hydrogenated oils are just chock-full of trans fat. And, seeing as how almost every processed food (read: anything made by Kraft, most national-market peanut butters, sandwich cookies, butter-flavored crackers, and on and on) contains partially-hydrogenated oils, a lot of trans fat gets into a lot of people.

So many public advocacy groups, especially CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) have been lobbying the FDA for years to show trans fat on Nutrition Information labels the same way they show saturated fats. They have, ultimately, been successful. By the beginning of next year, food companies will have to list amounts of trans fat on their product labels.

The long wait on displaying trans fat amounts has been in part due, in my opinion and the opinions of many others, to silly powerful corporations (like Kraft) that make their bread and butter on foods containing trans fat. And you can hardly blame them, if you look at it from their point of view - the reason partially-hydrogenated soybean oil is so popular is in part because alternatives to trans fat are either more expensive or less effective (I read a particularly funny article a couple of weeks ago on trans fat-free donuts - I will try to find it and get it to you). Partially-hydrogenated oils are good for the national-market food industry.

So why am I complaining?, you are asking. Allison, you are saying, you are all about health and fitness, so shouldn't you be happy that trans fats will now be labeled? Shouldn't you be jumping up and down and all yippee-hurray?

You're right, I should. The thing that makes me mad, though, is not trans fat or those who sell it. It's CSPI. Because, you see, my mom has a subscription to Nutrition Action, CSPI's public newsletter, and I use it as bathroom reading. So the last time I picked up the good ol' Nutrition Action, I found, on the editorial page, this article (or part of it, anyway).

If you are not feeling the reading of the article, let me summarize the editorial for you: because of the trans fat legislation, many major companies are switching to palm oil for their processed-food needs. This is radically increasing the demand for palm oil. Because of the increased demand, palm farms are increasing in size and quantity. The corresponding destruction of previously-untouched rainforest land is threatening the environment and many endangered species.

To which I say: DAMN IT, CSPI.

You have been lobbying for this stuff since 1994. Do you know how many years that is? That's 10 years. I know people who were not born in 1994. And you're telling me that, now that you've finally accomplished what you've set out to do, NOW YOU START WORRYING ABOUT THE RAINFOREST? IS IT THAT HARD TO FIGURE OUT THE SIMPLE LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND? You know what? Maybe it is. So let me spell it out for you: trans fat labels go on food. People know trans fat is bad. People stop buying food with trans fat. PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO CHANGE THEIR BASIC EATING HABITS. Major food companies struggle to adjust without nosediving profits. MAJOR FOOD COMPANIES KNOW PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO CHANGE THEIR BASIC EATING HABITS. Palm oil is the best available trans-free substitute for partially-hydrogenated oils. MAJOR FOOD COMPANIES BUY MORE PALM OIL. PALM FARMS GO UP. OTHER TREES GO DOWN.


This is where liberals get the reputation of being whiny. No sooner do we strike a major blow to multi-national corporations that conspire to keep Americans fat than we start complaining about the effects of that same blow. And for those of you who are saying "so you suggest we let the animals die?" I reply "No. I am more sympathetic towards the animals than towards the stupid people who can't figure out that Oreos are bad for you. So my suggestions to CSPI (for the next time they pull something like this) are: 1. acknowledge beforehand that your lobbying movement will probably have the effect of wiping the orangutan from the face of the earth and deal with it, possibly even publicizing it so that Americans will see for once part of the tiniest iota that their choices have on the rest of the natural world; 2. stop lobbying in the first place; or 3. shut up now that you've won."

And that is my post on palm oil. Now I am going to a sleepover and not thinking about this before I have an aneurysm.

Sunday, July 17, 2005



Thursday, July 14, 2005

Epworth + Duke = Freakin Sweet

Dear searchers for Epworth, Epworth + Duke, Epworth + Duke + floor plan, etc,

Hi! I'm Allison and I'm going to be your RA next semester. I am nice, most of the time, but don't drink in your rooms or I'll be forced to be mean. Epworth is a fantastic dorm - high ceilings, many windows, our own porch and second floor deck, and right near the bus stop. Personally, I raised hell to make sure I'd be there next year.

I'd love to hear from you! Facebook me (there are two Allison Clarkes at Duke, and I'm the older one) or IM me at bludevlagain.

Be as reasonably unscared as you can about starting college. Duke is awesome. Epworth is awesome. Freshman year will be awesome. You will see.

Much love,


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Oh and so you all know and don't get cranky or sad or depressed or elated or shouty or screechy or whatever it is you do when I am not around, the opening is next week and until then I will be working every day all the time and not blogging.

Which is a shame, really, because I have a thrilling little item about palm oil to share with you all. Just entrancing, is the palm oil. Bow ye down.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Come to A Party With Me

I have two tickets to the party for this opening and no one to go with. It will be a cool party, full of techno music courtesy of TREE WAVE!!!!!!!!!!!1! and hip artists and ?open bar?, but I don't have anyone of the techno-and-artists demographic to invite. If you are of the techno-and-artists demographic and live in the greater Buffalo area, drop me a line or else I will be terribly vexed.