Tuesday, 13 October 2009

LIBERTARIANZ SUS: Small fashion in an adult world

Susan Ryder says large fashions are now challenging small lives.

susanryder GOING TO THE MOVIES is one of my favourite things to do, so ‘Fashion Month’ seemed an appropriate time to see the acclaimed documentary The September Issue: Anna Wintour & the Making of Choice.

September is the most important month in northern hemisphere couture. The autumn/winter collections are presented with great fanfare in the fashion capitals of New York, London, Paris and Milan. Designers clamour to have their styles featured in the publications that matter – and with haute couture, there is little more important than Vogue and its legendary editor, Anna Wintour.

The September Issue captures the frenetic months that precede the release of September’s Vogue and the creative and marketing machine rolled out to sell it. Global fashion is a $300 billion industry, a world where supermodels are international celebrities, and celebrities from the fields of entertainment and sport vie with the supermodels to grace magazine covers. It is glamorous, expensive and exclusive.

It is an adult world however, that is impacting upon children and childhood.

Once upon a time there was a clear delineation between childhood and adulthood. A child was “a child” until the day she reached adulthood. The term “teenager” never evolved until the earlier 20th century, when greater wealth removed the majority of ”teens” from the workforce, and became more widely used from the late 1940s in connection with the invention of demographics by advertisers.

In little more than 30 years, New Zealand homes have advanced from accessing one state-owned television channel and a handful of radio stations to an unlimited range of global news, sport and entertainment via cable television and the internet. Access is cheap and plentiful, providing product to satisfy all tastes. It is an electronic wonderland.

Being neither a Luddite nor someone who is fearful of technology, I love the freedom it offers the individual.

But not all of what is freely available is suitable for children. Children aren’t yet adults; they need  parental protection until such time as they are – including parental protection from all the adult material that abounds in today’s entertainment and fashion worlds.

And what material! Music clips on television and the internet feature explicit material from wafer-thin, scantily-dressed young women targeting teen markets, and younger. A recent offering from singer Britney Spears is entitled If You Seek Amy, the title of which you probably shouldn’t dwell upon for too long, but it’s not about looking for her. And there is now a newly created market to exploit: ‘Tweens’, a term to describe pre-pubescent kids between childhood and teenage years, i.e., ages 9-12. Nine, apparently, is now too old to just be playing with dolls and dominoes.

So what of the impact upon children? From a fashion perspective, the obsession with body image, particularly for girls, has been documented for decades. According to a 2008 Channel 4 production*, some 80% of UK 11-14 year olds routinely worry about their weight. But in the last couple of years,
British health professionals have noticed a shocking rise in the number of 8-10 year olds developing anorexia nervosa, with a staggering three-quarters of British seven-year-olds wanting to be thinner, and girls as young as five talking disparagingly of their bodies.

Rhodes Farm is a specialist treatment facility in England for eating disorders whose founder, Dr Dee Dawson, believes that children are increasingly being robbed of their childhood – and that fashion magazines contribute to the pressure for children to grow up years before their time. She is also critical of the nutritional promotion of low-fat diets and the advice to avoid “evil fats.”

It would seem that in their determination to battle obesity, health authorities are inadvertently creating other problems in the form of eating disorders. It is reasonable to assume similar outcomes in other western countries.

And then there’s technology, the sole television in the corner of the living room that once entertained the family en masse  has been replaced by multiple televisions and personal computers rendering parental guidance a difficult task. While there is technology available to limit child internet access, the worlds of television programming and advertising are largely run by young adults who enjoy pushing boundaries. Fair enough, but what can a parent do who doesn’t approve of material screened during children’s viewing hours?

The simple answer is to turn all the televisions and computers off , but that doesn’t solve the issue of patently irresponsible programming and advertising scheduling. If we were able to individually pick and choose our television programming as we pick and choose our reading material, family-friendly channels featuring appropriate advertising would evolve to meet the demand. Similarly, other channels would accommodate the adult market with neither dictating to the other, “self-censorship” always preferable to any imposed alternative. Unfortunately, the state’s one-size-fits-all approach to broadcasting serves only to impose, at public expense, its programming and advertising standards upon everyone while being accountable to no-one and lowering the bar for all, as per the current situation.

The moral of the story is simple: The printed material in your home is there of your volition; you chose it. But when you don’t pay for something yourself -- when it’s foisted upon you, like it or not –then  you lose the right to determine that personal choice.

Meanwhile your children remain vulnerable, exposed to material beyond their years, which is perhaps how a leading local kids’ clothing chain came to market minuscule bras for 8 year olds with nothing to put in them. I’ve seen bigger band-aids.

Best leave lingerie to its real market and allow little girls to worry about nothing more than their next spelling test, eh?

*Real Life episode: ‘Dana: Story of an 8 year old Anorexic.’

* * Read Susan Ryder’s regular column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *
* * This column first appeared in the Franklin E-Local newspaper * *


  1. Susan, I must confess, I'm confused.

    You suggest at one point that the problems began when New Zealand homes "advanced from accessing one state-owned television channel and a handful of radio stations," and then later that "the state’s one-size-fits-all approach to broadcasting serves only to impose ... its programming and advertising standards upon everyone," leaving parents unable to stop this material being "foisted upon you, like it or not ... you lose the right to determine that personal choice."

    So which is it that causes the problem: the choice, or the lack of choice? YOur column is not really clear.

    Because you also suggest that things might be okay "If we were able to individually pick and choose our television programming as we pick and choose our reading material, [and] family-friendly channels featuring appropriate advertising would evolve to meet the demand." But we are free to individually pick and choose our television programming just as we pick and choose our reading material, aren't we?

    So what is it you're implying to cure the problem: a greater ability to individually pick and choose, or a reduced ability? Which is it?

    I must confess, I'm confused.

  2. Hrm, being nerdy, I took "If we were able to individually pick and choose our television programming as we pick and choose our reading material" to mean some kind of Sky-like scheduling system, where the parent pre-selected which programs would be available (hopefully via a dialogue with the kids) from a large menu, and then locked out the ability to alter the selection. The market almost provides this now, but thanks to "Free to air" (aka Commie TV - your stolen dollar working against you), there's no way that I'm aware of to lock out what the state has decided is acceptable.

    If not, I guess I'm also confused.

  3. If a child has a poor body image - and research shows children internalise body image by the age of 4 or 5 - that is not the fault of the 'state', tv, pop music, or the fashion industry. It's the fault of the parent - usually a weight and food-obsessed mother.

    Also it's not 8 year olds buying bras is it - it's their mothers - so I'd put the blame where it belongs.

  4. Life is thankfully a series of choices which we in the west enjoy [despite the efforts of churlish 'liberal' dickheads] Television is a tool for propaganda. I arseholed my televisions in 2001 and hence the exposure to the current group-think phobias of the left. Choice problem? Solved. Like the Gordian Knot. I would rather the kids were in the crap for shooting water trough floats than watching and listening to the likes of the foolish, bent and bizarre Carl Lagerfeld. Surrounded by fellow tail-gunners he proclaims thet curvy women have no place in fashion. His stable of boney girl-women look as if their first menstruation is some way off and it will probably put them in intensive care.
    My wife attended a prestigious US college for her undergraduate years. I once asked her what smells and sounds she associated with this time. "Vomit and crying in the female dorms" A lot of fucked up young women shoving their fingers down their throats and chundering the kilos off; their ideas of beauty had been formed as children by TV and arse bandits.


  5. You make an interesting point, George.

    Something related to something I was thinking at last year's Erotica Exhibition. (I was there on business, honest Guv.)

    After spending more time than is healthy there holding up one end of the Libz stand while inspecting all the various strolling players from the erotica industry, I came to several conclusions. Here's two of them:

    1) There are women of the first rank, women of the second rank and women of the third rank. And when you meet them in person with their clothes off, you realise it's not the first two who are employed in the erotica industry.

    2) Men don't care about point 1. Women complain about body shapes; Men don't care. Not as long as the clothes are off. None of the women 'starring' at the erotica show came anywhere close to the body shapes women tell each other women should have -- and none of the men there cared. They still walked around with their tongues out and their knuckles dragging on floor (not me, of course, I was too busy being hard at work. Honest Guv.)

    Conclusion then: despite what they say they think, women's idea of beauty (the women not 'starring' at erotica shows, that is) is formed chiefly by other women, not by their men. Lots of fucked up young women shoving their fingers down their throats and chundering the kilos off? Blame their girlfriends, not their blokes.

  6. PC

    Its good to note you were holding your end up at the erotica show and working hard. Those slags with their bolt-on tits need all the affirmation they can get as they probably lacked it as kids.

    Yes, women dress up for each other and I don't mind that one bit. I like my woman to stand out from the crowd by the way she dresses and holds herself. It has spin offs for me when she feels good about herself. My point was that with the overtly gay domination of the fashion industry, women cull their style ideas from people who are not attracted to them. Any clues as to why models have a boyish look?


  7. ". . . women cull their style ideas from people who are not attracted to them."

    Yes, that was my point too - albeit stated with much less clarity. And that's why there's so many stick insects.

  8. Lots of fucked up young women shoving their fingers down their throats and chundering the kilos off? Blame their girlfriends, not their blokes

    Don't blame the girlfriends either for lack of self-esteem.

    Perigo wrote something a few weeks back on teen suicide. Substitute 'eating disorders' for 'suicide' and his piece is still 100% correct.

  9. "It is an adult world however, that is impacting upon children and childhood."
    But they started it!

  10. My clinical experience with weight loss dieting and eating issues is that most dieters adopt an insane approach to achieving their goals. Insane, in that Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same
    thing over and over again and expecting different result.” How many of you have given in to the next magazine article or book or friends’ advise about the “new—really works this time” diet? Isn’t it about time a truly different way of looking at your diet and weight situation be explored? The book Not Your Mother's Diet does this and more. Our children learn by our example.

  11. Ruth,

    If you wanna blame parents for their kids mental illnesses, I'd like to see you quote some research. Y'know: maybe some of that old fashioned stuff with empirical evidence and statistical analysis?


  12. Been away.

    I was confused, too, and had to check the original article prior to your editing.

    This bit was removed ..

    "We live in a fast-paced world that grows faster by the day, exposing children to countless
    images via magazines, advertising billboards and electronic media in particular."

    .. from which I then chose to elaborate upon 1) Dr Dawson's clinical experience and her beliefs regarding fashion magazines and 2) the advances in media technology over the last 30 yrs.

    Regarding the latter, Greig got it. My point was *not* "that the problems began when NZ homes ..", etc.

    The point was that while we don't have state newspapers and books, etc, we *do* have state involvement in free-to-air television, over which we have no programming and advertising control other than switching it off.

    I'm fully in favour of pay-and-choose-TV, of course. Choose what you like for yourself and your family. Because the poorest television offerings are generally the free-to-airs -- and a lot of what's shown on those particular channels during children's viewing hours is both crapful and inappropriate for kids.


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