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Procter & Gamble Promotes ED Behavior

Updated: DebraSY noted that the link seems to no longer work. Good news...?

Disturbing: the Tampax site beinggirl.com, designed for teenage girls who are just about to have their first periods, is prominently featuring an article that promotes disordered behavior. It ties in 9/11 (!) in order to promote said behavior, as a bonus. The piece includes steps that one could take in order to Not Be Fat, including:

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?"

They are serious.

Rachel has written a great point-by-point rebuttal along with contact information for Procter & Gamble, Tampax's parent company. (Weep at their brand list.)

If you need to know why something needs to be done about this, skim through the comments. Assuming they're actually from teenage girls, they're beyond sad:

okay im 13 and i weigh 105 pounds. I'm not fat and im skinny. But the problem is that, i have big thighs i mean big. How do I lose weight in the thighs?

Rachel notes:

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.

This message isn't just in the magazines, either; schools are handing out pamphlets to girls which feature this site. I'm not sure that I can overstate just how dangerous this article and its promotion are.

Finally, Some Anti-Fat Ads! | Well, Be Good

BabySeal March 16th, 2008 | Link | The "wait 30 minutes" tip

The "wait 30 minutes" tip scares the bejepers out of me, and it scares me so much because in my dieting days I was often tempted to play this "game", meaning to hold out for an x amount of time before I had something else, even if I was hungry. Somehow I never went out that slippery slope, I don't exaclty know why, or how I knew that it was a dangerous thing to do, but there was something inside me that warned me that it was the first step toward anorexia, and that anorexic people often end up dead. I did not want to be dead, I wanted to live and to be left the hell alone with regard to my weight. I knew that I was never going to be a thin girl or woman and dieting seemed pointless to me even then... only that I thought there was something wrong *with me*, not with dieting, back then, and it was the required thing for me to do from a lot of external sources, so I did it... but this is a different rant altogether.
Back on topic, that "tip" is utter rubbish and a very dangerous thing to say, exp. to young, impressionable girls of that age who are, on top of everything, going through a phase of huge physical changes and have to adapt to their body's evolution and begin to transition from being little girls to being young women. Not the right moment to mess with their mind. I don't mean to say that there's a right moment to mess with anyone's mind, but that is, to my mind, a particular phase where balance is very important and it should not be upset with such ill-advised drivel.

rachelr's picture
rachelr
March 16th, 2008 | Link | I used to play the waiting

I used to play the waiting game, too, throughout my eating disorder. If I could wait 30 minutes, I reasoned that I could then wait an hour. And if I went an hour, no use in eating now: How about 3 hours? And if I had gone most of the day without eating, I could probably last the whole day, until eventually, I just didn't eat for days on end.

It's one thing to encourage people to examine the reasons behind their food choices if they suffer from emotional eating. But these are young girls who are incapable of treating themselves. The first and only tip should be to talk to their parents or a trusted adult if they feel they have food-related emotional problems. And yet, this is the one piece of advice that isn't mentioned anywhere.

Bree's picture
Bree
March 16th, 2008 | Link | You know what I don't

You know what I don't understand? The insistence on keeping food journals, which is also listed on that horrible site. I think writing down everything you eat and drink, when and where you ate it, and how many calories just leads to ED's. I refuse to do that. What's wrong with eating when you're hungry? Your body is telling you it needs fuel, why refuse it?

It's infuriating that something as simple as that is being treated like child molestation. Just let the people eat!!!

rachelr's picture
rachelr
March 16th, 2008 | Link | Food journals can actually

Food journals can actually be quite beneficial in eating disorder therapy for binging-related disorders and is regularly promoted as part of cognitive therapy. It gives people an physical look at what it is they eat throughout the day. However, it is also usually encouraged in conjunction with journaling - including your thoughts and mood at the time you ate what you did, which is neglected in this article. Like all things, though, food journaling has the potential to be abused.

Fledchen March 16th, 2008 | Link | It's not just in pamphlets.

It's not just in pamphlets. ED-promoting behavior is taught as part of the junior high and high school "health class" curriculum, or at least it was when I was in school in the '90s.

AndyJo's picture
AndyJo
March 16th, 2008 | Link | It just doesn't stop, does it...

I remember keeping strict food journals, taking diuretics and laxatives on an adult friend of my parents' recommendation, following a magazine's instructions that "hunger is just a feeling" -- yeah... Just a feeling... -- and squishing my brain around trying to figure out whether I'm really hungry since after all I had a whole cup of coffee for breakfast. I believe it is a miracle I never developed an eating disorder...

SHAME!

Bravo on Rachel for her response!

--Andy Jo--

BirdmanDodd's picture
BirdmanDodd
March 16th, 2008 | Link | Those Teen magazines I've

Those Teen magazines I've always thought were a bad idea for girls to read and just what it promoted was kinda of dangerous.

"One must want nothing to be different-not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not only bear what is necessary, but to love it."
Neitzche

rebelle March 16th, 2008 | Link | To P&G, I'd like to say:

To P&G, I'd like to say: What. The. Hell. Are. You. Doing.

I thought I was used to a constant assault about how bad and evil and worthless society deems me, but every so often, something comes along to take the fat-free, low-sugar, high-fiber cake. This article is one of those things.

First of all: How does PG substantiate "millions of teens who overeat" when stressed? Seriously. How? Where does that vague number come from?

Then PG pulls a particularly nasty trick. It reminds vulnerable teen girls that they can die as a result of a terrible act of random evil: SEPTEMBER 11, Y'ALL! 'Member? 'Member? Be afraid!!!

Then it just assumes its audience deals with stress by eating, and not just eating, but overeating, and not just overeating, but overeating "bad" foods. In the same breath, it also assumes and advances the notion that all fat teens are serial overeaters.

What really sticks in my craw is the exhortation to "write down everything you eat" even though doing so is "icky." First of all, I realize the target audience is of a particular age, but when I was that particular age, I'd have been pretty insulted if a magazine had talked down to me like that. Even the kids my age who weren't vocab aces knew bigger words than "icky."

Of course, what really upsets me is the advice itself. "Write down everything you eat" is an order to OBSESS. I cannot begin to convey to people how much I despise "food journaling." I used to do it all the time. As a result, I STILL think about everything I eat AND everything I'm thinking about eating or likely to eat, even though I am (a) an adult and (b) a fat-rights activist. I am still struggling to overcome this stupid, destructive and energy-sapping mindset — the one food journaling created! How dare PG tell millions of young women to repeat my mistake???

Ugh, ugh, just UGH!

(***I usually post my own thoughts before reading the comments of others. Rachel, I promise I will read your rebuttal and if I repeated any of your points, it wasn't deliberate).

rebelle March 16th, 2008 | Link | Now I've read everyone else.

Now I've read everyone else. Great rebut, Rachel. Also, food journaling as you described can have its uses. I was referring to the type of food journaling I used to do, which is the same kind promoted by P&G.

sso March 16th, 2008 | Link | Even assuming that some

Even assuming that some girls' normal eating patterns have been disrupted by post-911 stress (whether they are eating more or less than before), the correct response is not to redirect their fears and concerns to their weight. The healthiest course of action, both mentally and physically, would be to encourage such girls to discuss their war-related fears with a therapist or other trusted adult. But of course, that's not really what they're getting at, is it?

richie79's picture
richie79
March 16th, 2008 | Link | In all honesty the fact that

In all honesty the fact that various teenie magazines have jumped on this surprises me not one iota. Their role in helping turn children into little consumers whilst sexualising and objectifying them is well-documented by feminist writers.

It's little surprise that these publications haven't missed another opportunity to reinforce stereotypical conceptions of femininity and all the body hate that goes along with it, even if it is disguised as cutesy and friendly with copious quantities of pink hearts and flowers.

I'm more concerned that those naive, misguided teachers see fit to use this stuff as some sort of educational resource, when it is nothing but a clever and cynical strategy to ensure our kids are sufficiently guilt-ridden and lacking in self esteem that they will be receptive to P&G's messages of redemption through a bottle or a magic cream. One more reason why we should be very cautious about allowing big corporations to 'educate' our children by proxy.

Jennifer_G's picture
Jennifer_G
March 16th, 2008 | Link | ED or porn?

My first thought when I saw this article and read the awful tips inside was, "Would I feel more freaked out if I found one of my girls reading this site...or surfing for porn on the Internet?"

Yeah, porn isn't that bad.

Meowzer March 16th, 2008 | Link | Also, not to be too pedantic

Also, not to be too pedantic about this, but 9/11 was almost 7 years ago. If the target audience is an 11-year-old girl she would have been 4-1/2 years old at the time, barely old enough to know what was happening then, let alone mainline huge quantities of food over it and not be able to break the habit for almost 7 years because it felt soooooo good!

And really, most of this is the same girl-magazine diet crap that's been around for at least 40 years now, but what makes it extra toxic are the scare tactics -- not just the 9/11 thing (oh-so-subtly linking fat to terrorism) but also the "look in the mirror and think about how disgusting your body will look if you let yourself eat," and a good dollop of Bad Science on top of it (potato chips cause anemia and osteoporosis? Even M*M* would have been laughed off the talk shows for that one).

And as Rachel points out, the girl-mag audience is ill equipped to filter out destructive messages; if waiting for half an hour is good, waiting a whole week should get every guy in the school asking you out! They might say, "Don't go crazy dieting," but the entire rest of the site is egging them on to do just that, and giving them nightmares to boot. How can they live with themselves? Is making money absolutely everything now?

Tracey's picture
Tracey
March 16th, 2008 | Link | The part about "don't become

The part about "don't become obsessed with food" was frightening and laughable. The article is creating total neurotic/dissonant thoughts - first, explaining in minute detail on exactly how to be obsessed with food, and then chastising the young woman to not become obsessed?! It's then impossible to follow these directions, and therefore impossible to be "good" with food according to itself. Yiiiiiikes.

BabySeal March 17th, 2008 | Link | Yes, it's very much a

Yes, it's very much a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" perspective... that's the kind of game that companies play to keep people dissatisfied with themselves in any case, and then they come out with bazilions of products that are "guaranteed" to give you what you lack and make you happy, if you only buy them faithfully and pour your hard-earned money in their pockets.

I used to think that parents who had a no-tv, no-ads policy for their family were a bit over the top, but I'm changing my mind more and more on that topic. Maybe it is really the way to go to keep one's children's mind unpoisoned.

vesta44's picture
vesta44
March 17th, 2008 | Link | Babyseal - you can do that

Babyseal - you can do that with your kids until they start school (and delay the info they get at school by home schooling), and hope that you've given them a good enough foundation that once they go out into the world, they will realize that all advertising does is manipulate people into buying things they don't really need in order to get their money out of their pocket and into someone else's pocket, not because the product is really all that good or necessary or is altruistically going to make anything better. I've been turned off by advertising ever since I was a kid (I think I was born a cynic) and I don't believe a word of what any ad says (my son is the same way, probably because every time an ad came on tv, I critiqued it and hooted and hollered about what I considered its fallacies).
As for P&G promoting their crap, I followed the link for their product list, and am glad to say that DH and I use very few of their products, and the ones that we do use, I will be switching to another company's brands (I read labels on everything). I wrote P&G to tell them that, and that it was because of their website, and that their website was banned from our family computers so our granddaughters wouldn't be exposed to their toxicity towards girls and their bodies.

it's all right to be crazy, just don't let it drive ya nuts!

BabySeal March 17th, 2008 | Link | "that their website was

"that their website was banned from our family computers so our granddaughters wouldn't be exposed to their toxicity towards girls and their bodies."

That's a smart move - both banning the site and telling them so!

LLW March 17th, 2008 | Link | terrific responses, people.

terrific responses, people. As horrified as I am by the P&G proana text, I'm as heartened by your sensible responses.

This triggered such strong emotion for me, remembering being a kid going through puberty, being harassed for my body size by family, starvation diets, reading this sort of insane crap to brainwash myself in lieu of eating, the beginnings of the inevitable descent into fullblown anorexia. Shudder. What a wasted life, and here these girl-haters are wanting more lives wasted. That these attitudes are epidemic makes them seem "normal" to the unthinking, but they are toxic, pathological.

Canadian researchers Janet Polivy and Peter Herman wrote in 1983, “The obsessions underlying disordered eating, the sort of magical thinking that promotes it, the investiture of the self into a particular scale reading--all of these are present in the normal dieter.... [I]f we choose to call eating disorders ‘sick,’ then we cannot call normal dieting ‘healthy.’ The fact that normal dieting is so widespread should not blind us to its dangers.” 25 years later, we need to listen to them.

There is only one piece of advice teenaged girls should ever hear on this topic: "Eat when you're hungry, what you're hungry for, stop when you're full, and embrace the body you have, for it's lovely and it's uniquely you. Now, forget about food and turn to the other magnificent things you can accomplish in this world--it's a new time for girls, with the most freedom and opportunities ever! Thrive, achieve, be powerful and be yourself!""

waitingforrescue.'s picture
waitingforrescue.
March 17th, 2008 | Link | That article makes me want

That article makes me want to throw things! I just finished emailing the website about how disgusted I am with the article. Using 9/11 to promote disordered eating habits and poor self image issues? They should be ashamed of themselves.

geek March 17th, 2008 | Link | Its going to be very hard to

Its going to be very hard to get this large company to change their tune until Dr's stop telling people they are unhealthy for being fat, and everyone "knows" skinny is pretty. Keep up the good work, I will try and email them too!

rachelr's picture
rachelr
March 17th, 2008 | Link | I just got off the phone

I just got off the phone with a Tampax rep. She said she was told to tell me our only options are the Contact Us or the Ask Iris form on the site. I think the only way we can be effective is if we mass bombard these features with requests that this be taken down. Please, please take a few seconds to express your concerns to Tampax. Here's something you can even copy/paste.

I was recently alerted to a troubling article on the beinggirl.com website (http://beinggirl.com/en_US/articledetail.jsp?ContentId=ART61) that may promote the development of eating disorders and disordered behaviors amongst your audience. I am certain the article is but an oversight and wanted to bring it to your attention so you can address it immediately.

While encouraging people to examine the issues affecting their food choices is admirable, it must be noted that the site’s demographic consists of young, impressionable girls who are not emotionally or psychologically prepared to handle such problems. The site suggests professional help only as an afterthought, and nowhere does it encourage girls to talk to a parent or trusted adult.

I hope you will seriously consider the potential ramifications such an article poses for your young demographic and that Tampax and beinggirl.com will exercise more caution and oversight in the future to see that these kinds of harmful messages are not published on your site.

Thank you.

kelly_cs's picture
kelly_cs
March 17th, 2008 | Link | I used to think that parents

I used to think that parents who had a no-tv, no-ads policy for their family were a bit over the top, but I'm changing my mind more and more on that topic. Maybe it is really the way to go to keep one's children's mind unpoisoned.

Babyseal, I used to think the same thing, until I realized that it was the way to keep my own mind unpoisoned. Long ago, I heard a celebrity say that "beauty magazines only make you feel ugly" (I think it was Whoopi Goldberg, but I'm not sure). When I decided to remove myself from the world of Cosmo and Vogue and such, it wasn't long before I realized how true that statement was. Further eliminating outside influences made my own self-acceptance much easier. So now I say, "Huzzah!" to the parents who are proactive in such a way.

And Meowzer, for what it's worth, I was thinking the same thing. Today's 11-year old was September 11th's 4-year old. And heaven help us when major companies start targeting them for weight loss.

- Kelly

AnnieMcPhee's picture
AnnieMcPhee
March 17th, 2008 | Link | As to the no-ads no-tv

As to the no-ads no-tv policy, I definitely did limit my kids' TV watching and we didn't have a set in their room (well, briefly) so when we did watch, we watched together. I was able to point out (and did, ad nauseum) everything that was wrong, at least everything I knew up until that point. All the biases and bullshit I could spot. Sure they got sick of it occasionally (especially by the 9th time I paused something) but they were fully capable of spotting nonsense at a pretty young age, and would even point it out to me if I were being lax. The only things they watched unsupervised were things I knew were trustworthy - Thomas the Tank Engine tapes, certain movies we'd already seen, audio tapes that I felt were suitable, etc.

I did not put a limit on reading - we kept a pretty big library and by the time my daughter was 9 she would pick up Poe, or Dumas or Tolkien on her own, which was pretty cool.

Anyway, there is a middle ground between banning TV and ads and allowing them to be watched unchecked. And it does work. My kids are now capable of researching and finding out what claims are good and what are pure BS, spotting the bias in so much of everything, etc. It takes vigilance though. Kids DO have the new playground of the internet, which adds a wrinkle - we didn't have the internet until my daughter was like 14 and all activity was also monitored pretty closely. It's a whole new medium parents have to be vigilant over, I guess. Though as you begin to trust them and they develop judgment (thanks to your vigilance) you can monitor less as time goes by. Keeping an open relationship where they really CAN come to you with any questions also helps. If the poor girls commenting there had FA moms and could go to them with any questions, it sure would help.

Zero isn't a size, it's a warning sign. - Carson Kressley

richie79's picture
richie79
March 18th, 2008 | Link | As a family we tended to

As a family we tended to watch the ad-free BBC and my Mom (from whom I take my commonsense approach to society and the media) always refused to subscribe to a daily newspaper (or 'opinion-paper', as she called them) out of principle. I wasn't allowed a TV in my room until I was 16, and of course I was very lucky to have a very smart Mom who was always happy to discuss political and social issues with my pre-teen self.

Looking back I'm very grateful for this and believe it's given me a healthy scepticism towards consumerism and the increasingly prevalent notion that we were put on this earth only to compare ourselves to and compete with the various others who are defined as attractive, successful etc. Beauty magazines are indeed in the business of promoting low self-esteem and dissatisfaction, but another line from that Baz Luhrmann song is 'the race is long, but in the end, it's only with yourself' - and never were truer words spoken.

The role of parents is so crucial in creating well-rounded and tolerant adults - it's why I'm so critical of those in the media and government who with their 'we-know-best' approach always seek to undermine good parents, increasingly reducing their role to that of mere spectators. Don't be afraid to shield your kids from some of the less pleasant influences and concepts out there (which sadly, now included much of what they are taught in school) until they're old and smart enough to understand the real motivation behind them.

hotchka March 18th, 2008 | Link | Thanks for the info Rachael!

Thanks for the info Rachael! I'm off to send that e-mail.

sso March 20th, 2008 | Link | I used the "Contact Us"

I used the "Contact Us" feature several days ago and received this response yesterday:

"Thanks for contacting us.

We appreciate you taking the time to give us your feedback about the article on our website. I'm sharing your concern with the rest of the team.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

P&G Team"

Pretty generic, but just specific enough that it appears to have been generated by a human (as opposed to being a form response). Maybe if they get bombarded by enough people, they'll take it seriously.

vesta44's picture
vesta44
March 20th, 2008 | Link | sso - I got the same form

sso - I got the same form letter, so I don't think they care a whole lot what any of us have to say. Too bad for them, I was serious when I told them I wouldn't buy anything that's made by P&G, I already read food labels when I shop, I can add reading labels on laundry/dish/body soap, etc to see if it's made by P&G and buy other companies' products instead.

it's all right to be crazy, just don't let it drive ya nuts!

geek March 20th, 2008 | Link | Thanks for contacting us,

Thanks for contacting us, **geek's real name**

I'm glad you took the time to give us your feedback about our website.
Your comments are important and I'm sharing them with the appropriate
area within our Company.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

**looks like a real person's name**
Beinggirl Team

AnnieMcPhee's picture
AnnieMcPhee
March 20th, 2008 | Link | Do you think if we keep it

Do you think if we keep it up it'll start getting through? Maybe we ought to just keep sending these, once a day - make a darned copy and just send it off every morning or something. Sounds like someone might actually start paying attention if the form letters coming back are actually changing. I think each letter sent ought to contain a formal request to *remove* the dangerous article from the site altogether.

Zero isn't a size, it's a warning sign. - Carson Kressley

Lizzy March 20th, 2008 | Link | As someone who has in the

As someone who has in the past had to respond to emails sent to a major company, I can tell you that it's stupid for any company not to use pre-written responses for common inquiries (such as feedback). That doesn't mean that it isn't heard, though, and doesn't mean a human didn't read your email and send the response. Where I work, we read each and every email that comes in, and we forward along all feedback to be taken into consideration. Even if nothing comes of it, it's still heard.

That said, I have no idea how P&G handles their feedback, but I do know that I was part of a write-in campaign (back when that consisted of paper letters) to get them to stop testing their products on animals. It worked.

sso March 20th, 2008 | Link | the fact that they mentioned

the fact that they mentioned concern over an article shows that a human being at least *read* what we had to say, enough to get that far. i use form letters all the time at work (i'm a probation officer), but that doesn't mean i'm not paying personal attention to the case. perhaps i'll send a letter via snail mail as well, though. can't hurt.

paul March 23rd, 2008 | Link | Great find.

If it's indeed really gone from the site, absolutely!

sso March 23rd, 2008 | Link | looks like it is gone!! if

looks like it is gone!! if you use the site's search feature to search for "war, weight" a link to the article still comes up, but if you click on it, it just takes you back to the main page. wow...that is very heartening!

BabySeal March 24th, 2008 | Link | That's such good news!

That's such good news!

sso March 24th, 2008 | Link | I think I may submit a

I think I may submit a follow-up thank you note for such prompt action, and for actually listening to what we had to say. Positive reinforcement never hurts.

BabySeal March 25th, 2008 | Link | I agree with you, sso!

I agree with you, sso!

richie79's picture
richie79
March 25th, 2008 | Link | A great result. However

A great result. However somehow I doubt it would work on the operators of this website. "Miss Bimbo", a British / French online fashion game aimed at pre-teen girls which involves using diet pills and extreme dieting to give a user-generated avatar the 'perfect figure'. Well at least I guess it will keep Social Services and Tam frigging Fry off their backs if they follow the advice in this. But the five minutes of my life I wasted perusing the public sections of their site made me want to launch my PC out of the window, so I thought I'd come here and rant about it instead. I hope no-one minds Shocked

Violet March 25th, 2008 | Link | bimbo

My sister just sent me a news article about the bimbo site (a longer article - this one in the Times Online ).

At one point the game tells you that your "bimbo" can gain work as a plus-size model (if your "bimbo" weigh more than 154 pounds), and at another time it says that after eating a lot because of a bad breakup your "bimbo" must diet until it is "under 132 pounds".

"On the rules section it states that despite contestants wanting 'to keep your bimbo waif thin . . . every girl needs to eat, every now and again'. It suggests feeding the character to prevent her dying of starvation." And of course, buying breast implants to make the waif-thin body sexually exciting for the male gaze... Which teaches a lesson that girls should learn younger and younger

It is horrifying. I am horrified.

richie79's picture
richie79
March 25th, 2008 | Link | I'm sure it's supposed to be

I'm sure it's supposed to be in some way satirical (or at least ironic), but as I said on the Times comments section, irony doesn't convey well on the internet; even less so where nine year-old girls are concerned. I was horrified to see one commentator (from OKC - maybe that city-wide diet starved his brain of essential nutrients) suggest this could be used as a tactic for fighting obesity in teens. WTF indeed.

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