Am I bovvered


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Am I bovvered

  1. 1. Women in Journalism‘Am I Bovvered?: What are teenagegirls really thinking?’How is the media shaping the ambitions and aspirations ofthe next generation of young women?Report by Fiona Bawdon, WiJ committee memberA Women in Journalism SummitBritish Library18 September
  2. 2. 1. The view from the media, page 3-62. Background and introduction, page 73. Research summary, page 8-94. Is this what equality looks like? Alllads and ladettes together, page 10-135. Teenage girls: What are you like?, page14-166. Teenage girls and the media: A love/haterelationship?, page 17-187. Body image: Pressure to be pretty andthin,page 19-218. Sex, drugs and alcohol: If it’s OK forKate Moss and Amy Winehouse, why not me?,page 22-249. Educational achievement: Girlsoutperform boys at just about every stageof their educational careers, page 25-2710. Role models and ambitions: Just becausethey’re bad role models, doesn’t mean wedon’t want to be like them, page 28-2911. What is Women in Journalism?, page 30 2
  3. 3. 1. The view from the media...‘Three girls [two aged 17, one of 16] foundguilty of an attack in which a teenage boywas sexually assaulted were yesterdayhanded detention orders...The victim waspunched and kicked and forced to strip andperform a sex act. The attack was filmed ona mobile phone...’ Independent, 31 August2007‘The lads’ mag FHM was yesterday foundguilty of a significant breach of the PressComplaints Commission code for publishing atopless picture of a 14-year-old girlwithout her consent. Solicitors acting onbehalf of the girl’s parents said thepicture... had a “significant effect on heremotionally and at school”.’ Guardian, 12September 2007Zara Phillips shows off her fuller figureas she prepares to defend European titleEquestrian Zara Phillips ditched herjodhpurs for a less than flattering outfitas she walked the course of the EuropeanEquestrian Championship.... Zara looked outof sorts in a white vest and ill-fittingcargo-style shorts which hinted at a fullerfigure than usual....Daily Mail, 15September 2007‘So why, suddenly, should so many famousyoung people, chiefly women, be fallingapart? Obviously, fame is part of theproblem, but what distinguishes these girlsis the ordinariness of their downfalls. The 3
  4. 4. paparazzi who stalk [Amy] Winehouse outsidethe Hawley Arms gastropub will have to stepover other aspiring “Camden caners”, drunkand showing their knickers in the gutter,in order to pursue their prey.’ MaryRiddell, Observer, 2 September 2007‘There is something predatory because theyare made by adult men and women. Is itbecause of my age that makes me feel theyare wrong? I don’t think so. I would haveobjected to them when I was 20.’ Bob Geldoftalking about magazines aimed at teenagegirls, Grumpy Old Men, BBC2, Autumn 2004‘Girls vastly outnumber boys in a newleague table of the country’s brightestpupils. They perform only marginally betterat the age of 11 but then race far ahead bythe time they leave secondary school...Atthe end of primary school, girls made up 52per cent of England’s brightest pupils. Butby the age of 16, that had soared to 60 percent.’ Telegraph, 21 June 2007‘Casual sexual behaviour, often fuelled byalcohol, is causing an alarming rise insexually transmitted infections amongteenage girls and young men, the HealthProtection Agency said yesterday. ...Amongteenage girls aged 16 to 19 the numberscatching genital herpes - an unpleasantsexual infection which is treatable butnever completely cured - are up by 16%.’Guardian, 21 July 2007 4
  5. 5. ‘Girls are experiencing rising levels ofcyber bullying - by text message or email;and those who report being cyber bulliedreport having fewer friends and are morelikely to feel lonely at school.’ BritishPsychological Society, press release, 2007annual conference.‘Teenage girls in the UK are now biggerbinge drinkers than boys, new figuresreveal. In 2003 29% of girls were bingedrinking, compared to 26% of boys, theEuropean School Survey Project on Alcoholand Drugs (ESPAD) found. When the surveywas last carried out in 1999, 33% of 15-and 16-year-old boys were binge drinkers,ahead of the 27% of girls who were alsobinge drinking.’ Daily Mail, 14 December2004‘Girls still beating boys at A-level butgap narrowing’‘Boys have narrowed the A-level performancegap between them and girls for the thirdyear running but girls are still outshiningboys at grade A in each of the mainsubjects, today’s results show.’ EducationGuardian, 17 August 2006‘...the crop of female students now hittingthe “milk round” of university recruitmentis so “outstanding” that companies arestruggling to find men to match them,according to Carl Gilleard, chief executive 5
  6. 6. of the Association of Graduate Recruiters(AGR) - who calls today for “remedialaction” to help the boys left trailing intheir wake.’ Observer, chief politicalcorrespondent, Gaby Hinscliff, 15 August2004‘[The media] gives us the impression thatthin is beautiful and that we have to bethin if we want happiness and success inlife;’ ‘The change I would wish for is tostop praising thin celebrities andconstantly printing articles about dietingover and over.’ Teenagers suffering fromeating disorders (‘Time to tell’, B-eat,February 2006).‘In today’s body- and image-consciousculture, where to be very thin isconsidered beautiful and to be at normalbody weight is unacceptable, dieting andeating disorders are increasinglycommon...It is time to tell young people,parents, the medical profession and themedia that patients with mental illnessesmust be accorded the same respect andtreatment as those presenting with physicalproblems.’ Dr Peter Rowan, eating disordersconsultant, Priory Hospital (‘Time totell’, B-eat, February 2006).‘Becca has a late start for school todayand last night she gave me strictinstructions not to wake her up, so Ididnt. Now, at 10.10am, just as Imhanging on the phone trying to get through 6
  7. 7. to Parcelforce, she appears, panda-eyed andflustered."Why the fuck didnt you wake me?" Livingwith teenagers, Guardian, 24 March 2007 7
  8. 8. 2.Background and introductionHow Women in Journalism’s first-ever summitcame about‘Am I bovvered? What are teenage girls really thinking?’ was originally theidea of WiJ founder member Ginny Dougary, who first suggested an event toexplore what impact the media is having on the ambitions, self-image andaspirations of teenage girls.Ginny’s initial idea was met with great enthusiasm by the WiJ committee. Weall agreed it would be a worthwhile and interesting thing for the group to do.Similarly, the idea has really struck a chord with just about everyone weapproached to get involved. Most of the time, once we’d explained the title, wedidn’t need to say much more; they were sold.‘Am I bovvered?’ is an obvious homage to Catherine Tate’s comic anti-heroineLauren Cooper - but it also neatly encapsulates the fears and concerns thatmany of us seem to have about the next generation of young women.But are we right to be concerned; and what, exactly, are we concerned about?Response to this event seemed to tap into an underlying assumption thatsomething has gone (or is going) wrong with today’s teenage girls. But what isthe evidence for that? Hasn’t it always been the lot of young women to bepilloried for their behaviour, dress, and supposed excesses? Has anythingreally changed?We hope today’s discussions will help shed light on to what has become aheated debate.This paper is intended to inform the debate - both at the event itself andbeyond. We drew on research from a wide range of organisations to create aunique picture of the concerns, contrasts and contradictions that make upteenage girls’ lives. We drew on research from diverse sources, ranging fromthe Girl Guides, to the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health, to theSamaritans, to the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs, tothe Office of National Statistics.So, are teenage girls really bovvered?; If so, why and what are they bovveredabout?; And should we be bovvered about them?With the help of the 100 or so teenagers with us today, we are hoping to findout. 8
  9. 9. 3. Research summarySee individual sections for more detail and fullreferencesTeenage girls and the media (page 17-18)Teenage girls are highly influenced by the media, but they don’t particularlylike or trust it. Most of them think it misrepresents and stigmatises them. Theyblame its focus on skinny celebrities for making them more susceptible toeating disorders - a view shared by some professionals working in this field.Media coverage concentrates on negative stories about young people. One inthree articles about them is about crime. Young people themselves are rarelyasked for their opinions by journalists and rarely quoted in articles about themand their behaviour.Body image (page 19-21)Young women feel under pressure from the media to be ‘pretty and thin’. Themost influential role models are Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham. The oldergirls get, the more likely they are to be unhappy with their weight and to be ona diet.The number of women with eating disorders is on the rise - with girls as youngas 8 being diagnosed. Death rates - including from suicide - are high.Sufferers are also more likely to go on to abuse drugs and alcohol. Theyounger the sufferer the more likely their health is to be damaged.Many sufferers say it would help if the media showed images of more ‘realbodies’. Professionals working with anorexics and bulimics say the causes ofeating disorders are complex but the media does play a part. The focus onskinny bodies makes it harder for sufferers to recover.Sex, drugs and alcohol (page 22-24)Britain has the highest teen pregnancy rates in Western Europe. The numberof conceptions among under 16s is going up. Girls from poorer areas aremore likely to get pregnant than richer ones, and less likely to have anabortion.The media has a role to play in creating a climate where young girls are morelikely to have sex, according to experts in sexual health. One type of riskybehaviour often leads to another - if teenagers are abusing alcohol, they aremore likely to have unprotected sex. 40% of sexually active 13- and 14-year-olds were drunk or stoned when they first had sex. Public health messagesabout responsible behaviour are drowned out by the volume of coveragegiven to celebrity behaviour involving sex, drugs and alcohol.Girls are now bigger binge drinkers than boys. Rates of drunkenness amonggirls are rising; for boys, they are falling. 9
  10. 10. Educational achievement (page 25-27)Girls not only do better than boys in their GCSEs and A-levels but at justabout every stage of their educational careers. From key stage 1 (5- to 7-years), right through to degree level, they get better results. At university, thenumbers of males and females getting first class degrees are equal, but morewomen than men get upper seconds.One explanation may be that girls consistently do more homework than boys.By age 15, twice as many girls as boys are doing three or more hours a night.Role models and ambitions (page 28-29)Young girls ambitions are heavily influenced by the media. Many young girlsin particular want to be ‘famous’, wanting to be TV presenters, models orpopstars. Nearly half of 10- to 15-year-olds want to be on reality television.Teenage girls think the likes of Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and skinnymodels and celebrities are bad role models, but also believe they are veryinfluential.Young girls’ career ambitions narrow as they get older. Doing well in a careerand success at school or university is less important to older teenagers thanto younger ones. Nearly half of 16- to 25-year-olds say getting married is veryimportant. 10
  11. 11. 4.Is this what equality lookslike?All lads and ladettes togetherThe timing of Women in Journalism’s summit on teenage girls andthe media could hardly have been better. Just last week, lad magFHM was censured for publishing a topless photo of a 14- year- oldgirl. Journalist Fiona Bawdon, who conducted WiJ’s research intothis area, looks at questions raised by this case and the spread of‘lad culture’ more generallyGirls outperform boys academically, apparently taking pride in their intellectualabilities, and yet each week hundreds of them send in topless pictures ofthemselves to lad mags like FHM and Nuts. Research shows that girls domore homework than boys - and yet they also do more binge drinking.Last week, FHM magazine was condemned for publishing a picture of atopless 14-year-old without her consent. The PCC ruled publication of thepicture was a serious intrusion into the girl’s private life; the solicitor acting forher parents, who brought the complaint, said it ‘had a significant effect on heremotionally and at school’.FHM told the Press Complaints Commission it had ‘no reason to believe’ thepicture was taken without consent and, anyway, ‘she certainly appeared to beolder’. However, the commission said it would have been a serious intrusion‘regardless of how old she was’. Would FHM have escaped censure for publishing the naked breasts of this child if she’d said it was OK?FHM’s defence - that she consented and anyway looked older - is a line ofargument that will be familiar to many a paedophile. At what point do grownmen looking at teenage breasts stop being ‘lads’ and start being ‘paedos’?Would the magazine have escaped censure for publishing the naked breastsof this child if she’d said it was OK? Would it have been OK if she’d been 16?It is, of course, entirely possible that this child would still have sufferedemotional damage from appearing topless even if she’d wanted her picture tobe sent in. Do lad mag publishers owe any responsibility to young breast-baring teenagers to protect them from behaviour their more mature selvesmight regret?This particular teenager may not have wanted her picture published, but manyothers do. Lad mags say they are deluged with photos sent in by women,posing either topless or in their underwear. FHM says its gets 1,200 suchpictures a week, many of which are sent by the women themselves. The Nutswebsite includes an ‘Assess My Breasts’ page (‘click here to upload yourbreasts’) where women can invite men they’ve never met to give their breast 11
  12. 12. marks out of 10. Given this, wrote Decca Aitkenhead recently in the Guardian:‘It is no wonder a lot of men now genuinely believe that women want to betreated as sex objects.’But it’s not just the girl next door who is (it seems) increasingly willing to stripfor the camera. The two latest successful and respected actresses to do justthat (albeit with their bras still on) are Nicole Kidman (in a shoot for Vanity Fairmagazine) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (in a series of underwear ads). In onephoto, Gyllenhaal is shown in black underwear, handcuffed to a chair, legssplayed.Kidman and Gyllenhaal are not obvious candidates for this kind of lads-mag-lite posing. Both are regarded as serious actors; both have, in the main,avoided obvious stereotyping in their choice of roles. Are ordinary teenage girls more ready to strip off because they’re used to seeing the likes of Kidman and Gyllenhaal in their underwear; or is it the other way around?It’s hard to know who is setting the agenda here. Are ordinary teenage girlsmore ready to strip off because they’re used to seeing the likes of Kidman andGyllenhaal in their underwear; or is it the other way around?In any event, overtly lusting over young naked flesh is no longer solely thepreserve of ‘lads’ (if, indeed, it ever was).Websites for magazines aimed at girls as young 10 include galleries of ‘lushlads’, some posing shirtless, to be rated out of 10. Mizz (target age range 10-14) invites readers to ‘rate out hotties’.The website for Sugar magazine currently includes a picture of 13-year-oldSam, from London’, whose bare shoulders are clearly visible. Daniella, fromEssex, sent his pic ‘because I think he’s buff’. Readers are invited to give him- along with dozens of other boys in the gallery - marks out of 10.Boys are ‘Hot Lads or Mingers’; ‘Sexy or Sling him’. Again, in language whichwouldn’t be out of place in a lad mag, readers are variously exhorted to ‘feastyour eyes’ and ‘try not to dribble too much’.Are the parents of teenage boys any more comfortable with this kind ofobjectification of their children than the parents of the FHM 14-year-old?Could young boys equally be damaged by this kind of uninvited exposure?Is this what equality now looks like?But it’s not just boys that these teen girl magazine websites hold up for rating.In further blurring of the lines between teen sites and lad mag sites, under theheading, ‘How Sexy Am I?’ Bliss’s website (target age 14-17) invites girls tosend in pictures of themselves (albeit clothed) to be marked out of 10 ‘onlooks and pull-ability’. 12
  13. 13. Options in answer to the question: ‘How do you rate your looks?’ range from: ‘Beautiful’ through to “Ewwww’Handily for the ‘mingers’ among them, Bliss website offers readers the chanceto buy ‘Airbrush Me’ software (‘Look gorgeous in all your pics!!’) which can beused to correct skin tone and remove spots or other blemishes.Bliss’s website is also running a survey, which invites readers to cast analmost forensically critical eye over their own bodies. Options in answer to thequestion: ‘How do you rate your looks?’ range from: ‘Beautiful’ through to“Ewwww’. For 10 parts of their anatomy, including their tummy, thighs, legsand boobs, readers are asked to rate whether they are: ‘happy’; ‘unhappy’; or‘hate ‘em’. (The answer ‘love ‘em’ does not feature.)In another strong echo of lad mag-ism, the same Bliss survey also asks itsteenage girl readers to vote on who has the best boobs out of Pink, JessicaSimpson, Colleen McLoughlin and Carly Zucker; and who has the best bumout of JLo, Beyonce, Misha Barton and Kylie.The reader’s reward for taking part in the survey is the chance to ‘blag abeauty bag’, the main contents of which appear to be ‘clean feel’ sanitarytowels. It’s hard to see what purpose such a survey serves, other than for scoping the teen market for potential plastic surgery customersShould a teen magazine really be encouraging young girls to think in terms of‘hating’ their still developing bodies? It’s hard to see what possible purposesuch a survey can serve, other than for scoping the teen market for potentialplastic surgery customers.Sugar magazine runs an annual modelling competition (‘Want fame, freebiesand fit lads?’) giving girls from age 13 the chance to be ‘spotted by our modelscouts’. With research suggesting over a third of 10- to 14-year-olds want tobe models, no doubt the competition is a big hit with Sugar readers.However, given mounting evidence of health problems among very youngmodels and fears about their being exploited by the industry, rather thanrunning modelling competitions aimed at 13 year olds, perhaps Sugar wouldbe serving its teen readers better if it became a vociferous supporter of theproposed ban on under 16s on the catwalk.Fiona Bawdon is a freelance journalist and WiJ 13
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  15. 15. 5. Teenage girls: what are youlike?Teenage girls may be increasingly matching (or surpassing) teenage boysdrink for drink, but talk of wider ‘gender-blurring’(1) - girls becoming more likeboys - is exaggerated.As Women in Journalism’s round-up of recent research shows, teenage girlsstill have their own distinct way of doing things.Teenage girls are slightly less likely than boys of the same age to bemedically overweight; but nearly twice as likely to be unhappy about theirweight (46.4% compared with 24.4%) by the time they reach 15 years old. Aquarter of 15-year-old girls will be trying to diet, compared with fewer than onein 10 (9.3%) boys(2). Teenage girls are less likely than boys to be medically overweight but nearly twice as likely as boys to be unhappy about their weightDespite their worries about being fat, girls are more reluctant to take upexercise(2), with fewer than 3 out of 10 (28.8%) of 15-year-old girls doing therecommended amount of physical exercise, compared with nearly half(47.8%) of boys. Although older girls are more concerned about their weightthan younger ones, the older they get, the lazier they get, compared withboys. It’s at the age of 11 where gap between exercise done by boys and girlsis narrowest.Girls watch about the same amount of television as boys, but do far morehomework (2). They are twice as likely to do three or more hours studying anight than boys - and the disparity between time spent on homework by boysand girls increases with age.Girls are much more law-abiding than boys - and they grow out of criminalbehaviour two years earlier. The peak age for female offenders is 15; formales, it’s 17; four out of five offenders are male(3).Girls are more likely to skip breakfast than boys; they’re more likely to eat fruitand vegetables every day; less likely to have daily fizzy drinks; but just aslikely as boys to eat sweets every day(2).Over 60% of 15-year-old girls sometimes miss breakfast on a school day,compared with 37.6% of boys. As the researchers point out, failure to eat firstthing ‘leads to mid-morning fatigue and interferes with cognition and learning.’However, this doesn’t appear to affect girls’ academic performance, as theycontinue to outshine boys in just about every subject at just about every agegroup.The proportion of girls eating fruit and vegetables every day stays fairlyconsistent from the age of 11 up to 15, despite older girls being relatively freefrom parental influence over what they eat. Marginally more 15-year-old girls 15
  16. 16. have sweets and soft drinks every day than eat daily fruit (32.5%, 36%, and28.3%, respectively). Marginally more 15-year-old girls have sweets and soft drinks every day than eat daily fruitGirls are less likely than boys to be satisfied with their lives and feel lesshealthy. The older girls get, the less likely they are to report that their health is‘good’ or ‘excellent’(2). At age 11, a fifth say their health is only ‘fair’ or ‘poor’;by age 15, over a third (33.2%) say it is. The proportion of boys rating theirhealth as only ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ is relatively static between age 11 and 15,hovering around 17-19%.Only 77% of 15-year-old girls, compared with nearly 85% of boys, say theyare highly satisfied with their lives - although for both genders satisfactiondecreases between age 11 and 15.The researchers speculate that part of the reason for girls’ reporting poorerhealth and lower levels of satisfaction may be down to greater expectationsput on them. ‘Girls feel more pressure in areas such as body image, socialrelations and school. Because girls, to a greater extent than boys, have tocope with more conflicting socialization tasks, they may also be morevulnerable to developing poor health.’(2)Despite being less happy with their lot in life, girls are far less likely to killthemselves than boys. Between, 2000-2005, more than three times as manyboys aged 15-24 killed themselves as girls in the same age group(4) (3.301compared with 937 in the UK and Republic of Ireland).Females have lower pass rates for their driving tests than males (35.8% and47.8%, respectively) but are much safer drivers once they are on the road.From 2002-2005, three times as many young male drivers were killed orseriously injured than girls (3,545 and 1,089, respectively).However, while they may be relatively safe drivers, being a young womanpassenger is dangerous if the car is driven by a novice male driver. Youngmale drivers carrying passengers, are now the biggest killer of young womenin this country(5). Young male drivers carrying passengers, are now the biggest killer of young women in this countryTwo-thirds of 16- to 25-year-olds say they are not treated with respect by boystheir own age or by politicians(5). Nearly three-quarters say they are nottreated with respect by the media (73%) or the fashion industry (71%),either(6).And finally, perhaps reflecting their greater emphasis on looks, girls are morelikely than boys to post pictures of themselves on online social networking 16
  17. 17. sites, like MySpace (83% compared with 72%)(7).SOURCES(1) Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health & HIV, Sex Drugs, Alcohol & YoungPeople, June 2007(2) Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, Young People’s Health in Context, June 2004(3) Office for National Statistics(4) Samaritans(5) Transport Select Committee, Report on Novice Drivers, July 2007(6) Girlguiding UK, Girls Shout Out!, March 2007(7) Pew Internet & American Life Project, Teens, Privacy & Online Social Networks, April2007 17
  18. 18. 6.Teenage girls and the mediaA love/hate relationship?Teenage girls are great consumers of the media - with nearly 30% of 15-year-olds watching four or more hours of TV a day(1). The media has a significantimpact on their personal ambitions and aspirations - with nearly half of 10- to15-year-olds wanting to be on reality TV(2). But despite this, young womendon’t particularly like or trust much of the media.Some 67% of 16- to 25-year-old women said they felt deliberatelymisrepresented by the media; and four out of five (79%) said the media ismore interested in stigmatising young people than helping them(2). They alsoblame its focus on skinny celebrities and dieting for making them moresusceptible to eating disorders - a view shared by some professionals workingin this field (see report section 7, Body image). Nearly half of 10- to 15-year-olds want to be on reality TVTabloid newspapers were seen as particularly untruthful, with 57% sayingthey distrusted them. Broadsheets fared better, with two-fifths (41%) sayingthey trusted them ‘most of the time’ (compared with 2% saying the same ofthe tabloids). However, nearly one in 10 (9%) didn’t trust the broadsheets,either.Only a quarter of them trusted TV news ‘most of the time’; which fared lesswell than on-line news, which was trusted by 31% of respondents aged 16 to25.However, the same girls who profess to distrust the media, also appear tobelieve its stereotyping - even when those stereotypes concern other teenagegirls. Some 55% of 10- to 15-year-olds(2) said they sometimes worry ‘whenthey come across a group of girls they don’t know’, suggesting that they, too,are influenced by stories about ‘girl gangs’ and violent behaviour by youngwomen. The same girls who profess to distrust the media, also appear to believe its stereotyping - even when those stereotypes concern other teenage girlsIt’s perhaps not hard to see why young people might be sceptical about themedia. A survey of over 1,000 13- to 18-year-olds (boys and girls) concludedthat the media focuses on the ‘attitudes and behaviour of a “troubled” minority’of young people(3). It cites evidence that: Less than one in 10 articles 18
  19. 19. about young people actually quote young people or include their perspectives in the debate* 71% of media stories about young people are negative, while only 14% arepositive. One in three articles about young people is about crime.* Young people were referred to as thugs 26 times and as yobs 21 times in asurvey of tabloid and broadsheet articles about young people and crime.Other descriptions included evil, lout, monsters, brutes, scum, menace,heartless, sick, menacing and inhuman.* Less than one in 10 articles about young people actually quote young peopleor include their perspectives in the debate.SOURCES(1) Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, Young People’s Health in Context, June 2004(2) Girlguiding UK, Girls Shout Out!, March 2007(3) Nfp Synergy/Scouts, Typical Young People, January 2007 19
  20. 20. 7. Body imagePressure to be pretty and thinOver half of 16- to 25-year-olds and a quarter of 10- to 15-year-olds in a studyof 3,000 young women say the media makes them feel ‘being pretty and thin’is the most important thing(1). More than 95% said the role models with themost influence (albeit, they believed, bad) over young girls were Kate Mossand Victoria Beckham - both of whom are famously skinny.In another study, nearly 30% (29.6%) of 11-year-old girls are dissatisfied withtheir body weight, and one in 10 (11%) is on a diet(2). By the age of 15, 46%of girls are dissatisfied with their weight, and a quarter of them are dieting. Girls as young as 8 are now being diagnosed with eating disordersProfessionals working in this field are convinced the numbers of teenage girlswith eating disorders are going up - and that sufferers are getting younger.The majority of sufferers are aged 14-25 - but girls as young as 8 have beendiagnosed. An estimated 20% of sufferers are male.The eating disorders charity B-eat estimates that over a million people will beaffected by an eating disorder at any one time. However, according, to chiefexecutive Susan Ringwood, organisations like hers are hampered by the lackof up-to-date research into the numbers affected.The last reliable survey on eating disorders dates back to 1990, and hasn’tbeen updated since, she says. However, in Scotland, where new researchwas done in 2006, there had been a 40% increase since the 1990 study.‘There’s no reason to believe the rest of the UK is any different,’ saysRingwood.Ringwood points out that the British Fashion Council was quick to act after thedeaths of two Brazilian catwalk models from anorexia, by setting up aninquiry(3), yet government funds to investigate the far bigger issue of theimpact of eating disorders among the general population have not beenforthcoming.The outlook for eating disorder sufferers and their families is bleak. Accordingto Prof Janet Treasure, director of the eating disorders unit at South London &Maudsley NHS Trust, death rates of sufferers are 7-8 times higher than for thegeneral population. The suicide risk for bulimics is 200 times greater than thenorm, according to Ringwood.Prof Treasure says: ‘Eating disorders are one of the leading causes ofdisease burden in terms of years of life lost through death or disability inyoung women. The family are usually the main carers. They report similardifficulties to carers of people with psychosis but are more distressed. Theburden of care giving and other societal costs have never been examined ineconomic terms.’Sufferers are also more likely to go on to abuse drugs and alcohol and theyounger the sufferer the more likely their long-term health is likely to be 20
  21. 21. damaged.In a survey of 1,000 young people with eating disorders(4), 42% said the onething that would help prevent such conditions would be the media showing‘more “real” bodies’. This compares with just 20% who cited greaterunderstanding from parents; and 20% who cited greater medical knowledge,as being key to greater prevention. ‘Why can’t the media promote healthy,normal sized people,’ laments one typical respondent. 42% of young women with eating disorders said the one thing that would help prevent such conditions would be the media showing more “real” bodiesAn as yet unpublished, study of the health implications of the ‘size zeroculture’, by Prof Treasure and others says: ‘Media images depicting thinwomen reduce body related self-esteem in young women.’ Analysis ofevidence from 25 separate studies(5) cited in the report found thatadolescents are among the most susceptible to these kinds of pressures.Because their bodies are still developing, they are also the group most likelyto suffer long-term ill-effects from eating disorders.Ringwood gave evidence to the Model Health Inquiry and supports itsconclusions. However, she is disappointed that it restricted its remit to lookingat ways to protect young women in the modelling industry, rather than theimpact of skinny models on the wider population.Ringwood accepts it would be a gross over simplification to blame the rise ineating disorders entirely on the media’s current focus on dieting and thinness- but she does believe it has a part to play.Research shows that the causes of eating disorders are many and complex,says Ringwood. They include factors like genetic disposition and personalitytype, often compounded by traumatic life events like bereavement or bullying.‘The final piece of the jigsaw is the social context,’ she says. If you add amedia which celebrates skinny bodies over all other types into the mix,numbers of sufferers are bound to increase(8).Clinicians working with sufferers also believe media images of skinny women‘is a maintaining factor’ - making it more difficult for eating disorder sufferers torecover. ‘Sufferers say, “How come it’s OK for them [celebrities] to look likethat and not me? How come they’re being celebrated on the front of amagazine and I’m in hospital being told I’m going to die?”,’ says Ringwood.It would be wrong to suggest that media coverage of skinny women isuniversally positive - far from it. As the Model Health Inquiry, notes in itsinterim report: ‘News organisations were increasingly dedicating theircoverage to stories and headlines about the weight of models and thespecialist writers have found it hard to focus on the outfits worn by over thinmodels.’ One fashion editor is quoted as saying: ‘I have sat throughinnumerable shows where I have been unable to take in the clothes throughshock at the emaciated frames of models.’ 21
  22. 22. But even critical coverage of celebrities who are deemed to be ‘too thin’, canmake matters worse for eating disorder sufferers, according to Ringwood. Lowself esteem is a recognised factor in eating disorders - sufferers don’t thinkthey are worthy of taking up any space in the world and shrink accordingly.Seeing bodies which look similar to theirs being pilloried and described asrevolting reinforces their own lack of self worth, she says. Even critical coverage of celebrities who are deemed to be ‘too thin’, can make matters worse for eating disorder sufferersShe believes what’s needed is for the media and the fashion industry topresent a more diverse mix of body types as beautiful and acceptable -preferably without any supposed bulges or cellulite being ringed in red. Such achange wouldn’t be a total solution by any means, but it would help, she says.‘We can’t change brain chemistry and we can’t protect young women from allforms of trauma. Of all the factors involved in eating disorders, images in themedia is the one area we can change.’SOURCES(1) Girlguiding UK, Girls Shout Out!, March 2007(2) Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, Young People’s Health in Context, June 2004(3) Model Health Inquiry, September 2007(4) B-eat, ‘Time to Tell’, February 2006(5) Int J Eat Disord 2002; 31(1): 1-16, Groesz et, ‘The effect of experimental presentation ofthis media images on body satisfaction.’8.Sex, drugs and alcoholIf it’s OK for Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse,why not me?Pregnancy rates among under 16s are on the rise; and girls from deprivedhomes are the most likely to fall pregnant, and more likely than girls fromricher backgrounds to see the pregnancy through.Britain has the highest teen pregnancy rates in Western Europe - twice ashigh as Germany, three times a high as France and six times as high as TheNetherlands(1).The number of girls under 16 - the legal age of consent - getting pregnantwent up by 4% from 7,615 in 2004 to 7,917 in 2005.Rates for older teenagers, however, remain stable, 42,198 in 2004 and 42,187in 2005. Teenagers from deprived areas are four times as likely to fall pregnant than those 22
  23. 23. living in better off areasTeenagers from deprived areas are four times as likely to fall pregnant thanthose living in better off areas - and more likely to go on to have the baby,rather than abort.For every 1,000 teenagers in poorer areas, 80 will become pregnant,compared with 16 in richer ones. Among under 16s, the gap betweenconception rates for rich and poor girls is even higher.Most teenagers from better off areas who fall pregnant will abort (71%); only aminority from poorer homes will terminate their pregnancy (39%). Amongunder 16s, more than three-quarters (77%) from richer areas will terminate,compared with half of those from poorer homes.Teenage mothers are invariably condemned by the media for being fecklessand irresponsible. However, a government advisory body on sexual healthsays the media is in part to blame(2). The climate where young girls end uphaving sex is fuelled by extensive and constant coverage of celebritybehaviour.‘The positive media coverage of “celebrity” behaviour involving sex, drugs andalcohol acts as an encouragement to young people,’ it says in a report into thelinks between alcohol, drugs and sex. The more likely young girls are to drink or use drugs, the more likely they are to have unprotected sexOne type of risky behaviour often leads to another - the more likely young girlsare to drink or use drugs, the more likely they are to have unprotected sex.You can’t tackle one without the others, it says.According to one public health expert(3):* 40% of sexually active 13- to 14-year olds were drunk or stoned when theylost their virginity;* 11% of 15- to 16-year-olds had sex they subsequently regretted afterdrinking alcohol;* Young people are three times as likely to have unprotected sex when theyare drunk than when sober. 40% of sexually active 13- to 14-year olds were drunk or stoned when they lost their virginityAny messages about responsible behaviour are drowned out by the sheer 23
  24. 24. volume of coverage given to celebrities behaving badly.‘The irony is that endorsement of this [risky] behaviour - whether by explicit orsubliminal advertising and marketing or coverage of “celebrity” behaviour - isprevalent while information and educational campaigns warning of the risksand harm are restricted in their ability to carry unequivocal images. Forexample, there are restrictions on advertising condoms pre-watershed, and onshowing a picture of a condom out of its wrapper. Our young people aretherefore receiving distorted messages.’Whether media coverage of drunken celebrities is to blame or not, drinkingamong teenage girls is on the rise, while boys are drinking less.Girls are now bigger binge drinkers than boys, and the numbers of thembingeing are growing. Girls are now bigger binge drinkers than boys, and the numbers of them bingeing are growingIn a study of 16-year-olds, 29% of girls had been binge drinking three times ormore in the last month, up from 27% when the study was conducted fouryears earlier(4). The number of boys bingeing fell from a third to just over aquarter (26%), during the same period.Drunkenness rates among 16-year-old boys are falling, while the number ofgirls remains static. A third of boys said they had been drunk 20 times or morein their lives in 1999 but this had fallen to 27% by 2003. Rates for girls stayedunchanged, at 27%.SOURCES(1) Office for National Statistics(2) Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health & HIV, Sex, Drugs, Alcohol & YoungPeople, June 2007(3) Prof Mark Bellis, Head of Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University(4) European School Survey Project of Alcohol and Other Drugs, Alcohol and Other Drug UseAmong Students in 35 European Countries, 2003 24
  25. 25. 9. Educational AchievementGirls outperform boys at just about everystage of their educational careersPictures in newspapers of young women beaming as they show off their examresults are a regular summer fixture. We’re all familiar with the fact that girlsconsistently do better than boys in their A-level exams and GCSEs.In 2007, they did 8% better than boys in gaining A-level grade C and above(1). And that’s despite the fact that many more girls than boys sit A-levels inthe first place, 436,845 girls compared with 368,812 boys.Girls do even better with their GCSE results - outperforming boys by 12% inGCSE grade C or above in 2007(2). Although here, the numbers of boys andgirls taking GCSEs are more comparable, 2,951,877 girls; to 2,875,442 boysWhat may be less well known is that girls outperform boys right from theoutset of their school careers and beyond.According to the government’s Focus on Gender 2006(3) (the last year forwhich this analysis is available), girl pupils consistently outscored boys fromKey Stage 1 (5 to 7 years) all the way through to Key Stage 4 (14 to 16 yearold), although the difference was less marked in mathematics and sciencethan in English. Girl pupils consistently outscored boys from Key Stage 1 (5 to 7 years) all the way through to Key Stage 4 (14 to 16 years)The only area where boys are able to match girls is in maths. In 2005, for KeyStage 2 (7 to 11 years old), boys performed as well as girls in maths inteacher assessments and slightly better in the test component.Girls also greatly outnumber in the league table of the brightest pupils atmainstream schools in England, released in June 2007(4). In the first analysisof its kind, the Department for Education & Skills looked at the top 10% ofpupils from the end of primary school (Key Stage 2), through to age 16 (KeyStage 4). The report showed that girls were only marginally ahead at 11 -making up 52% of the brightest pupils. But by 16, they accounted for 60% ofthe high attainers. There was some variation between individual subjects: forexample, girls accounted for 65% of the brightest pupils in English; boys didbetter than girls at maths at age 11, 14, and 16.The numbers of boys and girls gaining two or more A-levels has increasedover recent years. However, for girls, the size of increase is notably higher.Between 1990/91 and 2004/05, the proportion of young women getting two A-levels more than doubled, from 20% to 45%(3). Over the same period, theproportion of young men getting two A-levels rose from 18% to 35%. Between 1990/91 and 25
  26. 26. 2004/05, the proportion of young women getting 2 A-levels more than doubled, from 20% to 45%In 2003/04, at A-level, young women outperformed young men in all subjects -with the exception of French and Spanish.It’s a similar picture with vocational qualifications. In 2004/05, more womenthan men were awarded NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications/ScottishVocational Qualifications) at all levels(3). This was most noticeable at level 3(generally the highest level taken by 14-19 year olds), where two-thirds ofNVQs/SVQs were awarded to women. Of over half a million NVQs/SVQsawarded, 56% were to women, with 44% to men.At university level, the numbers of males and females getting first-classdegrees are equal (11% and 10%, respectively), but more women get uppersecond degrees, 46%, compared with 39% of men.One explanation for girls’ greater educational success may lie in the fact thatthroughout their school careers they consistently spend longer doinghomework than their male counterparts(5). The older the pupils, the greaterthe gap between the amount of homework girls are doing and the amountdone by boys. At age 11, 10% of girls and 6.3% of boys are doing three ormore hours homework a night. By age, 15 - the crucial exam years - nearly aquarter of girls (24.8%) are doing this amount of homestudying each evening,more than double the proportion of boys (12.1%). Of over half a million NVQs awarded, 56% were to women, with 44% to menHowever, as we report more fully in Section 10 (Role models and ambitions),there is evidence that young women’s career ambitions narrow as they getolder. According to a study of 3,000 young women(6), doing well at school oruniversity becomes less important with age. It is ‘very important’ to 82% of 10-to 15-year-olds, but only to 74% of 16- to 25-year-olds.Similarly success at work is ‘very important’ to nearly three-quarters (74%) of10- to 15-year olds, but to only 61% of those who are actually about to embarkon a career, 16- to 25-year-olds.SOURCES(1) Joint Council for Qualifications, National Provisional GCE A-Level Results, June 2007(2) Joint Council for Qualifications, National Provisional GCSE Results, June 2007(3) National Statistics; Focus on Gender, Education, October 2006(4)Dept for Education & Skills, Statistics of Education, The Characteristics of High Attainers, 26
  27. 27. June 2007(5) Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, Young People’s Health in Context, June 2004(6) Girlguiding UK, Girls Shout Out!, March 2007 27
  28. 28. 10.Role models and ambitionsJust because they’re bad role models,doesn’t mean we don’t want to be like themYoung girls may be sceptical - even hostile - towards some of the media, buttheir ambitions and outlook are certainly shaped by it.Some 40% of 7- to 10-year-olds questioned in a survey of 3,000 youngfemales(1) want to be ‘famous’. Some 41% of 7- to 10- year olds, and 14% of16- to 25-year olds, want to be TV presenters; 35% of 10- to 14-year-olds, andaround 4% of 16- to 25-year olds, want to be models and popstars.Nearly half (48%) of 10- to 15-year olds and one in 10 16- to 25-year oldswant to appear on a reality TV programme. Half of 10- to 15-year olds and one in 10 16- to 25-year olds want to appear on a reality TV programmeTheir most influential role models are creatures almost entirely of the media’screation: Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss, according to one survey of over3,000 young women(1). However, although the survey respondents citedBeckham and Moss as the most influential, only a fraction, 5% and 2%,respectively, thought they were positive role models.In another study(2), 20% of the 1,000 13- to18-year olds questioned citedskinny models (along with celebrities and popstars) as bad role models -which puts them on a par with Pete Doherty, who was also named by 20% ofrespondents as setting a bad example. Next in line, named by 6% as a badrole model for young people, was former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Young women narrow - rather than expand - their career ambitions as they get olderInterestingly, it seems young women narrow - rather than expand - theircareer ambitions as they get older.Some 90% of 10- to 15-year-olds believe women are capable of doing any jobthey choose; whereas only 81% of older respondents, 16- to 25-year olds,believe they can.Doing well in a career becomes relatively less important and getting marriedbecomes relatively more important as girls get older. Success at work is ‘veryimportant’ to nearly three-quarters (74%) of 10- to 15-year olds, but to only61% of those who are actually about to embark on a career, the 16- to 25-year-olds. 28
  29. 29. 48% of 16- to 25-year olds say finding a husband is very importantMarriage is ‘very important’ to 38% of the younger girls, whereas nearly half(48%) of the older group say finding a husband is very important.Similarly, doing well at school or university becomes less important with age.It is ‘very important’ to 82% of 10- to 15-year-olds, and 74% of 16- to 25-year-olds.SOURCES(1) Girlguiding UK, Girls Shout Out!, March 2007(2) Nfp Synergy/Scouts, Typical Young People, January 2007 29
  30. 30. 11.What is Women inJournalism?Women in Journalism was founded in 1995 as a networking, campaigning,training and social organisation for women journalists who work across all thewritten and new media. We have over 530 members, including many of themost senior women in the industry. Unlike other media organisations, wewelcome both magazine and newspaper journalists, attracting both staff andfreelancers, prominent editors and more junior writers. We currently have a55/ 45 split between freelance and staff members.WIJ seminarsThe sharing of experience and knowledge is one of the fundamental aims ofthe organisation. WIJ seminars are unique in being able to draw on theexpertise of so many leading journalists and editors from a wide range ofnewspapers and magazines, all of whom recognise the value of encouragingtalented women. We cover subjects close to every journalists heart. Leadingjournalists, authors and social commentators usually make up the panel.We run a programme of six seminars each year which are attended by 70 to100 writers. Typical or regular seminars include:* Writing that book (with major UK publishers and agents);* The art of the interview , where some of the most famous interviewers inthe national press have shared the tricks of their trade.* From sub- editor to editor* The great features debate* ‘What do you want to be when you grow up? Careerdevelopment for journalists.*"Use it or lose it’’, based around WIJ research into ageismResearchWe regularly conduct research on subjects close to our members’ hearts, andour findings generally attract widespread media coverage. Recent researchpapers have included: Chaps of both sexes; The hidden sex; Women in thenews; The cheaper sex. 30