What every child shouldn’t wear…

What every child shouldn’t wear…

By Nick Watts

With some of my recent articles for Mental Healthy featuring reports of sharp rises in eating disorder cases in young people and children, it is of no surprise that I am appalled at this latest attempt to sell a celebrity catchphrase. I am sure many people will remember when Kate Moss back in November 2009 came out with the iconic, let’s not forget infamous statement “Nothing Tastes as good as skinny feels”. This statement became a very harsh reminder of how people with eating disorders felt and at the same time people were outraged at the nature of the statement, causing much discussion in the fashion industry and the media.

2 years after this statement a company tries to cash in on this and so we see the release of a kid’s t-shirt with that very phrase plastered right across the front of it. The clothing line, a part of which is a t-shirt, is manufactured and marketed by American firm Teen Modelling and sold on the zazzle.co.uk website.

This, at a very time when we are now acknowledging the problems and pressures faced by young people when it comes to issues such as how they look, how they fit in and what they should aspire to be. It is true that a t-shirt won’t cause a child to develop an eating disorder, but it certainly will exacerbate negative body image thoughts and feelings among young people, which can be a fuel to developing problems including eating disorders, but also conditions such as body dysmorphia and issues with low self esteem.

At the age that these t-shirts are sold to, most girls and boys are discovering their bodies, learning to understand them and it is difficult enough as it is, without having that additional pressure of negative propaganda making them all the more aware that we live in a superficial society. This will only leave them with the impression that the only way to succeed is through looks and that nothing else matters.

This so far is forgetting to mention the sheer moral argument of printing slogans like this on any clothing, let alone clothing designed for children. There would be no difference in making a t-shirt promoting a physical condition, which of course, you would never see. A statement as dangerous as this one, that is controversial, propagates illness and glamourises what is a serious condition.

For years now eating disorders have been glamourised in advertising, the media and in the way they are spoken about, seen as a disease of the vain and nothing more than taking drastic measures to achieve beauty. This has led to a culture where eating disorders are often not seen as conditions but as “lifestyle choices” and this only contributes to helping that stigma stick, a stigma that really needs to be dispelled so people can start to receive the right treatment and that they can be seen in a serious light for the true conditions they are.

Companies have a responsibility to be responsible and if there is any way of criminalising this sort of outrageous attempt at cashing in on a catchphrase which could and likely will have a detrimental effect on young people then it should be done and at the very least the merchandise removed from sale. You wouldn’t see this done to a physical health condition, so why is it ok to glamorise a mental health condition?

Nick Watts is an eating disorder and body image campaigner. Nick is one of the people behind Men get eating disorders too www.mengetedstoo.co.uk. He would like to know your thoughts, you can tell him on twitter @nickinoxford

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