A great article from our comrades in AWSM: There is a disease which has for long while been taking root in this country, as it has in many other countries. That disease is eating disorders and it has become our dirty little secret in this modern, ‘liberal’ age. Especially vulnerable are thousands of young women who face relentless pressure to ensure their figures fit the ever shrinking mould desired by the bosses. We need to confront this problem and see it for what it is; the continuation of a social order where men call the shots and where even a person’s body is not out of reach for the capitalist class.

Roughly one in four teenage girls suffer from an eating disorder in this country, 52% of girls have tried dieting before the age of 14. The statistics are shocking. If you’re a male (like the author of this article) that means your sister, your girlfriend or just one of your friends may well be putting herself through hell just to satisfy the insane demands she is being bombarded with on a daily basis.

And it is no conspiracy to suggest that the women being paraded by the media are getting thinner and thinner; thirty years ago the average model was 8% skinnier than the average women, now the average model is 23% skinnier than the average women! The capitalists have reached a point where they are competing over who can find the skinniest women, leading toward a constant drive which pushes the waste lines of all women downwards. It’s also a perfect metaphor for the rotten system we live under, if we scratch beneath the glamour and the success we find sickness and coercion.

Inherently tied to media compulsion is the very real fact that a woman’s economic prospects are affected by her ability to fit the accepted model. For anyone with experience working in the service industry it should be of little shock to suggest that bosses discriminate according to looks – they do. To a lesser extent this is true of many different industries, and it reflects the power of the bosses when it comes to dishing out jobs.

Just as we need to stop letting the bosses dictate our wages and our working conditions, so we need to stop letting them dictate our standards for health and beauty. Countless women in this country are suffering trying to comply with their impossible standards. We need to start supporting each other, and we need to start giving greater support to young women, because until we do we’ll never be able to take control over our workplaces, our communities and ultimately our own bodies.

From the May 2010 issue of Solidarity, the free newssheet from the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement.