Modeling Agencies Recruit at the Doors of Eating Disorder Clinics

Original article below from Policy Mic‘s Christine Salek, Health Promotion & Education distance-learning graduate student at The University of Alabama

Modeling Agents Recruit Outside Swedish Eating Disorder Clinic

A well-known clinic in Sweden has managed to attract a following that stands outside the entrance, approaches patients, and … tries to recruit them to be models?
Indeed, while the United States struggles to keep women’s health clinic patients safe from vitriolic anti-abortion protesters, Sweden’s issue is based at the 1,700-bed Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders, the largest clinic of its kind in the country. Agents have been known to stand outside the clinic and approach teenage patients, offering the sometimes horrifically ill girls work as models because of their small size. These instances provide a shocking look into how shallow the modeling world is capable of being, caring only about young women’s physical attributes and not their health.

One of Sweden’s largest modeling agencies once approached a 14-year-old girl and handed her a business card, while another girl who was so sick she was in a wheelchair was interviewed by another agent right outside the clinic. These awful people care not for these girls’ poor health — you know, the reason they’re at the clinic — but instead for their proven ability to lose a lot of weight very quickly.

“We think this is repugnant,” said chief doctor Anna-Maria af Sandeberg. “People have stood outside our clinic and tried to pick up our girls because they know they are very thin.”

Last year, the clinic was even forced to change its policies regarding when and where the patients take daily walks around the area because of the presence and persistence of the modeling agents.

It is scary to think of what could happen if one of these young ladies entertained an offer from an agent, even after she was released from the clinic. Some extremely common complications of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are heart disease, esophageal damage, certain harmful psychological effects, and death. Only 30-40% of people suffering from anorexia nervosa ever fully recover, and 20% will die prematurely from complications of their condition. Considering the young women in the clinic are part of the small percentage that actually seek help, the last thing they need is someone to pull them away from treatment.

“[The modeling agencies’ practice] sends the wrong signals when the girls are being treated for eating disorders,” added af Sandeberg.

While it is obvious that modeling agents receive payment for each recruitment, the outrageously callous means they go about achieving their goals are a cause for concern. In other countries, they have been known to target impoverished girls who could use the money or visit majority non-white countries like Brazil to find white models, but this is the most repugnant practice to date.

In Sweden, they don’t seem to care how far they go to meet their quota. When a mother of one of the girls approached explained to an agent that her daughter was seriously ill, the agent claimed “they approach healthy, normally slim young people and that they never urge anyone to lose weight.”

Oh, corrupt modeling agencies: You are not going to find “healthy, normally slim” young women outside of a clinic that treats people for eating disorders. These people are the opposite of healthy. They are getting treatment for serious conditions that the modeling world is known to exploit.

It is absolutely horrifying to see that the clinic where these people are recovering from serious illnesses is not an entirely safe environment, and worse yet to know that some of these dangerously thin people may succumb to the pressure of these professional recruiters. The end of the modeling industry’s rabid promotion of unhealthy bodies does not seem to be in sight, and instances like these only manage to worsen conditions for those who are ill.


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Thin or Overweight: Damages of the Mass “Eigher-Or” Psychology

It’s time to challenge the narrative that the female body is one of two things: thin or overweight. This dichotomous classification encourages the inhuman decree that there is only one acceptable visual female form, and that the social punishment of all others is justified. While this mechanism of mass bullying is enforced on both sexes, this article focuses on the female experience.

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V-Day: Stopping the Violence

Thank you diahannreyes for sharing this gift of your story. These are the words of my bruised spirit as well. What a stunning, brutal, beautiful expression of the truth.

Stories From the Belly

In my twenties one day, I found myself seated in a room of other women seeking support from each other. Looking around, I felt like a pretender.

As I listened to them share their stories… a husband smashing a dinner plate over the head of a wife, a brother high on heroine stabbing his sister with a knife, a mother with ribs broken apart by her son… I sank further down in my chair wondering if these women might be offended that I’d even bothered to show up.

Open hand raised, Stop Violence sign painted, multi purpose conc

I didn’t really want to be at this domestic violence support group. Unlike these women, who had the scars to show what they’d been through, I didn’t have a bump on my head or a broken arm. I never spent several days in a hospital because of any injuries. My bruises were the invisible kind—the ones that leave your insides black and…

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Personal = Global

Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

~ Marianne Williamson

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To Balancing Balls and Recovery:

Oh girl.

I get it. All of it. Everything your heart just poured out onto the page—the exhaustion, the pressure, the guilt, the pain, the loneliness, the isolation, the sheer desperation. My heart has poured all that out too. It still does sometimes.

Wouldn’t it be sweet if there was a recovery button? If it was that simple? If there was a switch somewhere, and we just had to know where to look and then reach far enough? God, we all long for the pain to just stop, when our path seems endless, and the brutality of it all seems like it will end us. That means we’re human.

The truth is, we have a gnarly battle, and it is too great and too complex to be switched off. There are too many doors with too many locks than any master key could unlock.

I have found that recovery is not a detour from my life. It is not a side path, or a road block. It is the path. It is my path. I have only one path, and guess what. It goes through this labyrinth of bullshit. And just when I think I’ve got the hang of it, boom. I hit a wall, and I’m floored—again.

But our struggle with food, the labyrinth that we find ourselves in, the utterly bewildering landscape of our thoughts and compulsions, isn’t our curse. It’s our way to freedom. Struggle is nature’s way of strengthening. We are being prepared for what we were meant to do, the people we were meant to be, and the lives we were meant to live: lives free of guilt, shame, isolation, and desperation; of apologies for our very existence and the fear that if we trust ourselves we will die.

We cannot escape recovery; recovery is our escape – from a half-full life where we float as ghosts, as shadows of who we know we are inside. But we have to go through it. We have to pick ourselves up and keep going, into the darkness that seems endless and into the pain that feels like it will swallow us whole. We have to realize that when we are thinking that we cannot handle it, that we will break, there we are. Handling it. And unbroken. When you think you can’t handle it again, you can. We have been chosen to fight this battle because we are strong enough. We have the balls to face it head on and come out the other side. Not everyone does.

And the truth is, I don’t want to return to that girl I was before all this shit hit the fan, before I found myself drowning, stuck in quicksand, doomed to wither away in a pitch black tunnel with no end in sight. Because before all this happened, I felt doomed anyway. And as long as I keep searching for a master key to make it all go away, I will always feel doomed, because it doesn’t exist, and it’s not that easy. I didn’t know how to live before recovery. So when recovery feels like dying, I know that the only thing that is dying is the identity of “me” that cannot exist as a “me” that is recovered—healthy, secure (god, can you imagine?!), that is willing and able to act on her own behalf, that has un-learned the belief that meeting her own needs will destroy her.

Screw the master key. Screw the switch. Fuck the button that makes it all go away and will return me to an idea of normal in which I am half-whole and fully miserable. You can do it. You can make it. Or you wouldn’t have been chosen for this path in the first place. Fuck the voices that tell you that you can’t. Go into the pain. The things that you want to run from in order to save your life – run towards them. Through them is where you will find freedom. That is the only way to save your own life; the one that you were meant to live. Come out the other side victorious—stronger than you ever imagined. Take it. Own it. It’s yours.

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Is your body… Appropriate?

“Today I listened to a discussion of modesty that made me feel uncomfortable. It was one we’ve heard 1000 times to encourage “appropriate dress” for women: Guys of all ages often say that girls and women have NO IDEA how much their choice of attire affects them. They say if we did know, we’d cover ourselves up a bit more. Here’s the thing with this line of thinking: First, if we keep reinforcing this statement, we’re teaching the myth that men are powerless to the sight of female bodies and can’t be held responsible for their own thoughts and actions. We believe boys and men deserve more credit than that. They’ve got more control and agency than that. It is impossible to shelter males from a world of “immodest” females, and we believe teaching boys and men that the female body is more than just something to be looked at is vital. Second, when we teach women to cover up to protect from their “inappropriate” or “too-tempting” bodies, we are once again teaching them that their power is in their bodies and their displayed “sexuality” or shoulders, knees, etc. We’re still reinforcing to men and women that women’s bodies – whether deemed “modest” or “immodest” – exist for the male view. We are teaching girls that exposed shoulders or knees are inherently sexual, which they are not. That’s a lose-lose situation. We are putting the responsibility for men’s thoughts on girls and women, who are made to feel guilty or sinful if they are “immodest,” which is a different line for everyone. If you’re pro-modesty (by whatever definition that means to you), then live it and teach it as a means for empowerment and benefit for many reasons above being a protection for men. Read our valuable research in this post to get somewhere much more powerful than the shallow waters of ‘modest is hottest.'”
-Beauty Redefined

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Creating Gender in Literature…

Very interesting article. How do we sexualize characters? How do we “show” their gender? What assumptions/implications are we making through our choices of how to portray them as male/female? Fictional characters have fictional body parts… so how else do we choose to navigate their sexual identity?

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