Quick Hit: Let P&G Know What You Think of Their Website for Girls

Last Friday, Shapeling Ginviren sent me a note about the info her not-quite-ten-year-old stepdaughter is getting in health class:

They handed out this little pamphlet sponsored by Always (which I swear to god, I probably got the exact same one 17 years ago when I was her age) [me too, 23 years ago -- Kate], which referred them to a website.

I came across this “article” and just have…no words.

I didn’t either, when I read it. It’s seriously “9 Steps toward Your First Eating Disorder!”

I think my favorite is this one:

6. If you know where your most challenging places are, stay away. If you’re aware of the time of day you’re weakest, prepare for it ahead. Never shop for groceries when you’re hungry.

If you know where — out of the zillion places you, as an almost 10-year-old girl, freely go — is most “challenging”? Like, maybe the cafeteria? Or your parents’ kitchen? STAY AWAY. Also, when you, an almost 10-year-old girl, go out and do the family’s grocery shopping? Have a snack first. Also, EATING IS WEAKNESS. AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.

Jesus Fucking Christ. And that’s just a taste. I was waiting to post on this until today, because traffic is so much lower on weekends, but I forwarded Ginviren’s note to a few people, and Harriet, Rachel, and Paul, among others, have all written more about how disturbing the entire site is. Check out their takes.

Also, Rachel’s got contact info for Procter and Gamble, sponsor of the BeingGirl site. Please do drop them a line.

63 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Let P&G Know What You Think of Their Website for Girls

  1. Oh. my. god. Did you read the comments that those 12 and 13 year old girls were writing in response? I just want to shake whatever ad exec thought that that was a good idea.

  2. Wow.

    Aside from setting girls up for EDs, are they really saying that the worst thing about 911 and the war is that people have gained weight?!?!?! Yeah, too bad about the thousands of people who have died, but it really sucks that the rest of us have gotten FAT!!!!

  3. The “wait 30 minutes” thing is still ticking me off. So much of my childhood was shaped around other people’s insistence that I couldn’t be hungry and I should just wait and see. I still have instances where I’ll talk myself out of eating for hours because “I’ve waited this long I really don’t need to eat yet.” 9 steps to your first eating disorder indeed!

  4. Funny, I can’t shop, or make a menu, if I’m NOT hungry. I just can’t remember everything I don’t have at home that I’m going to want for the next week unless I deliberately have my mind wrapped around eating. But I don’t let myself get too hungry, that’s just a recipe for hypoglycemia. If I’m not hungry, I have no interest in food at all . . . HEY, WAIT A MINUTE!! There’s the secret! If you aren’t hungry, maybe you just won’t buy food! Then you won’t have anything to eat and you’ll lose weight!

    I’d also like to point out that the under 12 crowd doesn’t have that abstract thinking ability necessary to understand the shades between black and white (or good and bad). They don’t understand the idea of poisoned mushrooms being bad food, fresh fruit being good food, and oatmeal creme pies being gray food that just doesn’t have as many essential nutrients as other food. All they understand is fruit=good, oatmeal creme pie=not good=bad. Their brain is not developed enough to differentiate.

  5. Godless Heathen: Yeah, the “wait 30 mins” thing works really well on the hypoglycemic. If I was shaky enough to ask for (or sneak) food apart from reserved meal times (usually only at school, my parents had sense), after 30 mins I wouldn’t be asking to eat anymore, I’d be too sick to my stomach to eat for hours, sometimes to the point of coughing up stomach acid. But, as I say, my parents had sense. I wasn’t allowed to “spoil my dinner” by eating after it had started cooking, but up until about 6pm, most food was fair game. They were more concerned with making sure we got enough than making sure we were “really hungry.”

  6. Wow… crap like this is why I measured my upper arm, chest, waist, hips, thighs and calves every day in high school, and despaired as the inches increased and increased. I tried to follow these tips, but a few months ago I found this quote:

    “Every moment you spend hating your body is a wasted moment of your life”

    I hope that these girls have more sense than I did, but it kills me that they don’t even have to go to a pro-ana site to get this type of information.

  7. My personal favorite is #2. “Write down everything you eat…there is not better way to monitor what goes in your mouth(aside from looking at yourself naked in the mirror)” WHAT? If I am ten and looking at myself naked in the mirror I should be thinking how strong my shoulders are or how cool my stomach is, not whether that hamburger I ate for lunch went right to my thighs. This is a travesty. I can not believe they advocate a naked visual appraisal of yourself to children. Also, the fact that they use 9/11 as an example of stress caused eating seems not only callous but dangerously out of touch. That’s like saying I overeat because of Monica Lewinski.

  8. “What will the scale say tomorrow morning?” ….WHAT??!?!

    I was going to snark about how this list is not only a recipe for an eating disorder and/or uncontrolled hypoglycemia, but also a great way to aggravate migraines and fibromyalgia (and I used these “hints” to do just that as a teenager). But then…the SCALE? AAAAAAGGGHHHH.

    Back in the day, I had a coach who weighed me before each practice session. She taught me never to weigh my skaters (overwhelmingly preteen/teenage girls), and I’ve now come to believe the average healthy teenage girl should not be weighed outside a doctor’s office, period (maybe not even inside it). That number shouldn’t be a confidence-killer, but for too many girls, it is.

  9. Wow…just wow.

    I honestly can’t believe (and that’s saying a lot, because I’ll believe most things of the fat-hating world) that they allude to standing naked in front of a mirror as a GOOD way to choose food. Because it’s not like that new lump (on an 11-year old) could be a hip, or a breast…nope, it’s that chocolate cake from last night.

    Thanks for passing this along!

  10. Also, It seems as though you can comment on the page, and although no one has commented since 08/07 I put my comment on there directing them to love themselves and search out better sites. I think we all should do the same.

  11. The rest of it is bad enough, and then it includes one of my biggest pet peeves: casually stupid statements revealing appalling historical ignorance.
    “The bad news is that rarely in history has there been a more turbulent time.”
    HEAVY SIGH
    I will refer this very stupid writer to such things as “World War II” “World War I” and “The Black Plague” just to get things rolling.
    Ok, so now we have a lot more people and mass communication, so we hear about and see every damn thing that happens right when it happens and it sure is turbulent, but doesn’t compare to half the population dying a horrible death before your eyes. Yes, 911 would be the scariest big event for today’s American kids, but damn. Way to make the world seem like a hopeless place that’s never been worse but, hey, at least you can KEEP FROM GETTING FAT! ALL IS NOT LOST!

  12. It kills me how mandatory the article is. *Everyone* needs to be fighting the war (on obesity) regardless of their actual weight. Of course we know that this advice doesn’t work for anyone, but still, for a regular or even skinny girl reading this, it still applies to her. NO ONE has earned the right to eat snacks less than 30 minutes from when they realized they wanted to eat. EVERYONE must (ick!) write down everything they eat. You know, so they make sure they aren’t emotionally eating, because that would be disordered eating.

    I love #8 especially. At least it gives you permission to mess up, but still… “Can’t quit obsessing over food??” Good, because that’s what you have to do to follow the other steps. Would someone still explain to them that you don’t have to actually eat the food for it to count as an obsession?

    The comments are just heart breaking.

  13. ‘Forget the fact you haven’t even finished growing — deny your body nourishment, throw your system out of whack, and blame it on 9-11 and your weak will!’ Why thanks, Always!

    Wow. I found the comments on that article incredibly disturbing. It’s full of 13 and 15 year olds worrying about being fat at 105 pounds. Here’s an example:

    “alright, I am 15 years old, 5’5″, and I weigh about 118 lbs. what do you think about this?I always want to lose weight but I have no freaken self control!it’s so hard!”

    I’m at a loss for words. : (

  14. WAIT A MINUTE . . . they referred to the beinggirl site in a pamphlet handed out AT SCHOOL?

    Now we’ve moved to a new level.

    I know, I got the same pamphlet, but back then they just gave you a coupon for $1 off Kotex — they didn’t direct you to a website filled with propaganda and misinformation.

    I would love to get my hands on that pamphlet . . . .

  15. Even more heartbreaking are the comments by the girls themselves beneath the article. A brief rundown:

    Well, My mom ALWAYS tries to feed me! I have like, 6 meals a day! She calls me “skinny.” Well she hasn’t seen me naked so it’s unfair! And she made my brother fat too! It started in the fith grade for him, and now she’s doing it to me! I feel like crying! :

    alright, I am 15 years old, 5’5″, and I weigh about 118 lbs.

    what do you think about this?I always want to lose weight but I have no freaken self control!it’s so hard!

    am 13 and weigh somewhere in the range of 108-110..
    Is that normal? I don’t really know.
    I am scared to step on a scale because i think I will get stressed out over what I weigh.

    And probably the saddest comment:

    I think that after 9/11 it is true that more people became overweight I was in second grade when it happened I use 2 be a tiny little girl very skinny the boys all ways after me. and became overweight and now no more boys just as friends and that’s about it. nothing more but thankfully nothing less. i rather be anorexic than be overweight i have attempted anorexia and bulimia in the past year but learned its not worth it and i still overweight and i excercise more and i am currently cutting down on the amount of food i eat which i feel so good about and i am looking into getting a bf cause i think he likes me

  16. *heartbreaks*
    Those comments Rachel posted make me sad, mostly because I had the same thoughts when I was young. It saddens me that nothing’s really changed (in a lot of ways, it’s gotten worse).

  17. I honestly can’t think of what I would say to P&G besides “I hope you read the comments on your site and I hope you are fucking ashamed of yourself.” Beyond that, I’m just at a loss for words.

  18. The “wait 30 minutes” thing is still ticking me off. So much of my childhood was shaped around other people’s insistence that I couldn’t be hungry and I should just wait and see.

    I was on a train last week (for a 5+ hour ride) and heard a mom screaming at her kid, “You’re not hungry! YOU’RE NOT HUNGRY!” I wanted to grab her and say, “Lady, how would you know? YOU’RE NOT HIM.”

    My mom was famous for that one. “You’re not hungry, you’re just bored,” was a favorite. And the other one that’s been discussed here before — “If you’re hungry, have an apple. If you don’t want an apple, you’re not really hungry.” Um, yeah, unless my body’s craving protein or dairy or something… but thanks.

    And Fillyjonk, ditto.

  19. I was on a train last week (for a 5+ hour ride) and heard a mom screaming at her kid, “You’re not hungry! YOU’RE NOT HUNGRY!” I wanted to grab her and say, “Lady, how would you know? YOU’RE NOT HIM.”

    That’s awful.

    All of these things are just awful. I too used to make a game out of seeing how long I could go without eating…”If I made it to one, I can make it to two,” and at two it was almost dinner so I might as well wait until 5:30.

  20. I had a problem with low blood sugar when I was in high school and needed to eat between breakfast at home and lunch at school, and between that lunch and when I got out of school. I had to get a note from my doctor so I could carry candy/crackers in my purse to eat in class if I got dizzy or light-headed or the school would have sent me home (not allowed to eat in class at all for any reason). This was in 1970/1971, so schools have been participating in this kind of thing forever.
    This P&G thing though, is just too fucked up. I followed the link for their product list, and DH and I don’t use a lot of P&G products and I sent them a letter telling them that because of their website for girls and its promoting eating disorders, I would no longer buy those products, I was switching brands (and I let them know I do read labels, so I’m very aware of who makes what). I also told them that their website is banned from every computer everyone in my family owns because we don’t want our daughters/granddaughters/nieces exposed to that kind of eating disordered/body dysmorphic claptrap.

  21. I commented about this over at Paul’s blog. It’s beyond ridiculous, it’s downright dangerous. What about those that are hypoglycemic or have bouts of low blood sugar where they NEED to eat in between meals or they’ll faint? And don’t get me started on those stupid food journals. No way in hell should anyone write down what they eat and when and where they were.

    P&G are setting up these young girls to develop ED’s and low-self esteem issues with this crap advice. I wonder if Rabid Roth wrote all this, it sounds like the type of garbage she’d spew. Tying it to a tragic event that happened SEVEN FREAKING YEARS AGO is also pathetic too.

    We are not supposed to look like skeletons above the graves, so why does our society insist that we should? P&G, you blew it. Go back to selling products and stop shilling harmful and shitty dieting tips.

  22. “If you’re hungry, have an apple. If you don’t want an apple, you’re not really hungry.”

    That is SO my mom, I’ve heard this SO often.
    It’s always apples. An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.
    And I HATE apples. HATE them.

  23. This is incredibly sad. I think of these girls in 20 years being where I am now and it’s just heartbreaking. I hope some trial lawyers are printing this shit out as evidence for the future class actions. This is like giving a child a loaded gun.

  24. I wonder if there’s any research on the psychological effects of constant hunger with young people. Especially self-inflicted hunger.

    I mean, it has to mess with your mind, your survival instincts, your feeling of safety when your formative years are spent obsessing over something you need to survive, but aren’t allowed to have.

    And by you I mean me, of course.

  25. Ok, those comments having me tearing up at work here, especially the fact that a girl is upset she isn’t as small as she was *AT THE AGE OF SEVEN* and she misses how boys used to chase her. WTF? Whatever happen to little girls thinking boys are gross and wanting to grow up so they can do what the big kids do?

    I swear, this site should be required reading for anyone allowed near kids.

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  27. 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.

  28. Holy crap. If this is being handed out in “health class,” we are FUCKED. It’s not like a girl magazine where, even if the information is toxic and stupid, purchasing and reading it is entirely voluntary. These girls have TEACHERS telling them they have to read this shit and memorize it for a grade??? You have girls who barely weigh 3 digits in their early teens thinking they’re too fat to live???

    Nice going, all you haters. If you really thought your message was meant only for us fat fat fatties who really needed more pressure to slim down — you know, because the only reason we’re fat is because nobody throws rotten eggs and pointed rocks at our heads the minute we step out the door — you could not be more wrong. You now have a culture where the only girls who dare like their bodies for a second are those without an ounce of fat anywhere. And they’re gleeful about this. There’s money in it. Money money money. They’re as bad as Dick Cheney.

    And the girl who feels bad about herself because she doesn’t have as many boyfriends as she did when she was a skinny 7-year-old…I have no words. (Don’t boys have “girls are yucky” phases in third and fourth grade anymore?)

  29. I…

    I just can’t even begin to understand this. I was reading it and kept shifting between outrage and desolation. If I were home alone I would have screamed very, very loudly.

    As it is I just repressed tears.

    Holy. Fuck.

    How could anyone, ever, think this is a good idea?

    This shit has got to stop. It has got to be exposed for the poison it is, and it has to stop.

    I used to listen to this kind of advice.

    AND SHE GOT THE LINK FROM A PAMPHLET SHE GOT IN SCHOOL.

  30. This is slightly off-topic, but in the same vein. I’m in Ireland and don’t have the same selection of US magazines that you do, so I can only speak for one particular one, but there’s an ad for a product called Bagel Bites that runs in Real Simple magazines. It’s a picture of a small boy – probably about 6 years old – with two plates of food in front of him. One is a plate of Bagel Bites (cheese & pepperoni flavour), the other is a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich. The big selling point for the Bagel Bites? They’re lower in calories. I don’t have kids myself, but that totally freaks me out. The kid is 6! Why in the name of all that’s holy would you be aiming for lower calories when he’s SIX YEARS OF AGE!

  31. Sigh… now I have to go check with the middle school Wellness teacher again to find out what they’re indoctrinating the girls with. I have two boys, so I don’t get the girly pamphlets. But I’ve already had to let them know that the two student-made “Wellness PSAs” about OBESITY that they’d posted on the school website were downright dangerous and unscientific.

    One was called “An Obesity Intervention” and showed a bunch of kids sitting around on couches telling their “obese” friend (a girl with a big pillow under her hoodie, eating robotically from a bag of chips) that she needed to stop shoving junk food in her face and start eating fruits and vegetables. They literally grabbed the chips out of her hand (she of course desperately tried to hang on to them) and then started throwing apples and oranges into her lap. In the end, they all smiled and hugged and she said she’d try to eat more vegetables or some damn thing. I mentioned in my email that I might have been more inclined toward suicide than thanks if that had happened to me at age 13.

    The other one was equally appalling, about Super Healthy Guy, who went around telling fat people about the wonders of fruits and vegetables.

    To their credit, the school took the video clips down immediately upon receipt of my email and the wellness teacher called and spoke to me directly. I sent her some links on HAES.

  32. So… let me get this straight. Tampax, a leading seller of tampons and pads, feels that it’s good amrketing strategy to convince prebuscent and barely pubescent girls — Tampax’s future market — to embrace eating behaviors that could lead to the cessation of their menstrual periods?

    Um, okay. I wonder what genius came up with this brilliant plan.

  33. Not that there’s anything funny about starving yourself into amenorrhea… but that cracked me up, sarawr. Astute!

  34. Gah, I am sorry for the multi-comment action, but I have one more thing to say. (I have fifty more things to say, actually, but perhaps I should get off my lazy ass and put them in my own blog.)

    Anyway.

    “…you might get distracted, you might become wise enough in that half hour to find a more life affirming way of getting rid of that creepy stress.”

    What on earth is more life-affirming than eating? Are they implying that instead of having a snack, growing girls should spontaneously give birth?

  35. Hmm, I’m thinking it might be time to show them what I think by voting with my $$…reusable pads/sponges are starting to sound awful nice! It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, but this has actually pushed me off my (no doubt lazy) ass to research my options.

  36. these are the same people who did this kind of advertisements some decades ago:
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=432390&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=2467246125&aid=-1&id=562857920&oid=2467246125#pid=432373&id=562857920

    i said it at rachel’s blog and i’ll say it again.
    maybe it’s time we boycott kotex/tampax/whatever and use non-sexist, cruelty-free, eco-friendly menstrual wear (the keeper, divacup, good ol’ homemade sanitary towels, etc) from now on, forever.

  37. Actually, this advice (writing down what you eat, thinking about why you are eating) really worked for me.

    WHEN I WAS ACTIVELY BULIMIC.

  38. “If you’re hungry, have an apple. If you don’t want an apple, you’re not really hungry.”

    (Alexandra nods meekly and heads for kitchen. Takes out apple, reaches for knife.

    “What are you doing?”
    “Cutting the apple up so it’s easier to eat, Mom.”

    “Put that back, we’ll have dinner in a little while.”

    It took me some years to realize that quartering and coring an apple with a paring knife isn’t anything like getting out a pan and scrambling an egg for a snack.

    I’m much better now, but that’s what I did in my twenties…get over my upbringing.

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  43. Not so sure that writing will have much – if any – effect.

    Does anyone know a friendly reporter? A media swarm along the lines of “Proctor and Gamble says their new website for girls is aimed at health and fun – but some experts say it might be dangerous” might be more likely to get their attention.

  44. Pingback: Start your eating disorder early, girls! « Sparkle Pants

  45. They’re as bad as Dick Cheney.

    Harsh, but true.

    The comments from the girls are heartbreaking. I’m 42 years old and I still hate my body, can’t bear to catch sigh of my reflection in a window, can’t understand why my husband loves me. Oh, sure, I believe in body acceptance and HAES intellectually and on good days I even belive it in my heart. But all it takes is one stray comment, one bad day, and I’m the 11-year-old whose appearance was subject to many pitying and/or scornful comments by people who supposedly cared for me. I really don’t think that will ever change.

  46. Hey Kate – Thanks for posting this. This pamphlet was distributed in a health class (the type where they take the boys to the gym and the girls to the cafeteria or something). They had a “Guide for Mom” (which my boyfriend was ticked about), free sample Always pads, coupons, and the pamphlet.

    As I told Kate, the pamphlet is probably the exact same one I got when I was her age, except there was no website of course.

    I told my boyfriend, I rarely put my foot down about anything concerning his daughter, but I told him she would NOT go to that website. My sister is a recovering anorexic, and this is practically a blueprint of her actions during that time.

    He, being the smart and loving man that he is :) , completely agreed with me.

    Thanks to everyone who is contacting the company. I was so upset I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts.

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  48. It’s not my fault I’m fat, it’s the terrorists!

    Or… perhaps… genetics.

    Whichever.

    P&G sucks.

  49. Some of the advice is good. If you’re the kind of person who bikes to the grocery store, has ADD, and is forgetful. I won’t go to the grocery store hungry unless I am *planning* to buy a sandwich for lunch while I’m there. If I do and I skip the sandwich, there’s good odds that I’ll bonk on my ride home. That’s dumb, and I try not to be dumb. And of course I write down what I eat… on the grocery list so I don’t forget anything important. Like chocolate. Or milk. The list is also useful for talking myself out of a bag of chips… not coz chips are bad for me. The problem is a bag of chips is *big* and I should get them at the grocery store I can *walk* to!

    Most 10 year olds don’t buy groceries tho, and they don’t have any of my other fun problems.

  50. After writing them, just avoid Proctor and Gamble as much as possible. I found a website that you can subscribe to for a fee to get information on how ethical different companies are, and I haven’t paid, but they let you look up certain things for free. So I checked out my good ole Crest toothpaste, made by Proctor and Gamble. They got a 0 out of 20. That’s like, lower than Coca Cola. A zero! So I’m trying not to buy Tampax, Covergirl, Crest, and the other half of the world that they own. In response to the person who mentioned alternatives to tampons, I use a Lunette, a type of menstrual cup (DivaCup is easier to get in the US, but you can order Lunette online, too), and it works well for me. Before I tried it, I looked at the livejournal community about menstrual cups, and it helped me figure it out.

  51. I’m coming to this a bit late, but the link posted takes me to a front page of sorts, and I haven’t been able to find the actual article. Think P&G took it down?

  52. You can do a search on “war and your weight” and it will take you to a page with the link for the article in question. That’s how I found it a second time.

  53. The search link also took me back to the index, and while I was looking I found an article that admits your body thinks there’s a famine when you diet and stores up food for the next one when you go off it. Is it too much to hope that they finally wised up?

    I’m all shaky now. This kind of stuff really disturbs me.

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  55. Oh. My. God.

    Vexaster, those pages are horrifying – and when coupled with what these poor girls are writing in response…..my heart breaks for them. My god. How do these bastards who WRITE those kinds of articles sleep at night?!

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