What Will It Take to Turn This Tide?

Taylor Townsend is a 16-year old tennis prodigy who is the world’s #1 ranked junior girls player. She has won several major events, including the Australian Open Junior singles championship and Wimbledon Junior doubles championship. However, when it came time to play in the most prestigious event in her home country, Taylor almost didn’t make it to the U.S. Open. Not because of injury . Not because she hadn’t earned a spot to compete. No, her sponsorship by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) was withdrawn until she got in “better shape”. You see, at 5’7” and 170 pounds and despite her on-court dominance and string of victories, she was deemed unfit to compete by the governing body’s decision-makers. Thankfully, her mom scrounged up the funds to get Taylor to New York, where she made it to the semi-finals of the singles competition and, along with her partner Gabrielle Andrews, won the doubles title. The USTA said its decision was in Taylor’s best interest and a reflection of its mission to help her reach her competitive peak and maintain her competitive edge for years to come. However, after all was said and done, the USTA reimbursed Taylor’s mom for her expenses.

Australian Leisel Jones is a 3-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, with 4 silver and 3 bronze medals rounding out her collection. However, rather than showering her with praise for her latest accomplishments, the Melbourne Herald published a photo of her with the caption “The Olympic veteran’s figure is in stark contrast to that of 2008” and polled its readers as to whether they thought Ms. Jones was fat. Leisel was not the only 2012 Olympic athlete openly criticized and mocked by the media about body weight and shape. The U.K’s Daily Mail published photos taken at a pre-Olympics exhibition of several British women beach volleyball players in their bikini-style competitive uniforms, to which readers commented, “I hope the athletes (male and female) will be better looking and fitter than these!” and “Is Weight Watchers their sponsor, LOL.”

Recently, Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent, masterfully moderated the second of the 2012 U.S. Presidential debates. Her selection as the moderator was the fruition of a grass-roots effort led by three 16-year-old girls from New Jersey. They started a petition to support a woman moderator because they were dedicated to seeing a woman on stage so the nation would see her “being powerful.” Before Crowley even took the stage, however, the body-bashing floodgates opened wide with insensitive and hateful comments on Twitter like, “They should reconsider . . . she is too big & fat for the job” and “…it’s what[‘s] inside that counts. . . and what’s inside is doughnuts, gyros, milkshakes, chips . . .”

Powerful women being attacked for how they look . . . what will it take to turn this tide?

BEDA (Binge Eating Disorder Association), ANAD (The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc.), and NORMAL, three national nonprofits devoted to education on bullying surrounding weight, have teamed up to produce a new documentary film titled “Beneath the Floorboards.” The film, anchored around the story of Chevese Turner’s (BEDA’s CEO) lifelong struggle with binge eating disorder, examines bullying due to weight stigma and the adverse emotional and physical effects of weight-based bullying. The film will be premiered at the 2013 BEDA Conference in March. This year’s conference theme is “BED in the Spotlight: Focus on Treatment, Research, and Stories of Hope.” Register now, participate, and become a part of the solution.

By: Dr. Kim Brownley