Oddly Enough

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The Independent Online
Anorexia via TV: A sudden increase in eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia among teenage girls in Fiji may be linked to the arrival of television in the Pacific island nation in 1995. Harvard Medical School anthropology professor Anne Becker, who has studied Fijian eating habits since 1988, said that since TV's introduction, there had been a sharp rise in indicators of disordered eating, such as induced vomiting. Seventy-four per cent of Fijian girls reported feeling "too big or fat" in a 1998 survey that Becker conducted 38 months after the country's one television station began broadcasting. Among its output, the station features US shows such as ER and Melrose Place. Becker claims that 15 per cent of the teenage girls questioned said they had vomited to control weight. Traditionally, Fijians have preferred what Becker called a "robust, well- muscled body" for both sexes. But with the advent of TV, adolescent girls became seduced by Western ideals of beauty. "What I hope is that this isn't like the 19th century, when the British came to Fiji and brought the measles with them. It was a tremendous plague. One could speculate that in the 20th century, television is another pathogen exporting Western images and values," she said. "Nobody was dieting in Fiji 10 years ago."

Ideal hostility: Meanwhile, a University of Toronto study shows Canadian women who read magazines full of advertisements featuring skinny female models suffer more from low self-esteem than those who don't. The problem had been recognised intuitively, but not scientifically until now, said psychiatrist Leora Pinhas. "If you like clothes, make-up and fashion, the only way you're going to get those magazines is to tolerate these skinny models, because what else are you going to buy?" Researchers quizzed 118 female university students on their moods, body satisfaction and eating patterns. A week later they were asked the same questions after half of them had viewed a series of ads from popular women's magazines. "The experimental group responded immediately with depression and hostility after viewing the ideal woman shown in these ads," she said.

Moral failures: More than 10,000 Bangladeshi students sitting college finals have been expelled for copying from textbooks, demanding the right to cheat in exams and beating up teachers. Violence over two days during the Higher Secondary Certificate examinations included the stoning of teachers by students, setting examination rooms on fire and assaulting invigilators. Students angry at not being allowed to cheat inside exam halls tore up questions, snatched away answer sheets and assaulted the monitors in the northern Sherpur district, police and officials said, adding that similar incidents had occurred at various other centres. Dr A.T.M. Sharifullah, chairman of Dhaka Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board, said he felt distressed by the growing trend of using unfair means in examinations. "I guess the main reason for such practices was a lack of moral values in the students," he added.