Media warned: focus on performance, not bodies
AUSTRALIAN media covering the Olympics have been urged to focus on the performance of Australian athletes, not their figures, by body image and eating disorder organisation the Butterfly Foundation.
The foundation’s call came just a day before national media outlets ran stories this week questioning the fitness of Australian Olympic swimming team member Leisel Jones, based on her figure.
Images – described by current and former teammates as both unfair and ‘unflattering’ – published with the articles sparked debate this week over whether Ms Jones was in peak physical condition with some suggesting the swimmer had put on weight.
Subsequent media reports today have included strong criticism by teammates, coaches and former Olympians against suggestions or imputations that Ms Jones was overweight or was not taking her involvement in the games seriously.
Ahead of the furore, Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan had called on media covering the games to support the National Body Image Code of Conduct as they delivered “thousands of TV and radio broadcast hours, as well as kilometres of print and gigabytes of online coverage”.
Ms Morgan said the guidelines prioritised “positive content and messaging” and encouraged the reporting of achievement over appearance.
“As the commentators gear up to go into hyperdrive, please remember the devastating impact any throw-away remarks can have on some of their audience members and even some athletes,” she said.
Ms Morgan said the code was very clear about the impact negative language about body shape and size could have on young people watching the games and reminded reporters negative body image was still ranked as the “top concern” amongst young people.
“Our elite athletes... thoroughly deserve to be recognised for their achievements,” she said.
“We hope this recognition can be delivered without an undue focus on their physical appearance.”