Dannielle Miller, educator, author, business woman, children’s advocate and co-founder of Enlightened Education, left the following comments on yesterday’s article on the Jenny Craig situation.
|To provide some background that may assist as things do seem somewhat confused here.As an educator and sponsor of the Alliance Conference, I initially raised concern over having the leader of a diet industry speak at a conference for leaders of girls’ schools with a polite email, and when my concerns did not seem to be understood, I sent the Alliance a more detailed letter of concern which you may read at this link:http://enlighteneducation.edublogs.org/2012/03/22/alliance-of-girls-school-conference-2012-say-no-to-diets/.I also decided to withdraw my company’s sponsorship of the conference.Interestingly, in the context of freedom of speech, I was then told I by the Alliance that I was “unprofessional” for raising my concerns publicly on my blog and that this reflected “poorly” on me. Censorship indeed.
Rest assured many health practitioners did then also send polite letters and make polite phone calls. It is my understanding it was only after Lydia Jade Turner’s polite phone call was dismissed ( Ms Turner was claims she was told the matter would not be discussed and she was then hung up on by the Executive of the Alliance) that as a last resort an on-line petition was created.
I don’t think that Jenny Craig, part of the global giant Nestle, with their multi-million dollar marketing budget, will struggle to find an audience for their messages, do you? I admire individuals who also stand by their beliefs and chose to speak up against BIg Diet Inc. Why must they be told they cannot speak up? Isn’t belittling their genuine concern censorship too? Wasn’t the whole point of protests like Occupy to encourage people to stop being complacent sheep and to be active?
I decided I would sign the on-line petition too but I will admit I did wrestle with some of the concerns you are expressing here before doing so as I agree calling on speakers to be banned can be a slippery slope. I was asked to justify my stance in light of freedom of speech on my blog:
“Yeah, it’s really enlightened to try and ban someone because you don’t like the company they work for.
After considering this carefully, for it raises a valid point, I came up with the following:
“I will state that I have never aimed at banning Amy Smith or Jenny Craig. I understand that Jenny Craig is a legitimate business and have made it clear I appreciate Ms Smith is a highly accomplished woman. My letter (in link above) expresses my concern over the selection of the leader of a diet company being selected as a speaker at a conference for leaders of girls’ education.
As an educator, author, media commentator, and advocate for girls I felt I had a professional responsibility to voice my concerns ( which may I add was not easy to do given the Alliance is made up of women I deeply respect) . As a friend to many young women struggling with eating disorders, and a mother to two young girls, I also felt compelled to speak my truth. Under freedom of speech, I also have the right to do this. As a sponsor of this event, I also have the right to withdraw my funding if I do not wish to see my funds spent spent legitimizing the diet industry in this way.
A colleague, Nina Funnell, offered me feedback which I think also raises a valid point: “If a respected expert in the field such as yourself can’t offer feedback and raise concerns without risking attack how on earth can girls- who often feel disenfranchised and powerless- be expected (let alone encouraged) to stand up for the things they believe in. The teenage girl in me is cheering you on.” Teen girls have incredibly radars for inauthenticity. I would feel quite the hypocrite talking to them about standing up for what they believe in if I didn’t model that I have the courage of my convictions.
In terms of what Enlighten (my company) teaches young women I can assure you we do not preach anything, nor would we ever act as thought police. Our company’s mission statement makes this clear: “ Enlighten encourages girls to reach their own conclusions and to know their own minds. Rather than telling girls what to do, we focus on informing, inspiring and empowering them. We encourage girls to be discerning consumers and critical thinkers and to find their own voice and power in a complex world.” Education is the key. In fact, in much of my writing on young women I warn of policing and patronizing.
In all honestly, based on the Alliance’s response to the expressions of concern they have received to date, I do not think they will reconsider their choice of speaker. However, my goal in making my concerns public was to illicit vital conversations on girls and dieting and body image. This issue has absolutely achieved this.
This morning a teacher at a girls’ school posed a query of what girls in schools learning about freedom of speech might make of the protests. I encouraged him to get his students to read widely from both perspectives and debate the issue. Debates like this, that will now begin happening in our classrooms, also are an absolute win.”