It worries me because I am concerned about the way they will perceive themselves as they grow up. I, of course, think they are perfect and beautiful. I want them to feel that way, too. How is it, then, that these self critical thoughts have found their way into the minds of my daughters?
This is a question I ask myself often and, since we are focusing on our bodies for today's Tuesday Ten in honor of National Nude Day, I decided to take the opportunity to do a little reflecting and researching on the subject. What resulted was the following Ten Ways that Society is Destroying My Daughters' Body Image.
- The media glamorizes the unrealistic. According to one fact I read, 72% of women in the US wear a size 12 or above. However, designers typically refuse to include any models larger than a size 4 in their runway shows. If they want "real" women to buy their clothes, why don't they show "real" women wearing them?
- We are bombarded with weight loss strategies. Even a woman who is "skinny" can be convinced that she needs to try the latest diet fad just by standing in the grocery check out line for a few minutes and reading the most recent magazine covers. We are constantly bombarded with "miracle solutions melt the excess pounds" even if we don't have any excess pounds that need to be shed. We need to focus on being healthy; not being skinny.
- We see celebrities chastised for gaining weight. In March, Kelly Clarkson was unmercifully "fat-shamed" on Twitter after an appearance on a late night TV show. A British TV personality tweeted that she was happy to have a wide screen! That is just one example of a celebrity who has come under fire for a figure that is deemed less than stellar. If you are a "regular woman" like me (non-celebrity, that is), it is likely to leave you wondering what "people" would say about you and your own physique.
- On the contrary, celebrities are celebrated for losing weight. While doing research, I saw two articles praising Jessica Biel and Carrie Underwood for their amazing bodies just months after giving birth. It makes us feel like we should do the same and anything less remarkable is unacceptable.
- "Larger" celebrities are hailed as heroic and brave. If you begin running through a list of famous females in your mind, I bet the vast majority of them are "thin." There are a few, however, who have managed to find stardom despite being a bigger size. Those women are touted as courageous and bold; daring to break the mold. Why is it gallant to be average? Because, we are led to believe that slender is superior.
- The term "plus size" is used to describe average. As I mentioned earlier, the average woman in the US is a size 12-14. Yet, a size 14 is also considered by many to be a "plus size." Lane Bryant, is a retailer that sells "fashionable, plus size clothing for women." They carry sizes 14-28. Therefore, those of us who fall in the category of "average" are told repeatedly that were are to big to fit into "regular" size clothes.
- The recent convention of using the BMI is not congruent with actuality. BMI stands for the body mass index and is a method of measurement that has become popular in the last few years. I consider myself average and typically fall within the size 12-14 range. However, when I plug my stats into this BMI calculator, it tells me that I fall firmly within the overweight category. In fact, I would have to drop over 15 pounds to get down to the normal range. Basically, I have to be 15 pounds lighter and approximately 1-2 dress sizes smaller than average to not be overweight. That doesn't' seem to make much sense to me.
- There is no standardized method of sizing women's clothes. What do I mean by that? Well, men can go buy pants with a 32 inch waist for example. The pants may vary by style (pleated vs. non-pleated, etc.) but thirty-two inches is thirty-two inches. That doesn't hold true in women's clothing. I might be able to wear a size 12 in one brand, but, for a similar style in another brand, I may need a 14 or even be able to fit into a 10. I've said here that the average woman is a size 14, but what constitutes a size 14 vs. a size 10 or a size 20?? Without these standards, clothing sizes have also changed. According to one WebMd article I read, what would have been considered a size 4 in the 1950s would now be considered a size 8.
- Clothes are skimpier than ever. Plain and simple, women are showing more of their bodies these days. My mother has told me stories about being required to wear skirts when she was in college. Now, college girls are wearing short shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops to class. Just look at the difference in bathing suits!
Black and White Photo Source
Bikini Photo Source
- The final item on my list is ME. There are times when I have been very honest about my own struggles with body image and other times when I've tried to keep it under wraps (by posting anonymously - until now!). The truth is, it's a struggle for me. It always has been. I have caved in under the pressure of all the other things on this list and I wear my self deprecation like an invisible dumbbell tied around my neck. I frequently fat-shame the woman in the mirror and I can count on one hand the times I have really, truly felt pretty in my 38 years of life. However, I am trying so, so hard not to pass that on to my girls. I'm trying not to be part of the problem by learning to accept myself and the body I have been given. I am attempting to remember that it is this body which gave me my girls in the first place. I want my daughters to grow up knowing that they are beautiful, but also that they are so much more than what is on the outside. The best way to teach them that is to show them that. I'm trying. I'm a work in progress and some days are definitely better than others. Two steps forward and one step back.
I can't change what our culture has become and I can't stop the endless media barrage of messages trying to convince us that average is not good enough. Truthfully, I wrote this post for me AND for my girls, because, really, that is all I can control. I will continue to work on my own discontent and I will keep doing my best to make sure my daughters receive the right message about their bodies. Hopefully, in the end, we can all embrace these words:
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Come link up again next Tuesday, July 24. It's National Junk Food Day, so we'll be sharing a list of the foods that would fill our pantries, refrigerators, and stomachs if calories and nutrition didn't matter!