Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Shape of Girls

'CoverCover via Amazon

A mother in Brattleboro recounts her family's ongoing struggle with body issues brought about by popular culture.
By eighth grade, I was obsessed with my shape -- my body, not geometry. I went on extreme diets, once eating nothing but rice-cakes for a week. Dull with depression, I leafed through the J. Crew catalog pretending I looked like the whippet-thin models in their tissue tees...How will I handle my girls lusting for Barbies or the notoriously slutty Bratz dolls? Ava recently discovered an old Barbie (not mine, clearly) when visiting my mother. She stroked the doll’s nude torso and remarked, "Look, she has bubbies! She’s a Mommy!"

"Well, actually, she’s not a Mommy," I corrected her. "Do you see that her bubbies don’t have nipples? And she doesn’t have a real booty, either. Her body isn’t real. Do you see?"
It's sad that we have to explain to our children that doll bodies are not real. The reason is that children are never exposed to real bodies - parents feel the need to cover up in front of their kids, there's no more nude swimming at the Y or at ponds, no more gang showers in schools.

Diana Whitney, the author of the piece, mentions that her 4 year-old daughter is "perched naked" before her meal, but that's the only mention of nudity throughout. She mentions that her mom was a "counter-culture feminist who went to Woodstock", and was anti-materialistic, but she had friends who wore "gobs of make-up" and had plastic surgery, ultimately passing on the message to the young girls that you'll "never be good enough."
Perhaps insecurity is an inevitable part of growing up, male or female. But does the process have to be excruciating? Mary Pipher’s 1994 bestseller, "Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls," examines the "girl-poisoning culture" that leads to increased media pressures, depression, self-mutilation, eating disorders and sexual abuse in the lives of teenage girls.
OK, so talk to your children about their bodies. Let them see you nude in normal home situations. And consider some sort of nude recreation, either at a sanctioned TNS or AANR associated club, or at a public bath, locker room, or sauna. Let them see real bodies of all ages. This sickness in the minds of children is man-made and can be undone with more exposure to the sight of real human beings.

It's virtually impossible to shield young girls from magazines, television, Barbie dolls and other visions of unrealistic body images, but it is possible to create some balance in their minds.

No comments: