Teaching Our Daughters To Love Themselves
TRex had a great Late Night post at FDL last night, which I missed until tonight, and since it’s a tad late to be commenting there, I figured I’d post my thoughts here. (That is why I have a blog, right?)
I can’t imagine what it must be like to raise a daughter in this media climate. I just can’t.
I don’t think I need to run this down for you guys. You know the deal. The world of fashion and fashion publishing (and the movie industry, and TV, and music videos, and on and on) present an ideal of “beauty” that is an image of sickness, of starvation.
He also quotes author J.K. Rowling writing at her website last year.
From the Telegraph:
Waif-like models were condemned by JK Rowling yesterday as “empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones”.
The author of the Harry Potter novels said she did not want her daughters, Mackenzie, one, and Jessica, 12, to emulate women whose only function was to support the trade in “over-priced handbags and rat-sized dogs”.
“I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny a thousand things, before ‘thin’.”
Amen and hallelujah.
I have a beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter. She’s everything I – and J.K. Rowling – could want in a daughter.
This is one of my favorite photos of her, from this past spring. I just love that expression. You can tell she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. (She was trying to take a nap while Mom kept snapping pictures and annoying her with the flash.)
Gorgeous, talented, intelligent, kind, thoughtful… she’s all of that and more.
But, she thinks she’s fat.
Why? Because she’s 5’7″ (and still growing!) and 130 pounds. She is no Mary-Kate-and-Ashley-sized pixie, folks. She’s strong and active and, yes, she can take on both of her older brothers, including the football player. I call her my Amazon princess. But, fat? Hardly.
Unfortunately, despite what I say, despite what her dad says, despite what her grandparents and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins say, despite what her doctor says, despite what the boys who want to date her (ugh!) say, she believes she’s fat because she’s not an anorexic twig.
Gee, thanks, ultra-thin-obsessed media. Bad enough that our “news” media spends more time talking about Paris and Nicole and Britney and Lindsey – rather than actual … y’know … news.
But this kind of nonsense doesn’t help:
This is the cover of the newest issue of a women’s magazine (name and other items blacked to prevent the possibility of lawsuits) .
What’s the first thing you notice? That big-ass cake, right? And what’s right above it? Yeah, that headline.
Anyone else ever notice this? Magazines marketed to moms or the over-30 woman do this every month. Big dessert taking up half the front cover, while “LOSE WEIGHT” headlines dominate.
Can you say, ‘mixed message’? I thought you could.
Then of course, there’s the checkout-line tabloids, with covers pointing out every little flaw in various swimsuit-clad celebrities. (This, after other magazines have air-brushed and Photo-shopped them within an inch of their lives to eliminate those very same flaws.)
I think the best things we can do for our children, but especially our daughters are:
1) Eliminate or severely restrict television viewing. I can tell you, the Disney show Lizzie McGuire did nothing but teach my daughter to be an air-head more concerned with popularity than getting good grades and being a kind person. Getting rid of the TV was the single most-effective way of eliminating that “role model.’
If you do allow TV, talk to your kids about what they’re seeing. Counteract the negative messages that anorexic models are sending out while pimping make-up and clothing.
2) Stop buying women’s magazines! You think your daughter doesn’t get the messages that you’re also being sent? “Eat cake, but…” “Only thin girls get the boy.” “Be sexy at an early age – preferably before you even hit puberty!”
3) Teach your children to be loving and kind and empathetic – and praise them for showing those traits! “What a kind boy you are for sharing your crayons with _____!” “What a great grade! I’m so proud of what a smart girl you are!” “What a good helper you are!”
4) Teach your daughters that being a “good girl” has nothing to do with being submissive, or silent, or accepting of bad things or bad behaviors. That it doesn’t mean acting like a brainless twit or never sweating (popular when I was young – a caution against being ‘too physical’) or being emaciated.
5) Teach your daughters to be proud of their accomplishments in academic and physical activities.
6) Teach them to stand up for themselves – even when it causes you headaches. (Yes, nothing is worse as a parent than when your daughter stands up for herself against you, but dear goddess, it’s a blessing when they stand up against injustice and against the abuse of themselves and others.)
7) Teach your daughters that it’s what’s inside that is beautiful. And that beautiful insides create beautiful outsides.
Shorter me: Teach your daughters to be more like Hannah Lundquist and her classmates.
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