We're Raising Girls Who Hate Their Bodies

November 13, 2013, by Sandra Hawken, 2 Comments

Girls Quilt

Every day, our daughters are bombarded with lies.

They see these lies everywhere; they are never free of them. They see them on billboards, in TV ads, in movies, in magazines, in video games, and online. Especially online.

Every day, our daughters are presented with one acceptable definition of female beauty: white, tall, thin, large breasts.

This image is a lie: unrealistic, artificially constructed, and simply not true.

The lie also comes in the form of body-shaming messages from, well, just about everywhere. Just last month the twitter handle #fatshamingweek appeared, accompanied by the vicious comment: “Fat shaming is essential in creating a society of thin, beautiful women who are ashamed of being ugly.” Fortunately, a woman in the UK immediately responded with #bodyconfidenceweek.    

In our quest to conquer obesity, we skip over the fact that we can have any body shape and still be healthy – but the focus is on being thin, thin, thin! Celebrity magazines gleefully publish full-page photos of movie starswho gain a few pounds or dare to display their cellulite on the beach.  Teenaged girls yearn to have legs so thin there is a noticeable ‘thigh gap.’  

The fallout from these lies is all around us.

According to the American Psychological Association, the portrayal of women in media has become so unrealistic and sexualized it is now damaging girl’s mental health. In Grade Six, 36% of girls in Canada say they are self-confident, but by Grade Ten this has plummeted to only 14%. In just one year, the number of girls in the U.S. aged 18 and younger who had breast implants nearly tripled. In one B.C. study, half of all the girls said they wished they were someone else.

A recent study from the Canadian Women’s Foundation found that 21% of Canadians know a girl who think she’s fat and 17% of Canadians know a girl who thinks she’s ugly. I wonder how many of us know girls who believe these things, but never tell anyone.

We are raising a generation of girls who hate their bodies and therefore hate themselves. Unless we intervene, our daughters will grow up believing that whatever else they may accomplish, if they are not “beautiful” they will never be good enough.

Parents, it’s time for us to speak up.

Given the size of the problem, we need big long-term solutions. If self-regulation won’t work, then maybe we need legislation.

But we also need small, everyday actions. We can start by banning the word “fat” from our homes.

We can nurture resilience in our daughters and teach them that their most important assets are not external, but internal. We can help them to shift their focus from their outward appearance to their unique interests, whether they love books or basketball or baking or bugs.

We can demand that our schools offer a media literacy program, for both boys and girls. We can become more media literate ourselves, and share our new knowledge with our daughters.

Most importantly, we can begin the slow process of learning to love our own bodies, because we too have believed the lie.

We can tell our daughters we adore our fabulously full hips, our gorgeous pillowy bellies, our sensational crooked noses. Maybe if we say it enough, we will start to believe it.

Ask any parent what they want most for their kids. Chances are, they’ll say “For them to be healthy and happy.” A girl who hates her body is neither.

Let’s get louder than the lie. Our daughters are counting on us.

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Horrible trend

The study you quote from says this: "21% of Canadians know a girl who think she’s fat and 17% of Canadians know a girl who thinks she’s ugly", if i look around in my own environment, those numbers are FAR higher, most (usually) younger females are incredibly insecure these days, all thinking they are supposed to look like this, it's almost 'normal' for young females to think they are 'fat' or 'ugly' nowadays.

I'm not sure how we could put an end to this, the media is to strong.

words are weapons ('fat' is intended to wound)

Banning the word 'fat' from our homes, I would like to caution, may give the 'f' word even more power. Consider the omnipotence of words. They have the strength to be felt as a slap on-the-face, a knife-in-the-heart, a noose-around the-spirit, and a manipulation- of-the-psyche). Words are not simple weapons of assault, they are used to torture and scar.

The words have become nouns, an entity. They are drenched in sexism. To use such words, is to believe them to be the essence of 'woman'. Those very powerful words make a tidy little package, a complete arsenal of destruction .The word 'fat' is an essential component of abuse.

By itself, 'fat' has become an ugly word and speaking of it seems rude, distasteful. We decorate it with terms designed to soften the sound, lessen the impact (slightly, a little bit, a pretty face). Attemps to conceal 'fat' as a name cannot be disguised with 'Slim, Skinny'.

Body fat is essential to women. Without it, we perish.
How we live, educate, speak, and listen are our tools to deal with the corrupt word 'fat'.

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