Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Post Is Not What You Think It Is.

Girls don't just simply decide
to hate their bodies.
We teach them to.

Ladies and gents, Miz. Jo is getting ready to break bad on the interwebs. Are you ready?

I ran across that quote the other day and automatically had to save it. How our society is raising young girls is something that I feel very strongly about and hope desperately that we can change. Low self esteem, self worth issues and eating disorders are rampant in our perfection obsessed world. And the two main things that are fostering these unhealthy views of the female form are photo re-touching and cosmetic surgery. Two things that have nothing to do with reality. No one is teaching our children that the photographs in magazines and catalogs are all digitally enhanced and perfected. No one is pointing out how many bodies are surgically produced. All of this "beauty" that our world is ingesting in gluttonous proportions is all fake. And little girls think that they are supposed to grow up to look like super models, actresses, pop singers and porn stars. And little boys expect them to do the same.

This disturbs me. Greatly.

But there is something else that is starting to disturb me even more.

I found that photo up there on Pinterest. Lovely, isn't it? Wouldn't most women love to have an ass like that? And that is the exact reason that someone pinned that photo. As inspiration. But some of the comments I am seeing on photos like this are really getting under my skin. On this particular photo someone had commented that the model looks "scary thin". That her shoulder blades jut out too far. That her waist is smaller than a child's. Another photo that I saw was a before and after photo of a young woman after some serious health and lifestyle changes. She had lost a bit of weight and gained some beautiful muscle. Her weight was down to 110, but she looked healthy and fit. Regardless, the readers started bashing her for being "too small". Quoting what the "healthy" weight was supposed to be for someone her height. And, worst of all, saying that she looked better before.

Okay now. This is where my blood starts to boil.

Nothing in me wants young girls to think that they need to look like a Victoria's Secret model. Nothing in me wants them to feel like they need to get breast implants and liposuction to be beautiful. But telling them that being out of shape and unhealthy is more beautiful than being strong and taking care of themselves is just absurd! This entire issue is about being mentally and physically healthy, isn't it? Well, guess what? Not working out and not making nutritious food choices is dangerous, too. True. We can't all look like super models. But we can all work hard to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. And I personally believe that this is what we need to be teaching young girls to do. There is a blurry line drawn between what society proclaims to be too "fat" or too "thin". But every single body out there is different. And what is healthy for one is not always what is healthy for another. Despite what department store clothing may suggest, we are not cookie cutter people. We did not all come from the same mold. We are as varied as the stars.

And this is where it gets personal.

Why do the "too skinny" comments disturb me just as much as the "too fat"? Well, because I have always been that "too skinny" girl. I am 5' 7" and weigh anywhere from 107-112 lbs. depending on the day. The charts in the doctor's offices have always preached that I was "too skinny". I have never worked out in public, nor do I talk about working out because I get fussed at. People roll their eyes if I skip dessert. Ditto if I order a big salad instead of a pasta dish. I have never turned down a dinner roll that I didn't hear "yeah, like it's gonna hurt you. you could stand to put some meat on your bones." And so, I have always tried my hardest to "put some meat on my bones", in the form of muscle. My nutrition choices are based on what makes me feel better and perform better. And my workouts are to insure that I always stay strong and capable instead of soft and frail. I have always had a very healthy body image and therefore always tried to make responsible and wise decisions regarding my body. It's a good thing that I have always took the snide remarks and quizzical looks in stride. Otherwise, the teasing about my skinny arms and flat chest could have driven me mad. But I have always chosen my health over what society keeps yelling at me. I have never been told by a doctor that I needed to gain weight or quit working out. The charts may say otherwise, but I am a healthy weight for my body design.

Now, I don't know the girl in that picture. I can't tell you what she had for breakfast or how many hours a week she works out. But I can bet that she isn't "scary thin". She has a nice full booty. And see those dimples and that dent at the base of her back? That usually comes from good muscle tone. If she were too skinny you would not be seeing that. If it is a good practice to inform girls that some people are just made bigger and that their healthy size and shape may never be a size 2, then it is only fair to acknowledge that some people are made smaller and their healthy size and shape may never be a size 6. Both are equally valid.

Girls are told exactly what every single aspect of their being is "supposed" to look like. From their hair to their cheekbones to the shape of their nose. From the size of their breasts to the size of their hips. For heaven's sakes, people. They are even doing cosmetic surgery on women's genitals. When will it stop? When will we all figure out that there is no "perfect" formula? We are all unique and special and that is what makes us beautiful. Our differences. Teach young girls that their bodies are not supposed to look like the artificial versions that they see on television and in magazines. And men! Your role in letting women know that natural is beautiful is even more important than ours. The same encouraging words can be much more powerful coming from a man than coming from another woman.

But please......Please! Please! Please! Please! Please!...... don't ever tell a female that striving to be the best version of herself that she can be is not beautiful. Being healthy is not about what we see in the mirror, although positive physical results are an encouraging side effect. Being healthy is about the myriad of benefits that come with it. Vitality. A sense of accomplishment. Strength. Self worth. and yes. Beauty. Because the human body is a beautiful thing. The more you love and respect it, the more beauty you will find in it.

This is what we need to be teaching.


Michelle said...

Could not have said it better myself. Sometimes when I think about having kids, and I think about that kid being a girl, I break out in a cold sweat. Holly shit! That kid is going to be obsessed about how fucked up her body is when she is about five, if she is like her mother, and deal with hard as shit issues for the rest.of.her.life unless I lock that shit down! Like all the time, be an eagle eyed bear and talk to her about it all the time. Shit, I would rather have a boy who stats jerking it at age five, at least he won't have body image issues, he will be taught to love his body, and enjoy it and rejoice in it's glory. I must stop or I will just keep.on.writing. Uh, a huge issue as far as I know.

Michelle said...

Did I mention that I love this post? tear.

Amy @ Varnish said...

I changed my mind. You should have kids. ;)

Sarah Klassen said...

AMEN! Goodness me. A few days ago, I made a comment on Pinterest after reading the same quote but on a Kate Moss image... and after being just as upset! I had had enough. I explained how thankful I was that I grew up with such positive and strong influences in my life, especially my Mother, who explained that different body types will look different — there is NO "perfect". What is a healthy weight on one person, may not be on another. To love our bodies and treat them with respect, to have confidence as women. I feel the same way that you do, Jo, and am glad you said something!

Kristin W said...

Thank you so much for this.