By Morgan Elyse
Friends, blog readers, mothers, daughters, good sirs: I. Am. Livid.
Normally I consider myself to be a very peaceful person, but after what I witnessed in the dressing room of a Target store last night, I simply cannot hold my tongue. And now thinking back at the incident, I shouldn’t have held it then!
Women (and men) struggle everyday with body image issues. For some of us it’s as minimal as a funky look in the mirror on a bad day, but for others it’s so cumbersome a matter that it leads to depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation, alcohol and drug abuse, and even suicide – especially in teens. So why on EARTH would someone – let alone a child’s own parent – introduce that method of thinking to a child who isn’t even out of grade school yet???
The incident began while I was trying on a pair of shorts and a few stalls away, a mother was having a discussion with her daughter around 8 years of age which centered around her belly being “too big for a two-piece” bathing suit. I was outraged! I felt like scooping up the heartbroken little girl to tell her how beautiful she was right before I gave her mother my two cents! This little girl was far from obese and frankly, even if she was, it shouldn’t have mattered! The focus should have been on whether the swimsuit was comfortable and had appropriate coverage. There is absolutely NO reason a little girl shouldn’t be able to wear what her friends are wearing (which her mother so conveniently rubbed in her face right before the tears began to pour out of it) and be confident unless it’s simply a matter of modesty. Instead, this woman decides to shame her daughter for not being as thin as she was when she wore bikinis and tell her that she didn’t want her to get made fun of. Hey, here’s an idea, why don’t you wait and see if anyone actually does make fun of your daughter at the pool, then shame the perpetrators and their parents for raising bullies! In the meantime, you can build up your child’s confidence instead of making her feel she inadequately measures up to both you and her peers. Unless it so happens that you are a bully and such a superficial, awful human being that you’re ashamed of your own baby girl’s body even though it’s nothing shy of PERFECT the way it is?
WTG, Mommy! You’ve successfully perpetuated the defective messages the media’s been sending women ever since there’s been a media – the effects of which you probably experienced in high-school but were too busy making fun of other people to deal with in an emotionally healthy way. But you, my friend, you have accomplished something far more amazing than anything TV and magazines could ever dream of achieving: you have driven this message of body shaming first-hand into an even younger and more impressionable mind than yours most likely was when you first started picking out the body parts that you hated. And what’s worse is that your daughter’s mind undoubtedly takes every single word that comes out of your mouth to heart, a place in which those words will be held now, and probably fester for a decade or so until they burst into some sort of -enia, -philia, phobia, addiction, or other serious psychological disorder because You… Were… Her… Mother!
I know, I shouldn’t judge. I don’t know these people and I don’t know the mother’s full story or her relationship with her daughter; it could be extremely nurturing. Maybe this mom just didn’t know the right words to use in that situation. I know swimsuit shopping can be traumatizing for everyone. I just want to put it out there that, especially when speaking with children, we need to be fully conscious of and meticulously careful with the words we choose and the messages we relay because their little ears are not the end of the road. Our words resonate throughout generations and have an impact on every choice and every personal connection our kids will ever make in life. So make your words positive and make them meaningful. Please learn more about body image here (www.loveyourbody.org) and be sure you’re spreading the right message to our youth.
<3. Every. Body.