Attention all parents! You know what scares me? The pressure the media, a by-product of society, is putting on our little girls to be beautiful. 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet. 80%! At an age when children should not even know what a "diet" is, let alone be on one, our girls are starving themselves to look more like the images they see on TV and in magazines.
If that wasn't enough, girls are now being pressured to get rid of unsightly hair. Yep. In a recent controversial blog, Uni K Wax proclaimed, "girls are physically maturing at an earlier age, while emotionally, they are still little girls, even if they don't look like it. So it is our job as parents and mothers to guide them through the changes in their bodies." How do they imply that we, as parents, are supposed to do that? Through waxing, of course. They go so far as to claim that waxing can help prevent bullying at school: "The prevention of bullying in schools has taken center stage and waxing can be used to help. There is no reason for a young girl to feel embarrassed at PE or in the pool." So the natural changes that come with puberty are now embarrassing? Thanks for letting our girls know that. They then go on to say, "...we want to let young girls know that there is NOTHING to be embarrassed about." Well, there wasn't -- until you brought it up!
As controversial as this blog and their subsequent offer of 50% off for your first visit if you are a girl age 15 or under, this debate underscores a growing problem in American society: increasing pressure to be someone other than who we are. You know we've got an appearance problem as a nation when parents are gifting their teenage daughters boob jobs as a high school graduation present.
So let's recap. Girls are entering puberty at younger and younger ages and scared because they already know they're not thin enough. Then, as their secondary sex characteristics develop, they get the message that those nasty little hairs have got to go. On the plus side, their breasts are growing -- but apparently not enough. Need to artificially enhance those. No wonder body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem are rampant in girls and women! They are constantly being bombarded with societal pressure to change their appearance. But wait! Even when they do make a small change, it's still not enough. It's a never-ending cycle. More weight loss. More plastic surgery. More waxing. More new fashionable clothing to match the latest styles.
All that "more" makes me want to scream, "LESS!" Less media. Less pressure. Less unhappiness with who we are. In an effort to decrease the pressure her teenage daughters were feeling by watching shows like America's Next Top Model, one of my friends instituted a media ban. Her daughters are only allowed to watch TV on weekends with their mother -- and it has to be TV and Netflix shows that they all agree on. She also limits their time online and doesn't buy them magazines. Can she control everything they are exposed to? Of course not. But by trying to send the right message at home, she's hoping that it will translate to happier girls who don't feel threatened by societal pressure. She started her media ban several years ago and so far, it's working. Her girls are healthy and happy. They know how to stand up for themselves and know that the images they are getting bombarded with aren't even real. If you've never watched Dove's clip on the making of a magazine cover, now's the time (and make sure your daughters and sons see this).
The really good news? It's starting to work. A group of young girls recently elicited a promise from Seventeen magazine to stop altering their images. On Wednesday, they went after Teen Vogue. Bravo, ladies!
Will that solve the problem? No. But hopefully it will ignite a growing awareness of exactly what the media is doing to the images we see and how it affects our kids. That's where you come in. Talk to your kids about body image and media alterations. Let them know that they are okay just as they are.
You know what that means though, right? You have to be okay with who you are. As a friend of mine once put it, "So telling my daughter that weight doesn't matter while she sees me berating myself as I step on the scale every morning probably isn't good parenting, right?" Bingo. Stop beating yourself up. Get comfortable with who you are. You are the role models for the next generation. Even if you don't have kids, every time you see one, know that he or she is looking to you for guidance. And as we all know, teens don't listen to a word we say, but they do pay attention to what we do. It's that old adage: Actions Speak Louder than Words. It's still true. So give yourself a hug, tell yourself, "I love you," don't be afraid to be who you are and make sure you show off that wonderful person to the world. The next generation is counting on you.