Greenwood Health Kick: Girls Look Beyond Body Image
Writer & Photographer / Alicia Wettrick
Have you ever gone out of the house without your makeup on and been asked things like, “Are you not feeling well today?” or “You look tired today”? I have! Then I feel embarrassed that somehow I’m “offending” others with my makeup-free face. Wait. That is ridiculous. Why do I feel embarrassed?
The female body image (pretty and thin) is ubiquitous throughout our culture. Women feel pressured by media and peers to keep up with the latest style, make-up, hair and thinness. Unfortunately, we listen to them, and it starts young.
Girl Body Image Stats/Facts
• 50%-88% feel negative about their body.
• 58% want to lose weight.
• 55% report participating in vomiting, laxatives, diet pills, smoking and diuretics to lose weight.
• Girls rated “the way I look” as the most important indicator of self-worth while boys rated abilities most important.
• Body image conflicts lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.
Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?
The above statistics have been increasing since the 1960s when Twiggy, an ultra-thin supermodel, became famous, setting off the thinness craze. And since then, there is now a plethora of products, pills and diets out there to make you prettier and thinner. Even toys and dolls, the most famous being Barbie, reflect this image.
Unfortunately, the media still seems to dictate what the female body shape and size should look like: small waist and hips, thin thighs with large breasts. In fact, girls who spent more time engaging in media such as movies, TV and music videos reported higher body dissatisfaction than girls who engage in less, so Hollywood definitely plays a role.
On the other hand, we have girl competition. Recent studies have revealed a girl’s “peers” may be more influential than “Hollywood.” Girl competition about appearance is a very prominent issue.
So is it the media (the “chicken”) or her peers (the “egg”)? For your daughter, it may be either or both, so it is very challenging for parents to cultivate a positive body image when peers and the media constantly scrutinize her appearance.
Words of Wisdom from Inspiring Women
Amy Jo Clark aka “Daisy” from the WIBC radio show “Chicks on the Right” has noted that unlike male-hosted political talk shows, her and “Mock” (her radio co-hostess) are frequently attacked on the Internet for their appearances in hopes to destroy their confidences, but these people do not shake her.
“It is better to be smart than to be beautiful. It is better to be funny than pretty.” Amy goes on to say, “The body is a shell for your soul. The soul is what matters.”
She is also a parent and feels the key to helping her daughter have a positive body image is communication. Conversations about having a good character and how you treat others are what is important.
DeVyn Barker, a Greenwood High School graduate and college softball player, at one time owned a fitness gym for young girls in Indianapolis. She worked with them on physical training to improve athletic skills and fitness. DeVyn was shocked when listening to her young clients talk about their bodies.
“I’m having as young as 8 and 9-year-old girls tell me they want to train with me to be skinny,” she said. “No, I will not make you ‘skinny.’ I will teach you a healthy lifestyle in which to live by. I will teach you strength in women is admirable physically and emotionally. Shame on this world that has made the visual appearance all these girls see! There is beauty in good character, kindness and passionate hearts. … Compliment her character as her true beauty!”
Three Tips: Listen, Talk, Resources
1) Listen to girls carefully. Notice the clues. If they ask about weight loss methods, a diet their friend is on or make a subtle negative comment about their body, those are good hints. Seize that time to discuss healthy weight, peers and media influences.
2) Talk often to your girls about body image and ask questions. A good way to start is to ask if their friends are concerned about their weight or shapes and if they can relate. Conversation is crucial for girls to create a positive body image.
3) Resources that are age-appropriate will help with body image issues. Books, the Internet (parental screening needed) and talking to a mentor or counselor are all good options.
Overall, I feel the image that girls are striving for is the fault of us women, not just media. We are the ones that participate. I am guilty of not feeling polished or fully presentable to the world unless my make-up is on.
Understanding a balance is best. Unfortunately, a young girl places her identity and meaning on a certain idea of being beautiful. This is stressful to many young girls. But I think women can change this ideal beauty girl culture by conversation and example.