By Melissa Atkins Wardy
WeNews guest author
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Our culture teaches our girls to be a hot body first and a mind second, says Melissa Atkins Wardy in this excerpt from "Redefining Girly." Here are her suggestions for breaking the mold.
Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr, under Creative Commons
(WOMENSENEWS)-- If we are honest about it, our culture values and judges women and girls based on the level of attractiveness of their bodies. It is a time-honored tradition that too few women are rebuking and teaching their daughters to reject as well.
It is a tradition that sets women up for failure and inhibits our daughters from loving themselves and taking pride in who they are, as they are. In the age of obesity, eating disorders, omnipresent marketing, Photoshop and celebrity worship, we parents need to begin to create some new traditions for our daughters that include body confidence, acceptance, a little reality and healthful messages.
Our culture teaches our girls to be a hot body first and a mind second (or not at all). The definition of what is an acceptable body is often so narrow that it is generally unachievable for most of the population. There is so much emphasis put on being seen as attractive and desirable, usually to the exclusion of all other things, that girls internalize these values, and we are seeing it take an emotional and psychological toll on them. These girls become young women who become mothers, and the cycle continues. The mothers become grandmothers, yet, despite what should be wisdom in years, the cycle continues.
We must break this cycle. The population with the fastest-growing rate of eating disorders, aside from children under 12 years old, is the elderly. From cradle to grave, it would seem, women are conditioned never to love our bodies. Really, is that any way to live? Are we really accepting that half of the population should be unhappy in their skin?
The No. 1 gift a mother can give her daughter is a positive self-image in the face of rampant cultural stereotypes and media sexualization. How your daughter feels about herself will impact everything she does, every decision she makes. Dads play a big role too. Whatever your family makeup is, let's decide here and now that with us, it starts to change.
Here are some effective general actions we can take no matter our child's age to support positive body image in our daughters, as well as more strategies by age range.
Provide clothes for your daughter that allow her to play and move. I hear from so many teachers and coaches that girls today do not know how to take up space with their bodies or fully use the range of their bodies because they are restricted by tight or revealing clothing, inappropriate footwear and self-consciousness.
If your daughter is little, realize that most of the young adult apparel is simply age-compressed down into the girls' department; those styles aren't really designed for a growing and playing child's body. Find clothing that is appropriate for the demands of an active childhood. While department stores and big box shops are usually the biggest offenders when it comes to inappropriate girls' clothing, smaller or specialty retailers including Hanna Andersson, L.L.Bean, Lands' End, Carter's and Crazy 8 routinely offer durable and attractive play clothes.
If your daughter is older, help her make apparel choices that reflect the personal brand you want her to project, meaning: who she is, what she stands for and how she values herself. And give her the space to make a bad choice every now and then; it teaches her that she has agency over her body.
Excerpted with permission from "Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween" by Melissa Atkins Wardy. Published by Chicago Review Press, January 2014. Available via ChicagoReviewPress.com, Amazon.com, BN.com, Indiebound, and wherever books are sold.
Melissa Atkins Wardy is the founder of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that sells empowering and inspirational children's apparel and products, and runs a blog of the same name focused on gender stereotypes and sexualization in childhood. She is also the cofounder of The Brave Girls Alliance, a gender equality think tank and advocacy group dedicated to communicating with and influencing media, corporations and retailers. She has appeared on CNN and FOX News and in the Boston Globe, New York Daily News, Huffington Post, the Ms. Magazine blog and Today.com.
Buy the Book, "Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween":
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