Tuesday 10 February 2015

Mixed Signals Are Dangerous Things For Our Girls

"I'm bringin' booty baa-aaak!  Go on and tell the skinny bitches that!" ~Meghan Trainor, "All About That Bass".

Watch the video HERE .... bet you can't sit still.

My awesome 11 year old niece Madelyn showed me this song and video a while ago, and I'm still humming it in my head.  I wake up hearing it.  I sing it all day.  I love it.

What's strange though, is that as funky, cool, and dancable as this tune is, it still brings out the tears in me.  Right at that part where she sings,

"Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size.
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night".

It could be the harmonies.  That gets me every time.  But I think it's more that my mama said the same things to me when I was little.  My mama always made us feel perfect from the bottom to the top.  She fed us so well from the garden out back and helped us to educate ourselves about all things girl.  I recall when I started playing hockey at about 11.  I was expected to change in the same room with the boys.  When I protested, my mama said,

"Oh Dianna ... get in there ... you show more off when you're at the beach for heaven's sakes."

She was right.  The boys only cared that I could skate.

So why did I have such poor body image for so long?  I used to get teased in elementary school .. teases I would pretend not to hear.  One certain boy in a grade above me named Timmy called me Tank and all the other boys would laugh.  Even though I could skate faster than most of them.

Later in high school, I rarely ate in the cafeteria.  When I did, I'd plan my bites, my chews, my napkin wipes just so because I felt like someone would tell me I was too fat to eat.  I know ... crazy really ... considering I wasn't overweight.

There is something else that factored in to my self image.  Something that factors in even more profoundly today with our young girls and boys.  Everywhere we look we see hyper sexualized images of women that all look similar.  If the advertisement is for a clothing line, the models will look anemic, anorexic, and ready to fall down.  Just look at these models from Joe clothing ... the unethical Lobl@ws brand made in Bangledesh by starving women and children in deplorable conditions.  If the camera adds ten pounds, then these are what ... size 0 ?   Why?  How many adolescent girls are a size 0?

I grew up hating my body.  I had an image in my mind of how I was supposed to look.  And I didn't.
I grew up hating my breasts.  They didn't look right.
I disliked my hands, my profile, every part of me.
On television and in movies I saw some image that instilled in me this idea of what a desirable body looked like; mine was not it.  Who cares what that image was.  She's dead to me.  At 41, I'm actually beginning to like my body for the first time ever.  But this issue is still very much alive for me.  Remember my niece?  Well she and I watched the "All About That Bass" video and afterwards, I was mortified to learn who else she knows about.  So many other young women who are saying one thing and showing another.  So many who look IDENTICAL in body image.  I mean, even if they did start out a normal size, so many women are influenced by people like Kesha's manager who basically gave her an eating disorder to the point of having to go to treatment!  And now ... Kesha looks just like all of the others.

The others that are thin.

This week, Sports Illustrated is in the news because for the first time in it's history of swimsuit issues, it's featuring a plus-sized model.  The model's name is Ashley Graham and truthfully, she can handle anything.  It seems, her mama instilled a very healthy and realistic self esteem in Ashley.

All in all, what I see though is that even Mama's love and guidance can be trumped by outside forces that tell girls that they don't look right.  And even when there are a million songs and songstresses telling us to love our awesome selves, there will still be those outside influences.

Is it too much to ask that those change too?

Why is it that runway models are so god-damned thin?  Can we change that?
Why is it that children's clothing models are so thin?  Can we change that?

Right now we have words telling us one thing;  and images telling us another.  Mixed signals just make an already confusing time, even more stressful.

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