Never Tell a Girl

Mashable.com put this photo as one of their “Photo’s of the Week” and I wanted to spend a little time writing my own little PSA on the topic. It’s something that I feel strongly about.

This was a social media topic of discussion this week as a Twitter user (who  has over 40K followers) released this photo with a caption that read: “Never tell a girl she is ugly/fat, this is what happens.”

One of the reasons I got into Women and Gender Studies at Buff State was because I wanted to dive deeper into the recesses of what happens when women get to this point and the socioeconomic and cultural forces that lead a girl to devalue herself for the sake of a socially perpetuated standard of beauty and value.

As women, and as young girls, we’ve grown up to have a complex relationship with food, fitness, and our conceptualization of what it means/takes to be beautiful. Too often I hear of women of all backgrounds wanting to do what it takes to be “skinny,” though it means different things for each of us individually. I hear about these cleanses, diets, and rituals that is supposed to jump start a weight loss that will eventually get us to that desired skinniness. The fact that we use a word like “skinny” as a measure makes me sad.

Some women still don’t understand that lifting-weights does not create Hulk-muscles and refuse to lift 10+ pounds for fear of it. Running for an hour burns calories sure, but it doesn’t help maintain the figure you want in the long haul.

As for the aforementioned picture and the condition that it represents, it’s an extreme that makes me incredibly sad for women and men alike. The psychological issues that happen to create such a condition that devours one from within. Food is beautiful and it is life-sustaining. I’ve had my battles with food, I would say I’m addicted to certain processed and non-processed food, but I’ve never entirely dismissed it as an answer to my weight concerns.

I can’t say I can understand what someone with anorexia goes through. I may not have the healthiest relationship with food in life, but I’ve always had one. I couldn’t imagine not having one at all. I’ve come to learn the benefits of certain foods. I couldn’t imagine not being able to roast a pan of vegetables a week, pasta after a long workout, or even a couple of animal-shaped chicken nuggets on the weekend.

But just because I don’t understand doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn how to combat the social pressures that kids go through. I intend to have my own children some day and I would prefer to have a girl. I hope that this is something she never goes through and I’m doing what I can now that may help to build a foundation of self-esteem for my offspring.

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4 thoughts on “Never Tell a Girl

  1. “One of the reasons I got into Women and Gender Studies at Buff State was because I wanted to dive deeper into the recesses of what happens when women get to this point and the socioeconomic and cultural forces that lead a girl to devalue herself for the sake of a socially perpetuated standard of beauty and value.”

    In my opinion (and as someone who does have an eating disorder) the answer to this is pretty simple – socially accepted standards of beauty have nothing to do with it. Beauty has nothing to do with it. There isn’t a simple answer as to WHY people get eating disorders, but I can tell you I was never called fat. I didn’t even desire to be thinner or look better.

    • And I’m sure that happens. Eating disorders go way beyond just my explanation above. However, I have seen it the way I described. I have seen these issues occur because of the standards of beauty. That’s what I’m focusing on. It’s a shame that the media can have such an effect on people who might otherwise have a healthy relationship with food. I can’t begin to understand the other psychological reasons for having an eating disorder and I don’t pretend to know. Desire for thinness is the only angle I’m talking about here, though I see where you’d feel the need to express your side. I don’t dismiss it. Thanks 🙂

    • I agree wholeheartedly. There is a widespread belief that body image issues and dieting are synonymous with eating disorders, and that therefore the same things that trigger the first trigger the second. While I agree that societal messages may create unhappiness and insecurity and therefore are conerning, I do NOT believe beauty standards or diet talk have anything significant to do with the development of eating disorders (which have existed for millenia). If you’re interested, I’ve written a post attempting to explain this: http://catherineofsiena.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/the-beauty-myth/

      • I appreciate the link. It was well-written and informative. I may have jumped the gun on inextricably linking the two things together but my message on a healthy relationship with food (though now not just meaning an eating disorder) stands. My issue is with women not battling these precarious illnesses but are still thwarted by society and its damands of perfection. Though I won’t edit my post, I’ll agree that eating disorders and the diet culture are not mutually exclusive and that eating disorders extend beyond the reaches of Hollywood produced beauty.

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