Saturday, December 20

Jessica Alba or Jessica Rabbit?

I don't want my daughter to struggle with food like I did.

Why those in the business think we want to look like Jessica rabbit is beyond me. These pics have been leaked out for Jessica Alba's Campari contract. She looks just fine and fabulous in the original shot. She has a FIVE month old baby!


As I'm raising a daughter, this is a very important issue for me. The images girls saw when I was growing up were difficult enough to emulate, but today they are truly impossible as so many are digitally reworked. I want my daughter to grow up not only confident in her skin, but also media aware.

If you're the mother of girl/s, do you have any tips for me? If you're the mother of boys, do you/will you, talk to them about how women are portrayed?

Growing up, I never spoke to my mother about body image, and like other children, so many upsets or concerns were kept to oneself - you just don't think it's something to talk about. But I was lucky that at least in my childhood I was comfortable in my own skin, despite not being particulalry pretty or slim, compared to other girls in my school.

But after 15, I struggled. It all started when a boyfriend mentioned how wonderful a particular singer was because she had lost all her weight. I had thought she was beautiful before. He was hinting at my weight. And let me tell you, I was not over-weight at all, just not very slim. I was average.

And then I started to notice all these women that before had been from another world and therefore irrelevant to me. Because now there was a self-image connection, and now I was entering an age were I could identify with them that little bit more.

Today, there are more celebrities under 21 than when I was growing up. Really young girls who are not only pretty, but often glammed up to look older on occassion.

It has taken me years, heck, a couple of decades, to be at a place where food doesn't rule my life, but every day is a healing day. There was a time I hated my body, hated myself. If I can spare my daughter from that, I will.


  1. We have worked hard on this issue with our dd to ensure she has a balanced and healthy perspective. We've made a conscious effort from the beginning to point out beauty to her in all its forms - luscious, slender, old, browned, unusual, unique, useful - but most especially inner beauty. We wanted her to look at a person's soul as expressed through their outer form, rather than simply what their body looked like.

    The fact she's been homeschooled all through has helped hugely. She's been kept out of pop culture which sees even little girls becoming anorexic these days. She's learned to accept and appreciate being "different". We discuss media portrayals of women. We have kept the whole issue on the conscious level from the beginning. I hope when she is grown up it will be only natural to her to not care about how someone looks but about who they are.

    I think this is perhaps one thing I've actually got right with my mothering!

  2. I'm sorry, I forgot to say that I'm glad you've reconciled with your body, at least to the point where you no longer hate it. May I ask, did you find pregnancy motherhood helped in that healing process?

    Also, the blog looks so lovely!

  3. One of main parenting tenets has been based around this entire subject. From her infancy I was determined to raise her in a manner that exuded a good body image. It started with my choice to NEVER model negative self image to her. So, I had to love myself. I was never compelled to say do I look fat/sexy blah blah blah. I orchestrated conversations on marketing hype as it relates to many things but image most def. I constantly talked to her about the importance of beauty from within, and not relying on what others thought of her for her self worth. I too minimized the impact of negative media images. Talked about fake this or that. I am grateful to say that now that she is 13 I am confident she has her head in the right place, she tells me that occasionaly she dislikes this or that about her appearance but can quickly go back to it being no big deal with out any prompting. Much to my chagrin though, she is quick to throw the 'you've raised me to not care about what others think... so how come I cant wear my pajama pants to the mall?' - aaah, teens. LOL! Yes, my son gets included in the same conversations.

  4. Thank you Sarah for your kind words.
    As for the daughter thing. I had considered that homeschooling must play a positive part in being part of what medi she's hit with. I don't homeschooling to be about sheltering her though. But I do like that whatever is thrown at her there's a good chance I won't be too far off and therefore available for chatting.

    >May I ask, did you find pregnancy motherhood helped in that healing process?
    perhaps subconsciously, but I think it's been a process over many years. I do think on some level I am aware of how what I do will affect her. Including how I deal with food or my body.

    Trina - how do we keep this issue out there on a deliberate level without making it too muc of an issue? Or don't we have a choice in this society. It IS an issue so we have to be constantly on it?
    LOL at the pajama question. Yes, no matter what we teach them, it'll come back to bite us in the ass.

  5. I often hear the concern that I am sheltering my dd by homeschooling her. And its true in some ways I do shelter her from some things, as I believe children should get to enjoy an innocent and carefree childhood for as long as possible. But what I meant about homeschooling in terms of this discussion is that it takes a child out of the mainstream culture and allows them to shape their personal identity based on who they are, not what other people think they should be. Which is why almost all the homeschooled children I know (except those who have been to school for quite a while beforehand) are really unique and generally happy people.

  6. "it takes a child out of the mainstream culture and allows them to shape their personal identity based on who they are, not what other people think they should be"


  7. Hi Mon, hoping I am answering the question you asked.... Assuming you are meaning not looking like some kind of nazi to your kids or whathave you. the simple answer is YES. On that tactic, to me its about balance, I keep in mind what 'message' I am trying to send and look for ways to 'introduce' that arent overbearing. For me its a 'feel' for the right time to bring things up. I ask a lot of open ended quesitons. I started at a very early age to teach them to be critical of what they read and see/hear. I differ a bit on the topic of sheltering. Was all over it when they were little. (no TV, videos etc) As they progressed into the 6 to 8 range I moved (over time) in to very open/frank discussions/exposure about any topic in hopes they would be better informed, not shocked by whats out there, etc. Its too hard here to discuss all the nuances of such a philosophy. Suffice it to say that 'the machine' is all pervasive, and it's a conscious effort to 'combat' it. How was that for a ramble? LOL
    I do agree with Sarah P about letting kids shape their own identities - just would like to add that it is also possible to do with out homeschooling them. BTW, am a huge fan of homeschooling. Was lucky enough to find an alternative school in our area that fit.

  8. Well, I have to say that they appear to be completely different photos (look at her hair, eyes, the lighting, even her front leg is in a different position -- far too much to be airbrushed). That said, I'm sure a bustier, skinnier version was preferred.

    I'm not sure I want to even bring up body image with my kids directly, other than telling them how beautiful I think they are. I just think that's an "adult" concept that is foreign to their thinking. But I do point out lots of different kind of people whom I think are beautiful for various reasons. And more often than all that, I talk about other qualities than beauty -- like how strong they are, how graceful, how helpful and kind, etc. And I also gently point out what advertising is and why it exists. I try to keep them away from mainstream culture, though unfortunately they both know who Hannah Montana is...they've already been contaminated by the teeny-bopper virus! :-)

  9. Love the new look you've given your blog Mon!

    Now, I've had trouble commenting on your blog for a while (and a couple of others - only blogger blogs...), so I'll try again and see if this works. (Also, I have had a bit of a break from the blogworld).

    This is an issue that's hugely important to me. Girls and women are still so judged, scrutinised, and measured according to their appearance. I worry about my little girl, and some of the attitudes she's started coming home with that relate to body image. She's so clearly picking things up from older children and I'm alarmed.

    But it's not just school of course, it's the wider culture. And I can't shelter her from this as I did throughout her toddler years. We don't have commercial tv in the house, nor do I buy fashion magazines, but I think this is only a tiny aspect of the wider culture affecting us, in both subtle and non-subtle ways.

    Little girls are so often told that they are 'pretty' and 'beautiful'. I remember being told this so often as a child, and rather than making me feel good about myself, it made me feel self-conscious. I wanted to be seen in other ways. As an adolescent and young woman I often felt not taken seriously, and was constantly harassed by men. People in general made comments all the time about my appearance. I felt angry became very anxious about it all. My intellectual achievements didn't seem to matter as much in the world.

    With my daughter I use similar strategies to those Sarah and Trina mentioned. I also try to let my little girl know that I think she's kind, and thoughtful, creative and bright, rather than focus on her physicality. I'd also like her to be active and athletic and feel powerful in her body. That her body is something to respect and move through life in, and also enjoy. That it is not for other people to define and judge, and render her an object (of desire or otherwise).

    Anyway, that's another long comment from me!

    Happy Solstice too!

  10. Great comments, all making me think. There seems to be a balance there that I will need to find for myself.
    I'm not keen on the idea of making it an explicit issuewhen she is young, but think that at some point it needs to be because the issue is 'out there'.

    Anthromama - they ARE different photos. I should have mentioned that. It's the fact that her body is very different in each one. Look at her waist size and shape of her hips.

  11. I'm struggling with this one since my body image is still pretty poor (but getting better day by day). My LO is still very young and I have found I'm taking pretty much the same approach as the others who have commented because I do think it's a very important issue. At the moment it's still fairly relaxed. My LO thankfully has no interest in TV so doesn't get bombarded by the barbie culture out there like some of her young friends. I remind her every day how much I/ we love her just the way she is and praise all her good/ quirky/ unique qualities. I talk about other people much the same way. When she gets older I want have more direct conversations with her about looks and beauty, the media portrayal of beauty vs real beauty, the staging and air brushing that takes place, etc. At the moment it seems enough that she knows she is loved for who she is and no matter what. And building a trust so she isn't afraid to come to me with fears or insecurities if or when they arise.

  12. Carin - I think that last point is so vital, "building a trust so she isn't afraid to come to me with fears or insecurities if or when they arise."

    I also think it possible to establish a good foundation on this issue despite having personal struggles with our own self image. I think it comes down to being conscious of our struggles as well as how we behave because of them. if we're totally aware, then we can make choices that will better serve our LOs.

  13. I have really enjoyed reading this post and comments, there are so many wonderful points. As someone who has struggled with my self image at times I made a promise when my first child was born to do all that I could so she would not have to suffer these same things. The two major things that I wanted to do (which have already been mentioned) be confident for myself because modeling is so key and to provide insight to lots of kids of beauty. Honest open communication about marketing I think is great for children! A lesson they might as well learn early!

    So, I have two girls ages 13 and 11 and both are quite confident ... my 11 year old frequently says it doe snot matter what I wear, which brings us to some crazy outfits (I think someone comment about PJ's at the mall) we have some crazy ones but it is all her!!!

    Then I have three boys and YES they must learn too, the same things and even more --- if they are not shown then they will never learn and so we talk a lot about their image but also about how to see beauty in all people and things!

    Thanks for posting about this it is so important!

  14. When my daughter was 3 months old(!!) I purchased a book called 'Raising Ophelia' purely out of my consciousnes of raising a girl and not wanting her to go through any of what I went through. I know an aspect of my (many) past eating issues were symptomatic of inability to nurture myself, feed myself, and that was about the relationship I had with my mother (you know, the generic abandonment issues when a mother leaves their child!). I don't think you'll have any troubles there or it doesn't seem like you would have terribly negative relationship issues with your daughter. As to the part about our girls growing up surrounded by what is meant to be 'the right body', I don't know...but I'm sure self-esteem is a big part of it and peers who are confident in who they are (is that too much to wish for), converstaion about these issues as they arise. And the awareness of our bodies being these wonderful things to get us through our life, etc,etc...
    But I would recommend Raising Ophelia - Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher...and Marianne Williamson, a Woman's worth...
    So incredibly sad that girls these days (tweens) and younger are already self conscious of their bodies.


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