It broke my heart yesterday to watch my gorgeous, fit and shapely daughter look at herself sideways in the mirror the other day and say she needed Spanx because her stomach sticks out too much.
I know it is likely a fleeting teen anxiety because normally she thinks she looks great. And she has been raised on heaps of feminist pro-body image language from me, her father, New Moon magazine and Ms. to mention a few.
She and her closest friends are all pretty clear about their unique beauty; they regularly remark how awesome they are. And they know how the media manipulates women and girls perceptions about their bodies. Not to mention airbrushing. They are savvy kids.
But negative body image still manages to infect like airborne virus.
Why should a 13-year-old girl think she needs Spanx? Which, by the way, is an irritatingly coy, vaguely S & M name for a freakin’ girdle. All mother subjectivity aside, this kid has a washboard stomach and so little body fat that she can’t float in water.
But her stomach is not flat or concave and if she has anything snug on it bothers her. It bothers me that her head goes there at all.
I don’t think she is in any danger of an eating disorder or long-term damage to her self-esteem, but it pisses me off that we never seem to get past this manufactured idea of beauty. Has the progress of feminism been reduced to a right to openly embrace the fact that you wear Spanx, a la Oprah?
I have always been a “lipstick feminist” meaning I didn’t think the dress up bits of being a girl should only belong to Schlafly’s and the transvestites. But maybe that’s a mixed message. Without throwing my hands in the air and shouting “Where did I go wrong!” I think I need to reconsider what my choices are saying to my kid.
I feel crappy about how I look on at least a daily basis. How about you?
I don’t think this is a “do as I say, not as I do” moment.