My daughter, Sasha, is graduating high school next month. We are in the midst of prom dresses, graduation parties, and the future. It has been amazing watching my daughter become a young woman. Equally amazing has been seeing her friends step into their own, as well. I have known these girls since they were in kindergarten and have borne witness to their collective metamorphosis.
The journey of a girl becoming a woman is pretty extraordinary, full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. As a mother, you hold your daughter’s hand through it all, hoping that you have provided a strong foundation to allow her to become her best self.
Over the years I have tried to make sure that Sasha knows that her worth as a human being and as a woman has nothing to do with how she looks, but rather who she is. Sasha is a dancer and is very aware of her body. She quit ballet (that she had studied since age 4) after spending a summer with the Houston Ballet two years ago. The body shaming that went on was horrendous. My daughter was 15 at the time. She came back and told me that she didn’t like the way ballet made her feel about her body. She decided that contemporary dance suited her better. She stood up to the body-shaming.
I feel so protective of young girls and what they are subjected to in terms of body and looks; for my daughter, for her friends, and for girls everywhere.
Last week, Discovery Girls, a magazine aimed at girls ages 8 to 13, came under an intense backlash for an article they published, “Which Swimsuit Best Suits You?” In the article, the suggested swimsuits are broken down by body type, with subheads such as “if you’re rounder in the middle” and “if you’re straight up and down,” advising girls to cover their bodies if they’re ‘too curvy,’ with ‘a bra-like top to offer extra support’ and ‘side ties and cut-outs to draw the eyes down.’
Are you kidding me? And it absolutely creeps me out that someone actually wrote, “…with side ties and cut-outs to draw the eyes down.” Count me in. I’m part of the backlash.
One of the statistics that I site in my show is that ‘by age 17 the average American girl has seen more than 250,000 commercial messages aimed at shaping her appearance.’
The only way we can change this is to be a part of the backlash and speak up. It was not okay for my daughter to be body-shamed at Houston Ballet as a 15-year-old girl. She spoke up. Teach your daughters to do the same.
I want to live in a world where girls and women are honored and celebrated for being themselves. Because that is beautiful.
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