Securing a positive body image isn't the easiest when you're an adult, but it seems as though children intrinsically value and love their bodies. For example, my kid is 3 and loves his body. He’s curious about it, yes, but he uses it without a second thought; running, jumping, sliding, crawling, and climbing sans a care in the world. He calls his face, feet, and even his butt "beautiful, beautiful." It’s great. Which is why, as a feminist mom, there are things I refuse to say about body image to my child, or any other child, for that matter. Because the last thing I want to do is contribute to the toxic culture that beats a positive body image out of us by the time we hit middle school.
It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin. As a child, I hated my belly, my hair, and my teeth. Sometimes I felt too thin, and other times I felt too fat. And when I started hitting puberty and my body hair started to grow, I thought every little strand and stubble was truly repulsive. My mother wouldn't allow me to shave, either, so I carried around an incredible amount of shame. I also felt too “ethnic.” Even though I lived in a predominately Latinx neighborhood, there was still a “Strive To Be White” attitude, especially in terms of hair (and mind was coarse, black, frizzy, and a mix of waves and curls).
Honestly, and sadly, I couldn’t even begin to cover all the ways I hated my body as a young adult, but to be frank, it was hard as hell to develop a positive body image as I navigated the changes my body was experiencing and the messages our society was sending me when it came to what was considered "attractive" and what wasn't. That’s why I’m more committed than ever to instill a foundation of body positivity in my own son, and hope to be a good example to any other kids in my life, like my nieces and nephews.
“I Need To Go On A Diet”
Really, any diet speak is verboten. Which is tough, because I do struggle with my desire to fit into smaller jeans. But I know diet isn’t a fix for everything. Proper nutrition and adequate exercise is what I need to feel my best, and that’s what I try to focus on rather than starving myself or quitting carbs altogether.
“Some People Should Cover Up More”
I must admit that, yes, sometimes I have to bite my tongue when a joke regarding the number of speedos I see at the beach creeps up my throat. But overall, I try not to comment on other people’s clothing, especially when it could be considered slut-shaming or fat-shaming. Everyone should get to wear what they feel comfortable wearing. Everyone deserves to put on clothes that make them happy.
“Girls Need To Shame Their Legs And Armpits”
I shave my legs and I shave my armpits. Then again, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I let my hair grow out a bit and then, when I feel like it, I shave later on. I want my son (and other kids) to understand this how you groom your body hair is a personal choice. It's no one's business, it's not indicitive of someone's overall lifestyle, and it's not a big deal. Technically, we are meant to have body hair, and we’re all beautiful no matter what our legs or pits look like.
“They Are Just Way Too Skinny”
Thin-shaming isn’t cool. In fact, and this should be a surprise to no one, any kind of body shaming isn't cool. Telling someone they need to “eat a sandwich” or gain weight or whatever is uncalled for.
“No One Wants To See Cellulite”
We don’t talk much about cellulite in our society. It’s this, like, weird shameful thing that almost everyone has, which makes the shame and judgment not only unnecessary and cruel, but ridiculous. Same thing goes for stretch marks or scars or anything else related to the skin. We shouldn’t have to hide our bodies because stretch marks and cellulite are airbrushed out of pictures plastered on billboards.
“People Are Only Attracted To Fit Guys Or Thin, Pretty Girls”
Our culture loves to push the narrative that people are only attracted to certain types of other people, with a specific type of body. Not only is that message inaccurate, it's dangerous.
Sure, we all have our preferences, but we also have to keep in mind why we do. And as feminist moms, we need to present to our children the idea that all bodies can be beautiful and attractive, and that we’re all deserving of love and respect, regardless of whether or not we fall into what has arbitrarily been deemed "conventionally beautiful." No one needs to believe that they have to look a certain way in order to receive love and respect. We need to teach our kids to hold their heads up high, and find the beauty in themselves.
“If You Don't Like A Part Of Your Body You Can Just 'Fix' It”
If you believe your ears are “too big” or your lips are “too thin” or whatever other silly belief someone has thrown your way, and that belief becomes something you can’t stop thinking about, the problem is not with you. It’s with whoever said that to you. We have to encourage children to rise above the notion that just because they don't look like an airbrushed picture in a magazine, something is fundamentally "wrong" with them. And while plastic surgery is an option for adults, and they're free to make whatever decisions they believe are best for them, children don’t need to be asking mom for a nose job like I did when I was 13. Fortunately, my mother declined my request.
“She Shows Off Her Body For Attention”
When I was a teenager, I used to get jealous of girls with big breasts (since I didn’t have much to show off, and for some reason, in my mind, breasts were for showing off to the world). I have encountered many people in my life who see a large chested woman wearing a t-shirt or a tank top and act as though the woman is being disrespectful. How dare she show some cleavage. How dare her shirt be tighter on her body than it would be on someone else's.
But why? Why do we get so uncomfortable? Why do we feel this is something to shame people for? As a feminist mom, I know I need to check that attitude at the door and make sure my kid doesn’t feel that way, too.
“They Need To Do Something About Their Hair”
Let’s face it. When people make rude comments about hair, it’s almost always about the hair on a person of color. We commend people for getting blowouts or mastering some super secret French Braid. But cornrows and afros and the like often get heavily scrutinized, called unprofessional, or worse. Feminist moms raise children to be proud of their hair, and to be accepting and appreciative of how others wear their natural hair, too.
“Tattoos And Piercings Make People Look Cheap”
I know this sounds very 1955, but there are still people who believe that things like tattoos and piercings are only for “lower class” folks. They think that these body modifications make people look like “thugs” or “criminals” or that they make them look “cheap.”
In reality, body modifications have been around for centuries, and have often been used to denote everything from status to a religious practice to simple decoration. And let’s face it, many feminist moms have plenty of body modifications that they're more than happy to rock with pride.
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