Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Legacy I Want to Leave Behind

I'm fortunate to have both a daughter and a son. What this also means is that I also get to battle all kinds of dumb messages about gender roles and crappy societal ideas. The messages my son will grow up hearing one day to "be a man" or "act like a man" sicken me and I'll save that for next week's post. Today I want to talk about my daughter and the garbage that all of our girls are forced to stomach everyday starting at an age when they can't decipher what is truth and what is complete shit. This isn't a scare tactic or some made up ghost story, like all of those years people wasted, pretending Global Warming wasn't a real threat. This, like Global Warming, exists, and it's dangerous. So, whether you have a daughter or not is besides the point. This is important for all of us to know, so listen.

We are in jeopardy of creating a world full of girls that believe their only worth comes from pretty faces and skinny waists found somewhere in between glossy pages and the perfect selfies. 

At a very young age, girls are shown what "pretty" is in small, subtle ways. While I applaud Disney for making princesses of different ethnicities with some strong personality traits (Belle, an avid reader; Mulan, a brave warrior; Merida, an adventurous spirit) I have still yet to see a princess that is flat-chested or built with large hips. They may all be different in character but their common thread is that they're all super hot. (Hello, 16-year-old Ariel with sea shell boobies!) Even Husband has noticed the sexier cartoons when he recently asked me about an episode of the new My Little Pony. "Is it me, or are those ponies more sexualized than they used to be?" He was right, folks, the newer versions of this 80's remake are slimmer, taller, and more chiseled. And I'm talking about horses. My Little Pony, back in the day, actually looked like horses (crazy, I know) and now...? Their legs - taller and more toned, their faces - higher cheekbones, their necks - elongated. These ponies are, dare I say, sexier? A pony? Don't tell me you don't see a difference.
Is that pony making a sexy face?
But it isn't just cartoons. In real life, girls are shown that to be beautiful means to be airbrushed and painted. They will shop at stores where to be thin means to be a 000 - and no that wasn't a typo or an extra zero added to a James Bond film... it is now a real size according to J.Crew.

Pause. Deep breath.

Are you effing serious?!?! What in the hell is that? Technically, doesn't a zero on it's own mean nothing, so wouldn't 000 be even less than nothing. So what we're saying is that a person wearing a triple zero is wearing a size smaller than nothing? Like a negative? This is a thing now? An XXXS is a thing? I'm not sure about you but a size less than a real number sounds super unhealthy to me, but ok. Just wanted to make sure I had that straight, that size 0 girls are now also too big. Great. Welcome to a world where anything above 000 is large.

But here is where I want to stop pointing fingers at cartoons and chain stores and start taking some personal responsibility. Where do we, as women, fit into what our girls think about themselves? Do we create or add to some of the messages our girls hear?

I am a size 10-12 or in Europe a size 32 or in the alphabet an "L" - that stands for Large - and while I'm not afraid to admit it because those words don't bother me, I'd also have to admit that I've talked about my belly in front of my kid, heck I've written about it. In jest, yes, but does my kid know the difference; does the little girl standing behind me in the grocery store know the difference? Probably not since neither of them speak sarcasm either. So I have to ask: is that what I want them to think, that this beautiful stomach is a source of shame? That I'm not proud of everything this stomach can do, has done, and continues to do for me? That they shouldn't be proud of their perfect, little bellies? Is that the beauty legacy I'm leaving behind?

How we choose to think about ourselves is how we show younger girls to think about themselves.

Let's choose, then, to see ourselves pretty and glow at the capacity of our arms and talk about how they help us to carry children, swing across monkey bars, or help kick ass at volleyball instead of knocking how scrawny they are. And let's be proud of our powerful thighs that climb stairs, ride bikes, and anchor into a sand struggle of tug o' war. We could hate our teeth for being crooked or too pointy or not perfectly aligned or love them for being part of the smile that welcomes people into our presence.

Our bodies are much more than just aesthetically pleasing. They are incredible machines and not just fancy vehicles whose beauty is found in its parts. If we reflected on all our bodies can do and how our fingers interlock with others' fingers to hold the hands of our lovers or our babies and how our toes help us grip the ground when the floor is wet or how our feet are the oldest form of transportation -and if we remembered that our tongue with its 10,000 tastebuds let's us taste bacon or that our hair is an extension of our nervous system and can warn us of danger (hence the phrase the hairs on my neck stood up) we'd remember the one time that John Mayer had something non-douchey to say and we would agree. Yes, my body IS a wonderland. 

So here's the bottom line: we could put all of the blame on media or society for their lousy ideas of beauty but they only put on the table what we eat up. This means that we have to own some of the responsibility, we have to stop picking up the unhealthy crap they make so that they'll give us healthier solutions. Otherwise we relinquish our power and minimize ourselves to excuses: It's all their fault. There is nothing I can do. Media is everywhere. It's too powerful. 

But we, too, are powerful.
So are our bodies.

And that is the legacy I want to leave behind.

Inspired by Dove and #That'sWhatSheSaidLinkUp

Picture Credits:
Elise Dicharry - Magazine cover
miss_flynn - Old Version
Cecilia Teodorima Marquez - New Version


  1. Oh man where do I start….
    I agree with everything you wrote here. I get mad at myself for falling into the fitting in trap, I'm a walking hypocrite, because while I ask for change, sometimes I succumb to the glitz of it all.

    I'm 98% mindful of the words and images I share with my girls, and my boy. I try to keep positive in regard to myself when they are around, although sometimes I want to cry off my muffin top in front of them, I don't.

    Have you seen the new Strawberry Shortcake? :::SHAKES HEAD:::
    However, like you said, all blame does not fall on the laps of media and corporations peddling "beauty" but on ourselves as well.

    My husband and I were listening to the radio, and the MEN were speaking about LADIES wanting to be equal and didn't like to be put in roles… then he read titles in "women's" magazines: "How To Turn HIM On" "Make Your Family Happy with this Slow Cooker Meal" "Look Beautiful" "Clean Your House in Less Than 20" "How to Loose Your Baby Weight" "Give HIM the best ___", and I thought… does he have a point? Does he?
    Anyway, now that I've written a novel, I loved your post and I'm SO happy you shared it with us at That's What She Said! Thank you! I hope to see you back next month.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I like you tend to write my own novel comment when something touches me and it feels good to see that this post made you think and feel something. I'm also in the 98% group, trying not to be manipulated while knowing that sometimes I'm being manipulated and being fine wit that but it's one thing to be an adult and know I'm being manipulated and quite another for kids who don't know. They are so fragile and influenced so easily sometimes and while i know i can't always protect them, I can teach them to be confident and brave and know that beauty "standards" are crap. Anyway, now that I've written a novel, thanks again for reading and commenting and thanks for sharing #thatswhatshesaid - a blog link up that is empowering women by recognizing them.

  2. Great post! Now this is food for thought--a society that creates sexy ponies...it's quite sad really.


    1. right, Jessica? sexy ponies and and "beauty" magazines that only talk about injections, and implants and miracle products? Miracle products? Like I need a miracle to be beautiful? Is that what they're saying? It is very, very sad.


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