Why We Should Be Positive About Our Bodies – To Our Sons As Well As Our Daughters…

Article Originally posted here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rita-templeton/why-i-want-my-sons-to-see-me-naked_b_5797920.html

“I live with a houseful of boys: four, to be exact. But they’re still relatively young — so there are no nudie mags stashed between mattresses, no stealthily-accessed porn sites that someone forgot to erase out of the Internet history, nothing like that. As much as I’d love to think my kids won’t be curious, I’m well aware that won’t be the case: those things are looming and will probably start happening much sooner than I’d like. (I mean, if I had my druthers, they wouldn’t even think about sex until they were like 25.)

But before all that happens — before they’re exposed to boobs that are as round and firm as cantaloupes and pictures of taut, airbrushed, dimple-less butts — I’m exposing them to a different kind of female body.

Mine.

Ours is not a modest household. I don’t lounge around in the buff like my boys do (and I spend more time saying, “Put on some pants!” than anything else) — but I’ve never refrained from changing clothes in front of them, or leaving the door open when I shower, or nursing babies without a cover. Because I want them to see what a real female body looks like. Because if I don’t — and their first images of a naked woman are the impossibly perfect physiques in those magazines or those movies — what kind of expectations will they have? And what woman could ever live up to them?

Between you and me, I’m dismayed, big time, by my post-baby body. But for the sake of my boys — and my future daughters-in-law — I lie through my teeth. When they ask about my stretch marks, I tell them proudly how growing a baby is hard work, and that they’re like badges I’ve earned (gaming references always hit home with dudes, no matter what you’re explaining). As much as I’d like to cringe and shrink away when they touch my squishy belly, I let them squeeze my flab between their curious fingers. Do I hate it? Yes. I want to wail, “Leave my fat alone!” and run for the nearest oversized T-shirt (or, like, the nearest liposuction clinic).

But I don’t. Because for right now, for these few formative years, my flab is their one and only perception of the female body. And I want them to know that it’s beautiful, even in its imperfection.

2014-09-11-Templetons.jpg
I tell them how strong my body is. They see me work out. They see me make healthy food choices, but still indulge my love of baked goods. And though — like most women — I might inwardly beat myself up over my jeans getting too tight, or groan in frustration at the numbers on the scale, I’m never anything but proud of my body in front of my boys. Even when I feel the complete opposite inside. Instilling a positive body image is not an issue reserved for people with daughters — and for boys, it involves not only making them confident about their own bodies, but also letting them know that real is beautiful when it comes to the opposite sex.

I don’t want to do them, or any women they might happen to see naked in the future, the disservice of telling them that saggy boobs are bad or that a little bit of flab is something to be ashamed of. I want them to know that this is the norm, not the nipped-tucked-and-digitally-enhanced images they’re going to be bombarded with. Sure, they’ll gawk at those bouncy boobies and flat stomachs and perky butts… but I have hope that, deep down inside, they’ll know that isn’t the standard to which they should hold women’s bodies. Like, ever.

There will come a time when I cover up when they’re around. I’m sure at some point I’ll hear, “Ugh, Mom, put some clothes on!” or that they’ll learn to knock before barging into the bathroom (which sounds heavenly — I’m not gonna lie). But until then, I’ll let them run their fingers along my stretch marks, and grin and bear it when they squeal with delighted laughter at the way my butt jiggles when I walk across the room to grab a towel. Because while they’re young, I want to plant the seed — so that when they’re older, and their wives say, “I wish my thighs were smaller,” my sons can say, “They’re perfect just the way they are.”

And mean it.”

 

Our Body Image Is Not Our Kids’ Problem

Thought this might resonate with a few people.

Even women who aren’t bigger more often than not have hangups and reservations about their bodies. How often do we delete photos other people have taken of us (or refuse to look at them) because we don’t like what we see?

But perhaps we don’t see what the person taking the photo sees. Have a read:

Exposed by my children for what I really look like

Flipping through the pictures on my phone, I see it.

My first reaction is shock. Who took this hideous picture of me?

Self-loathing and disgust swell up and threaten to bring me to tears.

Just as I am about to hit delete, my boy walks in the room.

“Do you know anything about this picture?” I ask him.

I turn the screen so he can see it. He smiles huge.

“I took that of you in Tahoe,” he says. “You looked so beautiful laying there. I couldn’t help it mom.”

“You need to ask me before using my phone to take pictures,” I say.

“I know,” he says. “But mom, seriously, look how pretty you look?”

I look at the picture again and try to see what he sees.

My daughter walks over and takes a look.

“That could be a postcard mom,” she says smiling. “You’re so beautiful. I love it.”

I take a deep breath.

This is exactly what I needed.

My default mode is to see and focus on the flaws and imperfections. I’m starting to see a bit more.

I still see my dimply, fat thighs.

I also see a mom collapsed on the shore that just explored the lake for hours with her children.

I still see chubby arms.

I also see the arms of a mom that just helped her kids across the rocks and hot sand so their feet wouldn’t hurt.

I still see a fat woman wearing a black dress bathing suit to try to hide her weight issue.

I also see an adventurous mom that loves her children something fierce.

Like many women, I have struggled with my weight most of my life. It’s not something that will ever go away for me. I don’t have a naturally slim body. Never have.

Right now I’m the heaviest I’ve been in 10 years. Yet…

I have not let my weight stop me this time. I am wearing tank tops, sundresses and bathing suits in public. I’m running around playing with my kids this summer and I sometimes even feel attractive.

Yes. You heard me.

“I feel pretty. Oh so pretty. I feel pretty, and witty and bright.”

Well…not exactly. But something like that.

Is it because I’m getting older? Is it that I have more to worry about than just how I look? Or maybe it’s because my kids look at me with such adoring eyes.

Really, it doesn’t matter.

I don’t hate my body anymore.

That’s huge for me to admit and hard to even wrap my mind around.

I’m not giving up on exercising and getting healthy. Those are things I will continue to strive for because I want to be around awhile.

Right now though, I just want to love my body where it is. I want it to be OK to see myself the way my kids do.

Thank you kids.”

Read the original post at Bridgette Tales

 

The Plus-Size Barbie Controversy

So, ‘Plus Size Modeling’ started a campaign on Facebook – asking whether people think companies like Mattel should make plus-sized versions of dolls like Barbie.

Of course, it’s a publicity stunt. But a publicity stunt that 40,000 people ‘liked’, and which has garnered a considerable amount of press, especially in the US.

The image used was nothing new – it was actually the winning entry to a 2011 Worth1000.com photoshop competition to digitally ‘fatten up’ celebrities. Funnily enough, the photo has been mistakenly attributed to Mattel, with some people thinking that there are plans afoot to create such a doll. Curiously, or perhaps wisely, Mattel seems to have stayed completely quiet on the matter.Real Size Barbie

This isn’t the first (and I’m guessing it won’t be the last) time that attention has been drawn to the unrealistic proportions of Barbie; we’ve had artists compare Barbie to real women: http://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/the-code-word/what-would-barbie-look-like-in-real-life/

We’ve had doctors compare Barbie to real women, even to the extent of calculating that Barbie would not have the requisite amount of body fat to menstruate. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7920962.stm

Is a Barbie Body Possible?We’ve had eating disorder sites deconstructing the media’s treatment of women and obsession with size, and studies showing that girls exposed to Barbie as opposed to a more realistic sized doll had less self-esteem about their bodies, and a stronger desire to be thin. http://www.rehabs.com/explore/dying-to-be-barbie/

Valeria LukyanovaMore worrying is that we’ve even had young (and not so young) girls go to drastic lengths to make themselves look more like dolls. Valeria Lukyanova has reputedly spent $800,000 on plastic surgery to make her look more like her idol.

And yet, Barbie dolls are still on sale 55 years on, and people are still buying them. It’s hardly surprising – after all, the images we see in magazines of models and celebrities are more representative of Barbie’s dimensions than they are of the real female form.

But which came first, the chicken, or the egg? Did generations of children growing up being marketed the implausibly proportioned Barbie learn to love the lean, or is Barbie merely holding up a mirror to the attitudes already prevalent in society, and giving consumers what they want?

Let’s be brutally honest. I’m not convinced a plus-size Barbie would be anything more than a flash in the pan. So what’s the answer, I wonder?

I think it has to start with campaigns like the one above. If photographs are digitally enhanced, they should say so. And, more’s the point, the disclaimer should be required to be of a size that people can actually read it.

Aerie Lingerie

Or even better, retailers should have the confidence to mount campaigns like this US lingerie brand. And we consumers need to vote with our feet and our wallets to support them (hell, not that I look a jot like her, but it’s a step in the right direction…).

And finally, perhaps rather than dolls, we should be buying our daughters these:BooksBooksBooksLego Girl

colouring pencils

Doctor Kit

The legacy we leave our daughters…

I try my very best to only project body-positive attitudes in the presence of my daughter.

Even when she points out my wobbly bits.

Really, I attempt to minimise discussion about image at all, and instead focus on other qualities, trying hard, being clever, being kind, good manners etc. But with the best will in the world I can’t remove all the other influences in her life, even if some of them are ultimately negative, and nor should I attempt to.

What I can do, though, is try to inspire her to see herself in as positive a light as possible, through making sure she sees me see myself in as positive a light as possible.

And here’s why:

It’s a very poignant letter from an Australian book called ‘Dear Mum‘: a collection of letters from Australian sporting stars, musicians, models, cooks and authors revealing what they would like to say to their mothers before it’s too late, or would have said if only they’d had the chance, with profits going to the Australian National Breast Cancer Foundation

“Dear Mum,

I was seven when I discovered that you were fat, ugly and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful – in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.

But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ”Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.”

At first I didn’t understand what you meant.

”You’re not fat,” I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ”Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.”

In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:

1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie.
2. Fat is ugly and horrible.
3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly and horrible too.

Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.

With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ”Oh-I-really-shouldn’t”, I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.

Just like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.

But now that I am older, and a mother myself, I know that blaming you for my body hatred is unhelpful and unfair. I now understand that you too are a product of a long and rich lineage of women who were taught to loathe themselves.

Look at the example Nanna set for you. Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at 79 years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face.
Ad Feedback

I remember her ”compassionate” response when you announced that Dad had left you for another woman. Her first comment was, ”I don’t understand why he’d leave you. You look after yourself, you wear lipstick. You’re overweight – but not that much.”

Before Dad left, he provided no balm for your body-image torment either.

”Jesus, Jan,” I overheard him say to you. ”It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.”

That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ”Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less” weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. (Remember how in 1980s Australian suburbia, a combination of mince, cabbage, and soy sauce was considered the height of exotic gourmet?) Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.

As you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth – as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own – paled into insignificance when compared with the centimetres you couldn’t lose from your waist.

It broke my heart to witness your despair and I’m sorry that I didn’t rush to your defence. I’d already learned that it was your fault that you were fat. I’d even heard Dad describe losing weight as a ”simple” process – yet one that you still couldn’t come to grips with. The lesson: you didn’t deserve any food and you certainly didn’t deserve any sympathy.

But I was wrong, Mum. Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalising these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueller to us than we are to ourselves.

But this madness has to stop, Mum. It stops with you, it stops with me and it stops now. We deserve better – better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.

And it’s not just about you and me any more. It’s also about Violet. Your granddaughter is only 3 and I do not want body hatred to take root inside her and strangle her happiness, her confidence and her potential. I don’t want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. When Violet looks to us to learn how to be a woman, we need to be the best role models we can. We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are. And for her to believe us, we need to believe it ourselves.

The older we get, the more loved ones we lose to accidents and illness. Their passing is always tragic and far too soon. I sometimes think about what these friends – and the people who love them – wouldn’t give for more time in a body that was healthy. A body that would allow them to live just a little longer. The size of that body’s thighs or the lines on its face wouldn’t matter. It would be alive and therefore it would be perfect.

Your body is perfect too. It allows you to disarm a room with your smile and infect everyone with your laugh. It gives you arms to wrap around Violet and squeeze her until she giggles. Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ”flaws” is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.

Let us honour and respect our bodies for what they do instead of despising them for how they appear. Focus on living healthy and active lives, let our weight fall where it may, and consign our body hatred in the past where it belongs. When I looked at that photo of you in the white bathing suit all those years ago, my innocent young eyes saw the truth. I saw unconditional love, beauty and wisdom. I saw my Mum.

Love, Kasey xx ”

All royalties go to the Australian National Breast Cancer Foundation. Published by Random House 2001 but I can’t find anywhere to buy it in the UK.