You have to be skinny to be pretty
I have two daughters, the eldest, L, is 6 years old, and this weekend this is what she came out with. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor I asked her where she had heard this, but she didn’t remember hearing it in any one place which therefore implies that she has not come across this idea just once.
It is safe to say that there is no way you could call me skinny once I hit puberty, I would say I’m average (mostly a UK size 10-12 over the last 20 years or so), but with big old boobs and a big old bum, so skinny is not a word I’ve ever heard to describe me.
I’m lucky that growing up with my mum and two older sisters there were never any issues with food, size, weight or dieting, so I’d say I have a fairly healthy attitude to food and have never really dieted (except a 3 day dabble at Dukan that made me feel more ill than with morning sickness).
So I’m pretty certain she’s not picked up this idea from me, my family or my friends. We watch limited TV and for the last few months all L has wanted to watch is Harry Potter films, which are not really well known for their skinny=pretty message. We don’t buy newspapers and I read one women’s magazine a month which in general is not around for L to see, especially not since she’s learnt to read!
All I can think of is that this idea has come from the school playground, which means that the media portraying Angelina Jolie as a beautiful woman we should aspire to look like (I have nothing against her, but how skinny?!?), and Samantha Brick making headline news by telling the world you have to be skinny to keep your man, must be seeping through all the way down to 6 year old girls.
I could understand this more if she were overweight and being bullied at school, but at 18kg (2 stone 11 lb), she is right at the other end of the scale.
As you can see, in her school PE kit here, she doesn’t need to worry about getting any skinnier!
I have no recollection of worrying about my weight until at least secondary school, or more likely when puberty hit. Why are our children (daughters) already being subjected to this false message that you have to be skinny to be pretty? I loved Mummy Barrow’s retort to Samantha Brick on this subject (being a big fat failure), but it seems to be hard for this message to get through the “we love skinny” media.
So where do we go from here? Hubs and I talked about it and here is our plan:
- Make as little reference to size/weight (hers or ours) as possible. No talk about I’m getting fat/I need to go on a diet, even if said in jest.
- Whilst we already eat a very balanced and varied diet at home (you gotta love a Frenchman who loves cooking!), we do eat junk food too on occasion (who can resist an apéritif before a Sunday roast?), so instead of saying “eating crisps will make you fat” we’ll say things like “eating crisps is bad for you”. (Even though I can’t think of situations where this might have been said in the past.)
- Fortunately L has oodles of self confidence, but it’s up to us to instill in her that looks aren’t everything, and that it is how she acts that counts the most.
I explained that what is important is how we act, who we are, being kind to others, and that skinny is pretty, big is pretty, straight hair is pretty, curly hair is pretty, brown eyes are pretty, blue eyes are pretty, green eyes are pretty. The difference between pretty and not pretty is all about who we are inside.
I’m scared about where we are going in society when I am having to have this discussion with a 6 year old, so please people in the media, can we stop obsessing over celebrities’ weights and looks so that it doesn’t filter down to young girls? And more to the point, can we let our kids enjoy their childhood a little bit more and a little bit longer?