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.

Worried she needs to be skinny to be pretty

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.
After her scary statement on Saturday night, L and I sat down and talked about this. I explained to her that real beauty comes from within, something which obviously hit home as she asked me to spell it to her so she could write it down.

Real beauty comes from within

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?



8 Responses

  1. deborabora says:

    This is really frightening & incredibly sad. It wasn’t so much magazines & media that influenced me but more the other boys & girls at school but certainly not until senior school. Im shocked it is something 6 yo girls are picking up on – it certainly makes me look at what messages the things we say, if not directly but indirectly, to our children. Thank you for sharing this post.

  2. Mummy in Provence (Ameena) says:

    Wow, this makes me so sad. I’ve had BiP say someone is FAT before or refer to her belly as fat and I always tell her she’s not fat (She really isn’t) and that it’s not nice to use that word. It worries me that children so young are conscious of fat = ugly, thin = beautiful. It’s just such a messed up way of looking at things 🙁 AND it’s SO untrue. OMG.

    Not looking forward to this conversation in a few years. Although I think I might be having it sooner with BiP than you have had with L.

  3. Franglaise Mummy says:

    Thanks for your comments and for sharing on Twitter and Facebook. I think it’s something that we really need to be aware of, and also how much they take in when we’re not talking to them but they are present. Good luck with BiP, Ameena, at least you’ve had a heads up now, so hopefully it won’t be as much of a shock for you as it was for me.

  4. HonestMum says:

    So sad that this is being drummed into girls (and boys) from the media and society in general because ‘normal sized’ role models are far and few between. You have handled it brilliantly. Maybe point out a variety of figures from Dita Von Teese, Scarlet Johanssen and include women of all different ethnicities and with disabilities etc(perhaps create a positive body awareness style collage) celebrating difference. I think schools should implement this where possible in the curriculum too to help prevent bullying x

  5. Franglaise Mummy says:

    That’s a great idea and I may bring it up with the school as they’re so open and approachable. Hopefully if enough of us tackle it we can bring about some kind of change.

  6. Well handled! Having had “food issues” from my teens to my 20s I am extremely aware of the messages I send out and am really conscious of eating well and not dwelling in my weight or size (at least not when missy is around!

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Thanks. It’s hard to know what’s the right thing to do/say, especially as I wasn’t expecting it anywhere near this early!

  1. 24/10/2014

    […] 18 months ago, my (then 6 year old) daughter came out with “you have to be skinny to be pretty” which really scared me, as we don’t talk about weight or dieting at home, so this has […]

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