My daughter Mia is almost 10-years old. I think she’s amazing. She loves art, horseback riding, and reading. She loves to play outside with her best pal Avery. She also hates her knees.
Having a daughter has opened my eyes to some disturbing messages that girls hear from the media, their peers, and even we, well-intentioned, parents.
Did you know?
- Over 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat.1
- By middle school, 40-70 percent of girls are dissatisfied with two or more parts of their body, and body satisfaction hits rock bottom between the ages of 12 and 15.2
- The average teen girl gets about 180 minutes of media exposure daily and only about 10 minutes of parental interaction a day.³
Last week, my colleague and friend Taylor – who is also a contributor to this blog – sent me a video about Sonia Singh and her Tree Change Dolls. I watched it and when I finished, I realized I was crying because my mind was filled with images of my daughter Mia and all of the messages that she and her friends are exposed to every day that say, “You’re not pretty enough, thin enough, or sexy enough.” And they’re only in 4th grade.
I hope you’ll watch the 6 minute video. In it, you’ll learn about Sonia, her family, her love of dolls, and how she does it. A fascinating part of the video is Sonia’s realization that her interest in bringing old, castoff dolls back to life is becoming a powerful tool for combatting the alarming statistics I mention above.
I think the most striking part of the video is when she takes a Bratz doll, wipes off all of the paint on the face, and then re-paints it to look like, well, a girl instead of a sexy woman. The contrast is overwhelming and the end result is, in my opinion, truly beautiful.
After I watched the video, I was struck by several to do’s:
- I needed to find out, just how bad is it – these messages that our girls are hearing and their impact.
- Figure out what my husband and I are doing, saying, reacting to that might be reinforcing those messages.
- Learn how to better help my daughter, and her friends, navigate through them with their self-esteem and confidence intact.
I’m still in the process of my “to do’s” but have uncovered some resources that are helpful and have reflected on my own behaviors that are part of the problem.
First, the resources:
My husband and I visit commonsensemedia.org when we need guidance about movies and books our kids want to watch or read. This week, I discovered that they have a short video that provides a concise overview of the issue that Sonia and her Tree Change Dolls have tapped into and offers some great suggestions. They also have a blog focused on body image. Here are some other Web sites with helpful statistics and information:
For my second and third to do’s, my husband and I are taking a critical look at what we say about our own bodies and the emphasis we put on appearance vs. values, character and abilities. It has been eye opening for us. My husband is trying to lose weight and I am battling middle age – conversations about our “outer shells” are numerous. We are working to correct that.
We’re also taking a closer look at Mia’s media consumption, especially social media. I’m no longer looking at her “screen” time as time when I can get things done; instead, as the video on Common Sense Media suggests, I’m spending that time with her. We’re talking about what we see and hear as it relates to her understanding of who she is and how she should value herself and others. My house is a little messier and the laundry pile a little taller, but the time I’ve invested already feels very right and Mia loves it.
Sonia Singh did not set out to cast a bright light on girls and body image when she began making her “dollies.” I, however, am grateful to Taylor for sharing Sonia’s video with me and to Sonia for being true to her passion and in turn awakening a passion in me.
1 Andrist, Linda C. “Media Images, Body Dissatisfaction, and Disordered Eating in Adolescent Women.” MCN: The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing 28.2 (2003).
2 Cash, Thomas F., and Thomas Pruzinsky. Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice. New York: Guilford, 2002. Print.
³ Renee Hobbs, EdD, associate professor of communications at Temple University excerpted from WebMD.