Thursday, November 4, 2010

Body Talk

Garrick is taking Home Economics Consumer Family Science this term, and interestingly, they have been doing a unit on Teen Body Image.

(Letting that sink in for a moment....)

They're talking about the unrealistic body expectations that TV and other media can promulgate, and about the dangerous things that kids sometimes do to themselves in response.

As a former bulimic and always-recovering body-dismorphic, I find this interesting. Would it have made any difference if I had received these messages at age 12? Would a three-day unit have been enough to contravene the messages I was receiving from Cosmo and Vogue magazines? At the age of 43, I still look in the mirror and wish parts of my body were thinner. (Yes, I know that's ridiculous. Doesn't stop me.)

Don't get me wrong, I think it's an admirable goal, and for my literal-minded, un-socially-aware kid, it will be effective. But I doubt it's going to have a lasting effect on the girls and boys who were weaned on American Idol and The Jersey Shore.

What do you think? Do you talk about body image issues with your kid/s? Are kids wiser today than they were in the mid-1980s, or is it the same scenario, with easier access to anabolic steroids?


Kelly said...

Very interesting. I think it's important to simply bring the concept up. If it's drilled into kids that what they're seeing ISN'T reality -- that no one's skin is that clear or smooth, or no one's legs are that impossibly long, or that magazines actively seek to lighten the skin of black cover models -- I think that's doing a definite service. Whether or not it will keep young women from striving to maintain impossible standards of beauty, or being beauty-obsessed, that remains to be seen.

Lauren D. McKinney said...

We've never discussed this! Maybe we should. With boys it doesn't seem as critical as certain other topics, such as personal hygiene and why black shirts don't go with navy pants and why they should even care.

RuthWells said...

Lauren, you raise an interesting point. I've always assumed that this is more of an issue with girls than with boys, and when Garrick and I were discussing it, my initial reaction was "Oh, because girls often think they should be thinner than they are." His response was "And boys think they should have more muscles." When I asked him whether he was aware of this attitude among boys his age (which is only 12!!!), he said yes, he had heard such talk at school. Which begs the question; if an *Aspie* is aware that this attitude exists, it must be someone prevalent!

Lora said...

my 4 year old is already frustrated that he isn't taller, stronger, faster, handsomer (according to nick jr and disney standards I guess?), and so on.

It's horrifying. So, anytime he does something physical I stress how fast and strong he is and if he can reach something he couldn't before I tell him how tall he is and I'm always telling him how handsome he is (he gets most upset when people call him "cute", he thinks only girls can be cute).

But yes, boys live with this stuff too. And they cope with abusing and using weight gainer and steriods and stuff like that. I have two male friends who were anorexic and one of them was also bulimic. So sad

Bridget said...

That's a really interesting thought actually. Considering that, wouldn't education not really matter at all? Because many of those (like you, as you just said) who suffer from body image issues know that they shouldn't, but they do anyway. Can education earlier stop that? You still know you shouldn't, but you're probably going to anyway if that's what you're prone to do. And no matter who you are, is there a woman in the world who doesn't look at herself in the mirror and find something that could be thinner? Despite what she looks like?

Did women 100 years ago think this or is it really a result of all the media?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just came across this blog while looking for PKD websites/blogs. I hope it's not weird of me to comment on this since I don't know you, but I have PKD, and I'm bulimic, so I thought I'd put in a few words. I think it's good that they are trying to educate kids about these issues, and I think it's important for teens to know that not everything they see in movies or magazines is real and so they shouldn't hold themselves to such unrealistic standards. All of the messages about what is and isn't beautiful are really messed up, and so I think it's good that they are trying to acknowledge that. That said, I personally don't think that spending a week learning about these issues would have made a difference in the development of my eating disorder, but creating that awareness is still a good thing. I think we should emphasize appreciating our bodies rather than picking them apart for what we perceive as flaws.

RuthWells said...

Thank you all for the comments (and welcome, Anonymous, I hope you'll stick around!). No easy answers on this one, but it's great to hear such a wide range of experiences.