Fat. The grim reaper of women’s self-esteem has entered my five-year old’s vocabulary and I am livid. Not with her, but with our world. With myself. With you. I want to throw a tantrum. A hair pulling, limbs flailing tantrum at the unfairness of society’s persistent hypersexualized, dysmorphic, skewed glorification of beauty that NO ONE can achieve without starvation, photoshopping, surgery, and insane contouring.
I’m sick of billboards advertising a woman’s way to a cellulite free life.
I’m sick of hearing women praised for waist training. I can’t believe that is even a thing.
I’m sick of seeing magazine covers that “out” celebrities who were “caught” sans makeup and who are then picked apart for being, dare we believe it, human beings.
I’m sick of the accepted objectification of breasts, while breastfeeding mothers are publicly humiliated and shamed.
I’m sick of average size women being referred to as “plus” size, and I’m sick of dehydrated and hungry women being hailed as the ideal of beauty.
And while I believe that most agree that our beauty standards are unhealthy, I am sick and tired of the lack of collective voices demanding that enough is enough. A child shouldn’t worry about her physique and a woman having negative thoughts about her body image shouldn’t be the norm. Men and women, we are diminishing ourselves. We are collectively damaging the mental and physical health of those we love, and we should be outraged.
My first confrontation with the F-A-T word was in the third grade. It’s one of the few memories that I have of this age, and it’s crystal clear. We left our classroom and were walking down the hallway. I remember my little girlfriend casually whispering to me over her shoulder that all women get fat, and that when you become a woman, you have to start sucking in your tummy. This was brand new information to me. “We should start practicing now,” she said, and so we immediately sucked our bellies into our scrawny, nine-year old frames. I remember staring at my concave reflection in the glass trophy case as we filed by, disturbed by my new understanding of womanhood.
And now it’s my daughter’s turn. My beautiful, active, healthy five-year old was told by someone that if you eat too much food, your tummy will be fat. I learned this as we were getting ready for church on Sunday. She was getting out of the bathtub while I was putting on my make up, when she asked me, “Mommy, is my tummy too fat?” I whipped around. The smile that usually dances in her eyes wasn’t there. The telltale giggle that usually erupts from her lips when she’s telling a “joke” was silent. My girl was serious. I dropped to my knees and we had the first of what I am sure will be endless conversations about being pretty enough, thin enough, good enough. Conversations that will be steered towards being strong enough, healthy enough, curious enough, kind enough, brave enough. I hugged my sweet girl, silently praying that her estimation of her self-worth will be grounded in her faith, rather than raked over the coals by the world’s ridiculously unnatural measures.
After that it seemed that the only sensible thing left to do before getting dressed for church was to stand side by side in front of my mirror, flex our arm muscles, and shout at our reflections, “I am beautiful! I am healthy! I am strong! God made me special!” The beautiful laughter and light that usually exudes from my girl returned, and we promised we would do that every day.
Later that Sunday we meal prepped for the week. By we, I mean I slaved away, while my little person tasted everything in between entertaining me with stories and dance performances. Meal prepping is no joke around here. There may be only two of us, but we eat for 10. We are active, we are hungry, and we are cranky when we’re without food for more than three hours. For dinner this week we prepared a spicy Thai mushroom curry, a cheesy pumpkin pasta, and some whole wheat berry muffins for fun snacks. I just pray that as we continue to build a home centered around nourishing our bodies, minds, and souls, that the destructive outside voices will be quieted enough for my girl to let her inner super woman flourish.