Lauren wrote to ask if this is what Disney is teaching our daughters.
I know it's tempting to blame all of the irrational, loathsome, impossible images of girlhood and women that we fend off like swarms of gnats every day - I fear this one may be on me.
(Because I'm the Mom, most things are, indeed, my fault.) This actually might be.
There is lots of talk at school about bodies and thinness and unthinness (argh!) and who looks like whom -- in real life and on television.
So she and her 2nd-grade peers notice bodies and compare and contrast to find their places in the world.

Why do girls in magazines and movies have the kinds of bodies they have, she asked me. I talked about how much older they are than a 2nd grader, how bodies find their way to adulthood when they're ready, how some bodies aren't even really what they appear, how magazine photos are airbrushed and how movies have lighting and actors have staffs to do hair and makeup, and all the tricks they have to change real bodies into mythical ones. And, of course, how American society puts pressure on girls and focuses so relentlessly on outsides and not nearly enough on hearts and souls and kindness and health. She hasn't seen much TV other than Disney but there are so many images out there...just on magazine racks.. RACKS....with the oppressive stuff we all fight every day.

How is this my fault? In reference to other questions about how women look how they do and how some look "more like Barbie" than others, I did tell her (argh!) that there are women who do get larger (or smaller) breasts using surgery.
She was already having these kinds of discussions in school, so I figured I should be as truthful as possible, placing it in the larger societal context.
Apparently the take away for her was -- I fear -- something like - hmmm...they've got big boobs on Disney and if I want to be on there I better get moving. Mom says you can do that with surgery, so, good to know.

For the record, I did actually say - out loud - the first part of the conversation with my daughter, about how her body is just what it is supposed to be for her right now, and the bit about the oppressive, death-of-self-esteem-by-a-thousand-magazine-covers-nature of American society. I did not actually say out loud the part about how plastic surgery is like shots and bee stings. I only thought of that inside my head. And like I tell my daughter, you are free to think and say absolutely whatever you want inside your head.
Because I'm a Mom means I must keep so much more inside there than I would otherwise. But, of course, now I'm a Mom with a loaded blog.

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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