Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Raising girls and developing "body shame"

My latest via Divorced Moms. These days, I'm sort of on a rant about body-shaming, bodies, modesty and rapes. I'll be writing more as soon as I get a minute. A lot of debate in Utah lately about rape, a culture that protects rapists, and victim-blaming-- all thanks to Brigham Young University, which is located in my back yard, lucky me. I'll share more details later. Until then, here's one on how "body shaming" has entered into this moms world as of late. Enjoy!

6 Ways To Prevent Body Shaming In Our Children

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By Lizzy Smith
April 27, 2016
635698401929144522Fotolia_65729333_XS.jpgI remember all too well the age when I no longer loved to swim. I was in sixth grade and there was a pool party hosted by my church and I realized that there was no chance in Hell that I was going to put on a swimsuit when there were boys from my school there. I had started developing breasts and hips and I felt fat. I made up an excuse on why I couldn’t be there until later when the swimming ended.
It didn’t help that I was raised in a strict Mormon environment where the girls were prohibited from wearing two-piece swimsuits lest we temp boys into thinking naughty thoughts and perhaps acting on them. It didn’t help that I was told that my body must be covered or I could be responsible for terrible things a boy might think or do. It didn’t help that I was taught by well-meaning church leaders that somehow my body was shameful. Being a teen and having a body that I no longer recognized was hard enough, those messages were seriously damaging. Coping with tampons, greasy hair, and braces was a nightmare. I was a tall gawky mess. I no longer knew what to do with my hair, how to put on makeup, and lacked the skills for putting together a cute outfit. Nothing looked or felt right and I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.
It was really quite sad because before then, I lived in a swimsuit during warmer months. I loved pools and the beach. I was happy and carefree, just a girl having fun in the sun and water. And then, because of how I felt about my body, it all stopped. Just like that. So sad.
I still struggle with body issues even though I’ve tried really hard to overcome them. Since cancer, I’ve done my best to love my body, flaws and all. I did a boudoir shoot even, walking around a photo studio topless. But still, I look at myself in the mirror and wonder why I don’t look like, well, a list of actresses or models. Instead, I look like… a 48 year old woman.
A few weeks ago, we spent Spring Break in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was hot, humid and perfect. I was so happy to leave behind the cold Utah weather and rest in the sun. It was a really hard few months for me this past November and December, as I struggled with chemo and its horrible side effects. I lost my hair and eyelashes. I threw up every day. During those dark moments, I planned this trip. I wanted to go somewhere that felt healing and Costa Rica seemed perfect. Pura Vida, the pure life.
…And then I noticed my beautiful ten-year old daughter putting on a rash-guard over her bikini every day before we went out to the beach or pool. I was sort of happy about it (less sun on her shoulders) but also baffled. Then one afternoon, I pulled out clean clothes for her to wear that included a tank top. She put it on and then begged me for a different top. It dawned on me what was happening—she was ashamed of showing her shoulders. (In the Mormon religion, “porn shoulders” is not an uncommon term; showing shoulders is immodest in many conservative circles). I was horrified and had a little Mommy-daughter chat.
“What are you worried about?” I asked in private, in as sweet a voice as I could muster. “Do not let the crazy women in our neighborhood tell you to be ashamed of your body. It is beautiful and perfect.” I wanted to find someone to blame this on. I was so angry. How do I handle this? When we got home, I called trusted friends and did a little research. Here’s what I learned: