But I’m not so sure that’s a good thing — I know, body image blogger blasphemy! But stay with me, I explain it all over on Never Say Diet today.
It was also a good excuse to pick the brain of one of my favorite writers, Peggy Orenstein, who had so many smart things to say on the issue. I didn’t get them all into the official post (oh 550 maximum word count rule, how you torment me!) so I thought I’d paste the rest of her email below.
You might want to quick read the Never Say Diet post, so you know what the heck we’re talking about with this new body image app and then come back here for Peggy’s full take:
Ai-yi-yi. Clearly, the woman who invented this is sincere and means well. But really, wouldn’t it be better to get girls off the focus on body ENTIRELY? To realize that they are MORE than their bodies? MORE than how they look? To invest them with OTHER sources of self-esteem? For white, middle-school girls, how they look is the MOST IMPORTANT determinant of their self-esteem. That is a problem–and makes “self-esteem” a tricky concept. It’s not enough just to have something called high self-esteem, it’s the source of it, the domains from which you derive it.
So yes, ideas about beauty and body and what’s acceptable and what’s BEAUTIFUL must change and broaden. But the all-consuming importance of body and beauty also has to be minimized in favor of who we are and what we do.
Also, what can it mean to a girl to hear positive body-image talk from people like Demi Moore and Ben Stiller who have subjected themselves to MASSIVE amounts of cosmetic enhancement and use personal trainers, personal chefs etc to maintain a the very kind of body that we’re telling girls isn’t important?
Though again, I think she’s absolutely right about the problem and its impact on girls and women. And I have compassion for the pain she went through–which is so common as to be almost normalized–as well as her desire to do something positive for girls and women. I’m just not sure there is any reason to believe this would be a useful or helpful tool…..So I wouldn’t want to slam her. I appreciate her passion. I just think there’s not going to be an app for self-love. I hope I’m wrong about that.
It can be such a fine line to walk between getting girls to think about a broader definition of body and beauty… and getting them to think beyond body and beauty. How do you strike this balance when you talk about body image issues with girls (of all ages)?
PS. If you missed my last post about Peggy’s fantastic book of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, which, bee tee dubs, includes a picture of the world’s most adorable three-year-old, you can catch that over here.