Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Blogging about Body Image and Our Kids

Laurie says:

I’m going to be moderating a panel at this summer’s BlogHer conference how we blog/feel about our kids and their and our body image. There is a tentative panel description at the end of this blog.

This description is where my thinking is right now, but there’s time for lots of thought.

I know that in raising my daughters, I was in a constant dialogue with the television and other media, saying “that’s wrong”, “real people don’t look like that” etc, etc. We’d talk about how kids got treated at school. We’d talk about how it was different for black, Latino, or Asian friends or for that matter thin blue-eyed blond friends. We’d talk about how it was different and sometimes the same for boys and girls. And we talked about how outside pressures from the culture shaped this. It was one of our important ongoing discussions throughout their childhoods, and we’re still having those conversations now.

I’m lucky that I didn’t have a lot of body hatred to share. I see friends who really wanted their kids to feel good about themselves, but talk about their own bodies in ways that got quickly reflected by their children. And I did have to watch how I talked about my body and other peoples’ bodies with some care.

I could help my daughters to develop good armor but the world will still be throwing spears at them.

My daughters are 10 years apart. I watched the standards of thinness get smaller and smaller as time passed. My younger daughter grew up in much more obsessionally thin times and that’s only gotten worse. They both grew up when harassment of teen age girls, especially young teen age girls, about their bodies was considered “normal” boyish behavior.

Some things have changed for the better. If you look for it, there is good body-positive information out there – whether it’s size positive, trans positive, color positive etc. No kid with web access needs to feel like they’re “the only one like them.”

They also grew up before the intense sexualization of children. Nine year olds didn’t wear tee shirts that said “hot babe inside” and young boys clothes didn’t have to have a cool manly styling. No one thought that children should be “buffed.”

Media meant movies, TV and print. It seemed like an endless barrage then, and those constant pressures have only increased with the multi-media world of the web. And the other side of access is that kids can find pro-anorexia sites.

On the other hand, the support of an extended web community of individuals was just starting to form when my younger daughter was growing up. One of the things I love about blogging and the feminist bloggers’ world is how much we talk to each other usefully. I love that mommybloggers can find shared communities of ideas outside of their physical neighborhoods. I’m interested in how much difference this can make.

Anyway these are some of the things I’m thinking about. I’m curious about folks’ ideas and experiences – either as kids or moms or all the other varied relationships we have with children. (I learned a lot from my teen age belly dance students.)

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We blog about our kids’ self-images a lot, and much of it is how they feel about their bodies and the ones around them. And often we’re trying to deal with the negative stuff they bring home. “You’re ugly, you’re too fat, your eyes are wrong, your color is icky” etc. We want to help our kids to feel good about themselves. We blog to share our experiences and help each other to do this better.

Sometimes it’s really hard to do if we don’t feel good about our own bodies. Sometimes they’ll pick up the wrong messages from us. And it doesn’t help that we live in a world that markets the “super model” look to 9 year old girls.

Children of all races, sizes, ages, and body types deserve to feel good about themselves: how they look, and how their bodies feel. On this panel Mommybloggers and other Moms will discuss helping our kids to like themselves as they are.

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3 Responses to “Blogging about Body Image and Our Kids”

  1. Karen Says:

    I have a young son, who at age 11 has a round body and is beginning to worry about his weight. Lately, I’ve not been buying a lot of junky snacks and try to encourage him to snack on fruit or cheerios. It’s frustrating to buy him clothes that fit since his legs are short so fitting his waist means shorts almost to his ankles. I’ve recently learned about FA and HAES so I’ve backed off a lot, but his size does effect his performance in sports, which he loves. He’s expressed a wish to “wake up skinny” or go to the Biggest Loser campus, or go back to being 4 yrs old and then not eat so much. Any ideas?

  2. Lynne Murray Says:

    I don’t have kids, and I grew up as a chubby kid in the 50′s before the anti-normal-size hysteria reached its current tsunami proportions. By “anti-normal-size hysteria” I don’t mean anti-fat hysteria, but the idea that “normal” is waaay thin for girls and extremely buff for boys.

    However, I have a brother who also inherited our family’s stocky “Scotch/Irish peasant” build. I see that body type in pictures of my father in his 1920s-30s childhood. People are genetically programmed for different sorts of strengths and weaknesses. Our Scottish great-grandfather came to this country to dig ditches and the family legend is that he was strong enough to be able to pick up a 1930s-era automobile right up until his death.

    The worst was going to a baseball game to watch my brother play when he was a stocky 11-year-old and seeing him be picked last, with a lot of “Oh, no, we don’t want him” comment from the team. I hated sports myself, partly because of many negative school sports experiences. But helplessly watching my brother be publicly humiliated was an experience I will never forget. He took it with good grace, but that was the day I truly understood the kids who bring guns to school to finally get back at the bullies who harass them. Just as well I wasn’t armed or I might have aimed a few shots at the little jerks who were teasing my brother.

    The positive outcome for my brother, who did and does love sports, was that he worked really hard to improve in non-team sports. He ended up playing varsity tennis in high school and he enjoys bowling at a very high level to this day–his apartment is full of 300-scoring bowling trophies. I know that my parents’ positive and supportive attitude helped my brother to focus on what he could do and improve to the point where he felt confident and could deal with the ever-present idiots.

  3. Laurie Says:

    Sorry. We’ve been having some problems again with feed spam and the comment controls. (It’s being worked on.)This post wasn’t taking comments. for a while. Obviously it is now.

    Karen,

    I liked what Lynne said about sports. I’d also recommend martial arts classes. They worked well for my younger daughter. And if he has any bullying issues at the present or possibly in the future they’re really good for that.

    Telling him that he looks good also really helps.

    I strongly believe in healthy eating, but he should be able to eat sweets occasionally without guilt. Guilt never makes you feel good about yourself. I have the same problem as your son with the length of shorts and pants. I have to hem everything.

    Best wishes in dealing with all this.

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