A Mighty Girl

I have a son who at age four pulled a Maxim magazine off the grocery store shelf and proclaimed “she’s hot!”

Why? Not because I, or his sister, dress in tight clothes and short skirts. And certainly not because his dad is riding around with him whistling at women.

I have a daughter who put on a shirt yesterday morning and pronounced “my belly sticks out of this shirt. I’m not pretty.” This declaration after I have told Ri a thousand times that she is beautiful and amazing. And that has been reaffirmed over and over by her grandparents and dad and cousins. So why does she say such nonsense?

Hmmm…. could it be the magazines (Maxim is among many), the tv shows (“America’s Top Model” comes to mind), the media focus on all things thin and “perfect” and superficial, or the companies who market princesses with big boobs and size 0 waists to young girls.

When I was five and begged for a Barbie, I got Dusty. She was a flat-chested “barbie” with sandy brown hair cut in a straight bowl around her face, wearing jean sorts and riding a horse. And Ri wonders why I despise dresses to this day. She was my ideal. She’s who I played with every morning. I grew up in Clifton – I saw all sorts of women walking around town. Big, little, pierced, saggy, firm – you name it. And they were all beautiful in their own right.

But I still squeezed the fat rolls on my belly at night as I laid in bed. “If I could just lose this, I’d be so much prettier.” So even with my forward thinking, feminist parents, I still got caught in the trap.

I appreciate Mighty Girl drawing attention to Disney’s revamp of the young girl in Brave from a strong, every day looking heroine to a dress-off-the-shoulder, made-up princess. Sometimes I catch myself dismissing these pleas for action because I’ve heard them over and over again. But then I get one more plea and am reminded that if we didn’t have such over-glamorization and “sexing up” of our girls, there wouldn’t be so many pleas.

Mighty Girl is doing critical work to help our girls see themselves as soulful, intelligent, strong, courageous, opinionated people – not sex objects and eye candy.

When Ri squeezed one of Mario’s friends the other day, Mario yelled out “My sister is really strong, Quinn! She can hurt you!” And when Mario needed help on his bike, he knew Ri would be at his side (“you got it Mario; don’t be scared little guy!”). I appreciate that Mario sees his sis as a strong girl.

Most recently, Ri has fallen in love with softball. She is not the strongest batter but she has been persevering through missed swings and not giving up.

“Heile Menkedick Ionno’s don’t give up!” she chirps at me, repeating the words I have drilled into her head for years as she takes another swing.

Keep it up, Ri, and don’t worry about bellies. You are beautiful.


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