Have you ever flipped through a magazine and looked at all of the different ads, then suddenly, out of nowhere, you begin to regret the burger and fries you had for lunch that day? The truth is, we’ve all been there one time or another. At the Young Women’s Resource Center (YWRC), we teach young women that body shaming is a concept that society teaches you from a very young age. The YWRC helps young women be proud of who they are, no matter what shape, size or color they may be.
As early as the age of five (and in some cases even younger), girls are more worried about their body image, or the way they look, than they are about their grades in school. The idea that girls have to be perfect starts at such a young age. One of the first gifts they receive is a little plastic doll with long tiny legs, an equally tiny waist and perky breasts — not to mention a full face of makeup and long, thick hair. And sometimes, she’ll even come with an equally “perfect” chiseled chest man friend named Ken.
When young girls see the doll and her flawless frame, they begin questioning themselves and wish that they could be thin, with long flowing hair, big bright eyes and clothes that fit them like a glove, just like their pal Barbie. Since Barbie (and similar dolls) are referred to as beautiful, fun and outgoing, girls will then begin to compare the way they look to these dolls, which is harmful to their body image.
Once children reach their adolescent years, their body image often worsens due to women constantly getting compared to each other and the pressure of looking “perfect”. They see this on TV shows, movies, commercials and even hear it in the music that they listen to. When teens are subjected to their favorite stars and see the lives they live, many young girls will assume that they have to fit into an unrealistic image of beauty. They assume that if they do fit that image of beauty, their lives will become similar to their favorite stars.
The National Association of Social Workers reports the following:
- According to a survey of adolescent girls, the media was identified as the primary source of information about health issues.
- A study of mass media magazines revealed that women’s magazines had 10.5 times more advertisements and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines.
- Frequent music video viewing may be a risk factor for increased perceived importance of appearance and increased weight concerns among adolescent girls.
“Many adolescent girls believe physical appearance is a major part of their self-esteem and their body is a major sense of self. The experience of body dissatisfaction can lead to poor health habits and low self-esteem.” – NASW
There is a great need for instilling high self-esteem and a positive body image in young girls. At the YWRC, we make sure that girls understand the negative effects that society has on them in thinking that they are not good enough. We educate them on the importance of loving themselves and uplifting each other. In working with young women across the Des Moines community, we can spread the joys of being a girl and celebrating who they are. Every time they walk through the YWRC doors they know they are enough just the way they are.