Thursday, September 29, 2011

I fight for my right to never be a Victoria's Secret.

Some days ago, a male friend posted on Facebook that he had joined a group who were trying to get a shopping mall to move the playground away from their current site, as they are situated right outside Victoria's Secret.
I admit that my initial reaction was one of bemused cynicism:
- Come on. Are we not taking our need to shelter our kids from the devils sins a little too far? This is overkill. What's a semi-naked body when we have plenty bigger issues to tackle?
His reply was straight and honest:

- I like boobies as much as the next man. But my point is not the boobies. It is about the message about what body images we are sending out to our children. We are saying that these skinny, photo shopped bodies are a standard from which we are measuring perfection these days.

He has a very good point. And I admit, again, that I have become too blasé about the visual images we surround ourselves with. Just because I am so the opposite to the type of woman who is affected about commercial stereotypes, because I have a brain that I use on a daily basis, I just assume that my children will be unaffected by this too. I forget that they are still young and impressionable and that they don't automatically become me while they grow up in this very f-cked up world of ours.
I decided there and then to be more conscious and to make sure I talk to my kids a lot more about this.

But too soon for me to do something about it, Kate asked me if I thought she was getting bigger as she was touching her belly after an evening snack of bread, cheese and a little apple juice.

It devastated and temporarily paralyzed me.

This was one of those moments you wish you were in a movie, or a family sitcom, and you would sit your child down on the sofa, stroke her back, and very eloquently tell her everything she needs to hear in three to five profound sentences, and you would hug, she would smile at you, and everything is fine again, and the subject will never be brought up again because your words were enough to forever change you the insecurities your child had carried with her until then.
Oh, I wish!

So what did I do?
I did tell her how special, and beautiful and divine she is, and how she is going through some changes that will inevitably make her feel out of sync with her body and that the body needs energy in order to grow and that there is nothing wrong with her, etc etc. I stroke her back, and I hugged her. Told her I am there for her.

It was almost like in the movies.

But this is not going away. In real life, this is only the beginning of many years of agonizing insecurities about imperfection and self loathing .
And shopping malls will keep putting their playgrounds outside Victoria's Secret.
And we will still live in a world with very impossible physical standards.
And it is not about to get any better.


  1. The mall issue is interesting, but is it the playground-aged kids who are affected by Victoria's Secret? I am more inclined to worry about the pre-teens and teens, and they are just inundated with these sorts of images. I suppose it starts young though. (My playground-aged boy frequently sees my imperfect body in its VS bra!)
    I wonder how young your daughter is. I feel for you as you face these years with her. It's a challenging world.

  2. K.D.: you have a very good point. I don't think the small kids would give two monkies if there were skinny naked ladies next to the playground. FOr me, it's just easier to nip it in the bud as early as possible. How do you decide when it's suddenly not OK with skinny naked anymore, at what age do you draw the line.

    Since there is quite an age gap between Leo and Kate (she's a 4th grader btw) she would probably have joined him at this playground to keep an eye on him, so she would certainly notice the posters.

    thank you for the sympathy, she is usually a very solid, grounded human being, so this is something I am not looking forward to again...