Daughters · My Heart · Readers' Favorites

Fighting the Beauty Epidemic for Our Daughters

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She showed up at our place around Christmas. A gift from a relative for my two year old daughter, who at the time gave her little interest. This past month she was rediscovered in a pile of toys and suddenly became the “mommy” to go along with our “dad.” I was recruited to play along, and suddenly, as now a mom, I began to see Barbie in an entirely different light: Her beauty, her sex appeal, her toned figure and large breasts.

She is perfect.

She is the image we are giving to our little girls. Not just grown women are being touched by our beauty epidemic:

One study reported girls as young as three years old being concerned with body image.

Three

years

old

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Everywhere you turn it smacks you in the face, throwing itself upon our precious daughters. As much as we try to shield them, throw all the Barbie dolls into the dumpster, it is still there.

The billboard as we drive down the road; the magazine at the check out line; the banner as we walk through the mall; the commercial playing on the restaurant’s television. All this before they even enter preschool.

It is everywhere. We know it is.

What can we do about it?

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What if the emphases of our house had nothing to do with physical looks, and instead the attributes of true beauty?

Love

Compassion 

Kindness

Forgiveness

Society reflects on physical beauty, obsesses about it. What if we took the focus off of it? Thinking more on the needs of others than ourselves. Our passion becoming them rather than a pretty face.

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What if our family began to help children not as fortunate as ourselves? Those who have been injured, are sick, are dying. Our heart crying to bring a ray of light and hope their way–they who do not care how skinny we come, how much our hair shines.

What if we began to read about other people? Those whose bellies stick out from hunger and not anorexia.  Our tears shed for their pain instead of our shapeless figure or stubby fingers. 

My children are young and yet my daughter, according to research, is already so old.

Will you join me?

Let us fight for our girls.

May they not struggle in the ways we did. May they not see a mom worrying about her figure, but instead filled with the worry of how to bring love and help to all those in need. May they not see themselves as too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, but rather as strong and capable girls, ready to bring comfort and hope to those hurting inside.

Is my dream too big? Am I shooting for the impossible? I do not know. This is my first time being a mom.

I do know I am going to try.

With everything in me I am going to try.

In our house, may passion and focus be not pretty dresses and shoes, although they are nice to wear some days. May our fervor be for the one who has traded in her dress for a hospital gown; the one who could never afford such a nice thing; the one who does not even know what a pretty dress is.

May true beauty forever be our goal.

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70 thoughts on “Fighting the Beauty Epidemic for Our Daughters

  1. Perhaps talk about the personality behind the character you have there. Merida is strong and brave and loving and fighting for the rights to her own future. As far as figurines go, she’s probably one of the better female characters to have 😉

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    1. Yes, that is a good idea. I am the most ignorant Disney gal around; I will probably need to brush up soon! Too bad they could not have made the heroine a bit less perfect though, perhaps a little more around the waistline and a little shorter in the legs. 😉

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this!! I just started looking around it and what an awesome thing they are doing there!! I am going to go check it out some more now!

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  2. It’s definitely a tough situation because of the ease of accessibility we all have to these images. Though I have boys, I feel similar pressures because of the machismo that we tend to go through at some point in our adolescence. Having always been tall and skinny, I am highly cognizant of the issues associated with body image. I have always been very athletic and fit, but my fitness doesn’t show as well as the traditional looking athlete.

    Having said that, I try to impress the importance of self confidence on my two boys, and demonstrate that you can be comfortable in your own skin… whatever that skin looks like.

    I think you have legitimate concerns, but awareness is an important part of moving past the superficiality of it all. Ignorance is what feeds the problem, so I think you’re on the right track 🙂

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    1. Thanks Shane! Yes, I certainly agree: without the awareness nothing will ever be done. Thanks for giving the “guy” side of it too!! I have a son, and although as a woman I see the ugliness of it on our end, I need to remember this for my own little guy as he matures.

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  3. It is so hard raising children in our self centered #selfie world. I know I’m guilty of it all the same. I agree we Momma’s need to reaffirm beauty to our daughters and teach them about inner beauty as well as taking good care of our bodies. If we don’t teach them that truth, the world will! 🙂 And that Barbie- well- she is not real!

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    1. And thanks for sharing this Leigh! It is about having healthy bodies and beautiful hearts. What society may be influencing our girls as “beautiful” is in fact often times damaging to their health.

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  4. So true. Gosh I loved my Barbie’s at a kid. I had also desperately wanted to look like Barbie, but I didn’t then and I don’t now. Society needs to focus more on inner beauty rather focusing on physical appearance.

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    1. I was right with you! I had every Barbie out there it seemed, plus the dream house and convertible. I was in love with her and remember wishing I looked like her as well. Thank you for sharing this–it is true beauty, that which comes from within, which is so vital to our lives.

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  5. My daughter is seven, and I’ve seen her interests in external beauty grow over the years. We teach her the importance of inner beauty, but you are right, there competing teachers out there in this world, trying to attract the attention of our daughters. And whether we realize it or not, we allow these teachers into our homes through TV, toys, books, etc. We may not be able to totally shield them from undesirable influences. We really have to equip them to be discerning and to know well what we have taught them.

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  6. I worry about this with my boys, well, not this exactly, but I tried to school them in looking for a partner in life and not just a sex kitten! I miss no opportunity to point out good traits (and model good traits) for things I consider necessary in a good partner. I’m in this fight with you coming from the other direction.

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  7. Totally agree. If you think about it, the world’s standards are contrary in every aspect to the Word of God. We can all influence those within our own household as to the true definition of beauty. And, who knows the extent of the revolution we may begin? May it start with us.

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  8. If we were to truly put others before ourselves, the impact would be epic. We would see a generation rising up that cares to help an elderly woman cross the street, rather than to rob her of her valuables. We would see families gathered around a dinner table talking, rather than indulging in their handheld devices counting the number of likes they received on social media. Oh what I would give to live in such a selfless world. At least we are on the right track. It starts with us, how we raise our children, and how they will carry on to their descendants.

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    1. Yes, how beautiful a world we have if everyone followed such a principle. So much easier said than done though, for we are selfish creatures by nature it seems. How I pray it will start with us though. May our hearts turn to the needs and pains of others and away from ourselves. In so doing, may our children catch onto our passion and run with it as well.

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  9. I worry about this all the time! It’s hard to know how to teach our kids to be selfless, kind, compassionate people that aren’t caught up in outward appearences when they’re bombarded with it everywhere. Thanks for the encouragement. Such a great post.

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, we live in such a beauty minded culture. I hope with everything in me we will find a way to instill a passion for inner beauty in our children–that which will make a difference in this world.

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  10. This should be the goal of every parent who has a daughter. Mine is 16. For years she endured the brutal attacks of her peers because she was “fat” and “ugly”, in their eyes. She ate to feel any kind of comfort. As parents, we felt helpless. We thought we did our due diligence. We raised her constantly discussing the misguided views of beauty that society wants us to believe. Still, she became the victim of that society, and we became the parents trying to fight back. If only parents could find a way to overcome the money making machines that keep telling our kids that beauty is only skin deep. Still, I’m happy to report that lately she’s happier, lately she’s comfortable with herself, lately she’s found ways to cope. I hope she remains on that path.

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    1. As a mom I know how your heart must have broke for your sweet girl. People can be so cold and brutal and I am truly so sorry for what she had to endure. How exciting and wonderful she is finally finding peace and happiness with herself. Thank you for sharing this. One day she will be able to bring hope and light to many girls in her situation, a testimony of how you can overcome.

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  11. I have three girls (9, 6, 4) and felt your words. My nine year old especially is already very much into fashion and her appearance. It is a scary thing being a mom in this age. I am trying hard to instill the right values in my girls and what is really important in life. Thanks for sharing this.

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  12. As a former Barbie girl, turned anorexic teen–this is such a powerful & important piece. I’ve struggled with self-image my whole life & though my identity as a mom & teacher are where my strength & confidence & true beauty lie–that identity isn’t the one seen by the media, by much of society, & even by some of the closest men around me. I’m hoping that despite the focus the world places on outer appearance, I can still have a fighting chance of teaching my son to see beauty in courage, strength, intelligence, modesty, wit, kindness, grace, compassion, honesty & openness.

    Thank you for this post. Also–have you heard Molly Barker’s TedTalk about Girls on the Run? Goes right along with this. Our girls need to be spared from this kind of social sickness!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this Keri! I love your goal for teaching these things to your son as well. It is just as important for them to recognize it as our daughters. I have not heard the TedTalk but thanks for telling me about it. I am going to go check it out now!

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  13. I wasn’t allowed to have Barbies as a kid, and I think I’ll raise my girls the same–though I agree with you that it has to go far beyond that. On an unrelated note, I can’t help be a bit entertained by the “mother” and “father” in the first picture 🙂 I think that mother could use the father as a step-stool. But also, the approachable, friendly-looking male doll seems a much better normal to strive for than the crazy sexy Barbie.

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    1. Haha, yes, when she chose the “mommy” to go with the “dad,” it took me everything to not bust out laughing! I had to snap a photo to show her someday! I totally agree, the “Little People” are much more my doll of choice!

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  14. I like your approach – I think I may try it. Time will tell if it works but at least in the meantime it still helps!

    Which reminds me – my THREE YEAR OLD DAUGHTER was complaining yesterday because her hair looks different to everybody else’s and she wants me to make it look the same. I have to ask my mother in law to email us a photo of her Aunty, who has the same hair, and is a perfectly fine with it.

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    1. Oh, wow, three years old! The studies seem to sadly be true. Yes, show her how beautiful her uniqueness is. The hair she wishes to be so much like everyone else’s is probably the hair all the other girls so wish they had! It’s a vicious cycle it seems.

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      1. Exactly! Exactly. Although I seem to remember my sister (who was the odd one out in terms of looks in our family) never bought into that line when it was given to her. So I think maybe your idea – just background the whole image thing entirely – might be better.

        Although I might show her one or two photos first, just for good measure.

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        1. Oh no! :-/ Perhaps she needs to be told both! At three she may not even really quite understand what clever means? Actually hearing your story just now gave me an idea to start with my own daughter. To begin showing her some people who are truly “pretty,” who sacrifice of themselves for others each day. I will describe them as beautiful, not simply good.

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  15. This is sad but yes I completely agree with the argument! As a woman and as a mother, the concept of perfection and physical beauty glorified in barbie deeply saddens me. I have always advocated for the kindness ordinary things bring into our life. Something as priceless as tasting lemon/tomato, stealing ice creams, helping a need and waving at a strange! And the biggest fear is not with perfection; it with the way society treat the less perfect. The discrimination and harassment….:(

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    1. Thank you so much Rebekah! You are by far my favorite blogger; your writings beyond beautiful and life changing. To hear such kind words from you really means the world to me.

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      1. I am so glad Sasha. You are certainly my favorite also! I love reading your posts and am always amazed by them. I don’t know how you do it! It’s like watching Olympics ice skating..truly a thing of beauty! If it’s okay, I would love to email you sometime (I think I can see your email from the comments you leave.) But I would love to connect w/ you a little more about blogging, etc.–if that’s okay! I will be in touch–take care:)
        Rebekah

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  16. Okay – so I’m now surfing backwards on your blog and reading some of your other pieces – I love this one! And I found some great additional resources for my girls in the comments!

    I go back and forth on Barbie – she’s currently a big presence in our house with my 4-year-old, and I’m okay with that. I wasn’t at first, but I’m currently of the hope that if we balance those influences with real life examples of what girls and women really are: If I model positive body imaging (ie: no “self-hating”/wishing I was 10lbs thinner/ongoing monologues about my perceived flaws – but rather modeling active, healthy living and confidence with a focus that happiness and beauty comes from inside not out), if we surround her with varied, strong, confident female role models, if – where age appropriate – we talk about what we see in media (ie: do you really want to be a Disney Princess? What would you do all day? Were other characters more interesting? Why?) then she will be armed to face the world and know that Barbie isn’t “real” and there are many types of ways to successfully be a woman.

    Have you ever heard of Cinderella Ate my Daughter? It’s a book by Peggy Orenstein about girly-girl culture and it’s impact on our daughters. I read it when my eldest was a baby – it’s a great read – very well thought out and well researched.

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    1. I so love when others comment with all the wonderful information! I have learned so much more from all the knowledge! Now I know something else too–thanks so much for telling me about this book!! I think you are doing such a wonderful thing with your daughter: showing her the balance, keeping her mind exposed to so much, and mostly, being the example for her! At this point in their lives, I believe the parent plays the biggest role in the matter.

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      1. Thanks! It certainly sounds like you are doing great with yours as well. I also loved reading the comments from those raising sons – because that’s equally important – how boys are raised to view and treat women – and the impact of pop culture and its role in showing how men behave towards and treat women – and teaching our boys to look critically at that! – is the other (somewhat overlooked) side of the equation.

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  17. I love this, Sasha! I have struggled with body image for a long time, but I don’t want my girls so suffer with it, so I think about it a lot. I think you are completely right that we should highlight strength of character and kindness. As well as the ability to focus on our health, more than the size of our jeans. Thank you again for such a great post! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement Marla! I too am not exempt to the body image dilemma. I knew a few girls growing up and friends even now who care not what anyone else thinks about them or their image. How freely they live, how happy they walk. May our girls be just like them.

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  18. Nicely said, Shasa! It is very sad to see what those images do to our children. My five year old told me yesterday, mommy, I don’t want to were this dress I look fat in it 😦 … She just turn five, it is too early to have a pour body image. Dina

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