Fancy Dresses and Hurtful Comments: A Lesson From Award-Winning Comedian Sarah Millican

A recent unfortunate event that comedian Sarah Millican experienced provides us with an important conversation starter for our kids. I’m uncomfortable raising my children in a culture where the public verbal crucifixion of successful women who appear in public looking anything less than a super model is widely accepted as the staus quo. While Sarah is certainly not the first female celeb to encounter this kind of public body scrutiny (can you imagine just for a minute how that must feel at that level of publicity?) and she won’t be the last, I think her response to the matter provides us with an important teachable moment for our children/students.

Why does it matter so much what I was wearing? Why did no one ask my husband where he got his suit from? I felt wonderful in that dress. And surely that’s all that counts. I made a decision the following day that should I ever be invited to attend the Baftas again, I will wear the same dress. To make the point that it doesn’t matter what I wear; that’s not what I’m being judged on. With the added fun of answering the red-carpet question, “Where did you get your dress?” with “Oh, it’s just last year’s, pet”.

-Sarah Millican

Read Sarah Millican’s response here — Sarah Millican: Twitter was a pin to my excitable Bafta balloon.

Also read this great piece on PolicyMic by Julianne Ross, who ties in similar responses from Cate Blanchett, Emma Stone, and Gabourey Sidibe — Comedian’s Response to Criticism of Her Red Carpet Look Deserves a Standing Ovation

Such endless emphasis on looks implies that women’s bodies are always blank slates for commentary and criticism, and it trivializes their other, more meaningful, accomplishments. Comedy in particular is not known for being the most gender equitable industry; female comedians are often held to a higher standard of presentability and expected to be both hilarious and hot in a way that male comics aren’t. This makes Millican’s refusal to put up with this type of treatment all the more satisfying.

-Julianne Ross

Gabourey

Gabourey shows twitter how to *drop mic*. Dang girl!

 

I recommend that you read both links together with your kids and discuss a few points:

1) Talk about why women and their bodies are publicly discussed and judged in our culture.

2) Then talk about the effect that has on women, famous and not famous. Also, what effect does that have on boys and men?

3) Review some comments your child could say should he/she overhear people making judging or hurtful comments about someone’s appearance. It is fun to dress up and we often feel great when we do. Is it ever acceptable to tear someone down based on what they look like or what they are wearing?

4) Discuss if you have ever been on the receiving end of comments like this, but more importantly, if you have ever been the one making comments like this. I recently did this with my 8yo daughter while resolving some mean girl behavior at school that I was horrified to discover she was a part of. While having a conversation about accountability and empathy with my daughter we talked about her involvement, which was being a silent follower of the mean girls and how I felt that was worse of all because she was letting someone else think for her. We talked about leading with kindness. I let her know that her behavior was similar to what mean girls did to me in school and how sad and lonely it had made me feel. She was devastated and it opened her eyes to the situation from all angles.

5) Talk about the importance of appearance (as far as fitting into the Beauty Myth) over the importance of accomplishment, and why one matters and one does not. Also talk about how to demonstrate confidence and class.

 

Learn more about Sarah Millican and her fantastic career here.

Sarah Millican

I think Sarah Millican looks beautiful here, but for the record and more importantly she is hysterical which is just how I like my award-winning, sell-out crowd comedians.

She Looks Just Like Me

I watch my daughter closely as she watches herself in the mirror.

She looks just like me.

I watch her as she looks at her dark eyebrows. Her front tooth with a groove on the bottom edge. She studies the mole on her arm she says looks like the state of Texas. She makes faces and watches her expressions change. She examines her arms, her legs, her belly.

I watch as she pats her belly proudly. As she mouths the words to a silent song and pumps her arms in the air. I watch she gives her reflection a sly smile and a thumbs up.  As she turns around and shakes her bottom in a weird little dance, tapping her foot to a beat I can’t hear.

I watch her and it is like watching  a child me. An eight year old me.

How powerful are the mirrors in your life?

How powerful are the mirrors in your life?

My mom often calls her by my name, her eyes playing a trick on her even though the child before her is a generation away from the other dark haired girl she raised. The trick succeeds because she looks just like me.

We run into friends and they comment on my daughter being my mini-me. When I lose her in the museum I ask if people have seen a little girl, “about this tall, she looks just like me”. People see her at school events or around town and recognize her immediately as my daughter. She looks just like me.

So when she sees me looking at myself in the mirror she sees me smile. She sees self love. She hears positive comments from my lips. She sees me smooth my hair or check my outfit but doesn’t see me flatten my tummy or sigh at my bottom or the tired skin around my eyes.

She watches me as I appreciate all of my parts. She’ll never see or hear me pick myself apart.

Because she looks just like me. When she sees me love myself, she grows up with the permission to love herself. As she is. Just as she should be.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see flaws? Or the perfectly imperfect?
Do you see what you don’t have? Or all of the amazing things that you do?
Do you have a part you prefer to hide? Or do you love to show off your amazing parts?
Do you see age or scars as something to escape? Or a road map of the years you’ve lived well?

Do you see the version of beauty that is sold to you? Or the version you have defined for  yourself?

Photo credit.

 

 

Establishing Healthy Body Image in Young Girls: Start Early

There are two very powerful influences in the lives of young children that impact their body image: the media and their family. This can start as early as AGE THREE.

Are you prepared? Is your home a space where positive body image is upheld?

Think about your role as you read these statistics and take responsibility for your child developing a healthy body image:

~ According to a study from the University of Central Florida, nearly 50% of girls aged three to six were already concerned about their weight.
~ 42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls say they wish they were thinner.
~ 81% of ten-year-old girls experience a fear of being fat.
~ Roughly one half of girls in 4th grade are on diets. More than half of nine and ten-year-old girls admitted that they felt better about themselves when dieting.

What are some things that you can do?
1. Demonstrate self love and being kind to your body.
2. No “fat talk” allowed, about yourself or other people.
3. Focus on nutritious, mindful eating + activity = health, as opposed to dieting and using exercise as a punishment.
4. Seek balanced media with responsible depictions of girls/women’s bodies.
5. Create spaces for discussions while watching media or shopping that allow for critical thinking about body image messages being sent.
6. Define beauty for your family on your OWN terms.
7. Teach her that what she can DO with her body is far more important than what it LOOKS like.
8. Make sure she sees you enjoying your body — race down the slide, kick the soccer ball, bring her to yoga class, go for a bike ride or walk the dog.
9. I’m not kidding, knock off the Fat Talk.
10. Turn off the screens in the house and go outside and play!

Focus on what her body can DO, not what it LOOKS like.

Focus on what her body can DO, not what it LOOKS like.

Here are more statistics on body image in women and girls.

Girl Scouts of America has conducted excellent research in this area.

Lying for The Scale: To Hell With That

Image via Fit Vs Fiction.

Image via Fit Vs Fiction.

Yesterday my friend and colleague Carrie Goldman (author, “Bullied”) tagged me in this post she wrote about her 10 year old daughter, K:

“My 4th grade daughter told me that yesterday the kids each stepped on a scale in class as part of an exercise to calculate how much they would weigh on Jupiter. Of course, the kids began telling each other how much they weighed. My daughter told me “I was afraid people would think I was F-A-T, so I said a lower number.”
 
So young, yet already worried about body size as a reflection of value. My daughter said she weighed a full fifteen pounds less than she does. We then had a very good discussion about our bodies, what they do, what they mean, why we look the way we do, and more. I’m so glad she told me about her concerns so we could talk.”
 

This was my reply to Carrie:

“It is so funny that you tagged me on this because I was reading the top half of the paragraph and my head was exploding. Tell K that I think if her peers were S-M-A-R-T they would have thought she was T-A-L-L or S-T-R-O-N-G when she said her number. That is 15 pounds of muscle and brains she may have just short changed herself. No way, Baby! She is too intelligent to give away some of those brains and has worked too hard in swim earning those muscles!
Also, you can tell her that her good buddy Melissa was at the doctor today and I’m 5’7″ and weigh 188 pounds. <— And I didn’t fudge that number. My brain is super heavy. So’s my funny bone. And my sense of adventure. And my dancing feet. xoxo to K!” 
 

Further in the thread, Carrie said this: “I have kids on both ends of the bell curve. My 10-year-old is bigger than 95% of her peers, and my 6 and 3 year-olds are smaller than 95% of their peers. We talk a lot about how bodies come in all shapes and sizes, especially within our own family, and it’s what we do with our bodies that matters. They allow us to make our mark on the world!”

It is time we take very seriously the job of teaching our girls how to love their bodies. This body shame takes root far too young, in FAR too many girls. We have to work together to stop this.

We also need to remember our boys are not far behind. 

Why and how do even our youngest girls learn to be ashamed of their amazing bodies?

Why and how do even our youngest girls learn to be ashamed of their amazing bodies?

Later in the day someone messaged me to say I was “so brave” to put my weight out there for the world. Is that really brave? I mean, isn’t brave more like fighting fires, teaching a difficult student population, staring down cancer, searching for the lost in a landslide, providing medical aid in a war zone…..I get the point but at the same time, I’m proud of my athletic frame and I guarantee you that telling the public my weight is the by far not the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Me and Dr. Jen Hartstein behind the scenes at the Today Show.

The ironic thing is, Carrie had just messaged me a few days prior to say that she thought I looked great when I was on the TODAY show the week before but also that she could tell I had dropped a lot of weight and wanted to make sure that I was losing weight safely. I did lose a lot of weight and I am under a doctor’s care (thyroid issues are FUN!) and I thanked my dear friend for being invested in my health and well being.

188. I’d never cheat myself out of any part of my body. I work hard for my muscles. I’ve spent years making my brain smart. I think my funny bone is hilarious. My tummy is squishy because I carried and birthed two children I was told I would never be able to have. Like I’m going to give ANY of that up so I can fit some superficial definition of beautiful? Of worthy? To hell with that.

And that’s what I wrote in my note to K when I sent her a gift in the mail yesterday, so in the 4th grade she hears her mom and her dad and her buddy Melissa tell her that she is great and she is worthy just as she is.

 

Need help with talking about body image with your kids?

I cover that topic in my book: “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween”

Marci Warhaft-Nadler’s book is also great: “The Body Image Survival Guide For Parents”

Bonding Over Beauty Isn’t So Pretty

Do you bond with your girl over beauty and the process to achieve it?

Shouldn’t we be bonding with our girls over applying Band Aids to skinned knees, wiping dirt or finger paint off faces, fixing lopsided pigtails messed from running around all day, unhooking a dress caught in the branches mid-climb of a tree, and shaking dirt out of softball or soccer uniforms? How did our generation of moms get this so, so wrong?

Some occasional play make up or a night of pedicures never hurt a girl, but is that all we limit it to? Or are we drinking the Kool Aid and sharing the glass with our daughters? How much of your daughter’s toys, clothing, books, and screen media focuses on prettiness?

A preschool teacher told me that yesterday she heard one four year old ask another four year old if she wanted to come over after school for a make over. As a one-time event, this is probably no big deal. But what if “beauty” is all the girls ever played together? What else are they missing out on? What stories, adventures, and skill building are they rushing right past?

Could something that seems harmless now, day after day after day lead girls to obsess and despair over their looks? Hate their amazing, healthy bodies during what should be one of the most carefree times of their life? Strive for beauty so greatly they pay to have their sexual organs butchered to achieve a false ideal in order to attract and keep boys’ sexual attention?

It sounds extreme, but as my colleague Soraya Chemaly points out in her post on the subject, girls as young as three years old are changing their eating habits to avoid becoming “fat”. Three. Years. Old.

Girls need the time and space to be little kids. As parents, it should be our goal to allow them this space.

When does innocent fun stop being innocent and become a major problem?

When does innocent fun stop being innocent and become a major problem?

Must read post on this subject: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-01-do-you-bond-with-your-daughter-over-beauty-products