PRETTY FLIPPED: WHY WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY OUR DAUGHTERS VALUE THEMSELVES
BY JESSICA BOSCO
The stats on body image in Aussie girls are sobering.
38% of 4-year-old girls are dissatisfied with their bodies.*
34% of 5-year-old girls report an intention to diet.*
68% of 5-8 year old report being teased for their appearance.*
Many of us have days where we don’t feel our best; we might feel we could be skinnier, prettier, better. However, when you stop and think that girls as young as four are also having those same thoughts – when they should be outside running around and playing without a care in the world - it’s truly heartbreaking. And that’s why the cycle has to end. And it starts with us – and it starts from the moment girls are born.
“Let’s set girls up for life so that they have resilience,” says Merissa Forsyth, founder of the not-for-profit organisation Pretty Foundation which aims to empower girls with the perspective, skills and support to develop and nurture a positive body image for themselves and others. “Because the reality is we’re not going to change our world over night and the messages they are going to hear, but if we can build resilience in them, they can tackle these things as they journey through life.”
This month, the Pretty Foundation launches its Pretty Flipped campaign which urges everyone from individuals to schools and businesses, to get involved on November 23 and flip an item of clothing for the day. The campaign aims to flip the way our society values girls and make a commitment to valuing them from the inside rather than the outside.
“It’s a really simple action but one that will make them stop and think – where do I actually find my value,” adds Merissa.
And it’s not just the girls, the campaign is aimed just as much at men and boys too. The campaign is about changing the way our minds think about ourselves and in turn how we project that on to others and on to the next generation.
“Men and boys are very much a part of the problem, and they need to be part of the solution,” says Merissa. “It’s just really getting people to stop and think about what they’re saying.”
Outside of the campaign, the Pretty Foundation hopes to urge everyone to make a conscious effort to build up our girls every day so that they realise their true value. Here they share eight simple ways to flip what we say or do in our every day lives, because something we might say or do in passing can mean so much to a vulnerable young mind.
1. Flip: BODY CONDEMNATION
To: BODY COMMENDATION
Rather than expressing disapproval of our bodies in front of our daughters, let’s start praising what our bodies can do for us. This will demonstrate to our girls that our bodies are a vehicle for life!
2. Flip: DIETING
To: BALANCED DIET
Instead of talking about dieting in front of our girls, let’s speak to them about eating food for nourishment and enjoyment. Dieting and weight loss talk reinforce messages that we need to look a certain way and may encourage weight change behaviours in our daughters when they are older. Aim to model eating a balanced diet, including “sometimes” foods in moderation. 2
3. Flip: YOU ARE PRETTY
To: YOU ARE PRETTY …?
Instead of focusing on our daughter’s physical attractiveness, giving our daughters compliments about their skills, personality or character will show them that you value them for more than how they look. You’re pretty kind, pretty talented, pretty courageous!
4. Flip: WEIGHING OUR BODIES
To: WEIGHING OUR CHARACTER
Teaching our girls that our value isn’t defined by the number on the scales is so important. Let’s get them to focus on ‘weighing their character’ and realising that this is far more important than their appearance.
5. Flip: MEDIA THAT SHAMES GIRLS’ BODIES
To: MEDIA THAT RECLAIMS GIRLS’ VALUE
Often media can shame girls’ bodies and reinforce messages that girls have to look a certain way to be acceptable and valuable. Instead of allowing our girls to watch shows that do this, let’s give them books, toys and television shows that reclaim their true value and promote body confidence. It is also helpful to help girls to be critical of what they see in the media.
6. Flip: COMPARING OUR BODIES
To: CELEBRATING OUR BODIES
It is natural for children to compare themselves to others, but when it comes to appearance let’s encourage our girls to be confident in the way they are and who they are, without the need to look like others. And let’s celebrate what makes each of us special and unique.
7. Flip: FAT DRIVEN EXERCISE
To: FUN DRIVEN EXERCISE
Engage in fun physical activity with our children. Rather than talking about exercising for weight loss or muscle building, focus on physical activity that is fun, enjoyable, and healthy for our bodies (e.g., helping your heart feel strong).
8. Flip: REMARKS ON HER APPEARANCE
To: HER REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENTS
It can be easy to let negative remarks slip out about someone else’s appearance. Let’s be aware of this and flip this into focusing on celebrating others’ remarkable achievements.
To register to take part in Pretty Flipped or for more information on the Pretty Foundation and advice on how to raise your daughter with a positive body image head to www.prettyfoundation.org
*As published on Pretty Foundation, 2018.