Yesterday, I discovered something horrifying. In October, a children’s book will be released called Maggie Goes on a Diet. Yep, a diet book. For kids. Lovely. We need that like I need a hole in my head. With media swarming around us telling women and girls to be thinner, prettier and sexier, the last thing we need is a book telling girls to equate self-worth and self-esteem with losing weight.
“…about a 14 year old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.”
If this is the kind of crap children’s authors are writing, then our society is doomed. I’m sure Kramer will try to dissuade those outraged with lame-ass excuses like, “Oh it’s okay. See, she’s a soccer star!” But as Laura Stempler astutely points out at Huffington Post, the cover of the book proves “it’s all about the dress.” Studies show that girls have higher self-esteem when they participate in sports, as well as better relationships with other girls. But this cover doesn’t show her holding a soccer ball or holding up her uniform. Nope. It’s a goddamn dress. Because deep down, that’s all we ladies and girls like anyways…pretty, frilly, pink things.
I just LOVE how Maggie MUST be insecure because she’s overweight and becomes a “normal” sized girl. WTF is normal anyways? Hmmm and here I thought girls (and boys) come in all shapes and sizes. But how could I forget…in our thin-obsessed culture, girls can only be self confident and have a positive self image if they’re a size 2. I mean shit, why stop there?? Why not make her so thin she fucking disappears?! UGH I am so fucking disgusted with this fat shaming.
We ARE facing an obesity epidemic in this country, thanks in large part to the fast foodization of the food industry. And yes, we should teach kids proper nutrition, the value of fresh produce and eating healthy. But healthy does not equate skinny. Yet that is the message kids hear and see, causing them to wage war with their bodies. Nearly half of all 3- to 6-year-old girls worried about being fat and “eating disorders having risen steadily in children and teens over the last few decades.” The vast majority “of those who have eating disorders (95%) are between the ages of 12 and 25” and “over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.” We need to help children foster and embrace a positive body image, not sabotage it.
Our society continually focuses on women and girls’ appearance. Even when they’re just toddlers and babies, we constantly tell girls they look so pretty, again focusing on their looks. Maggie, as well as all girls, should take pride in their intelligence and that they earn good grades in school, or their artistic creativity, or because they score a goal, or possess a compassionate heart. It may be cliché but girls should be confident because of what’s on the inside, not because of what they see in the mirror.