By Hannah Heather, mum-of-two and Deputy CEO of Pink Hope. Hannah underwent a double mastectomy in 2019 and, through the process of accepting her body again, has discovered a passion for body positive advocacy.
Perhaps one of my first recollections of being body shamed was at the ripe old age of nine, when a boy called out in front of the entire class, “she’s fat!”
I recall going home and crying into my mother’s arms, inconsolably, as she stroked my hair and whispered that it wasn’t true.
Fast forward some twenty-odd years and as a mother myself to a young daughter, I’ve come to realise like so many other young girls like her, she is being raised in a world where she is constantly bombarded by images, messages and branding that implies beauty starts on the outside. And that being anything other than perfect simply isn’t good enough.
Unlike my more simplistic journey of schoolyard bullies, not only does she need to deflect pressure from her peers, she’s contending with the pressures that slide out from the screen of a smartphone.
As her mother I’ve come to accept that whilst I can’t control the message – from her peers, from influencers on her social platforms, to media and pop culture consumption – I can help her control the way she responds and navigates the smoke-and-mirrors landscape of Kimmy Ks, and Kimmy K wannabes.
Body Shaming Isn't New (But It Is More Pervasive)
Body shaming, or ‘fat shaming’ is a form of bullying, regardless of whether it’s in the playground or online. It’s the act of judging another person based on their physical appearance.
Unfortunately, there are people – both kids and adults – who upon seeing someone that doesn’t fit their mould of the ideal body, use it as leverage to bully others (but let’s be real, they probably have their own issues they’re deflecting from – that’s for another blog!)
Body shaming isn’t new. The reality is, with the rise of TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, unrealistic beauty standards flood our lives and our feeds, creating a cascading effect of body shame that is not only frightening but can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, depression and anxiety.
What Can You Do If Your Girl Is The Target Of A Body Bully?
Body shaming and weight-based bullying can cause significant distress to young girls (and boys!) and if left unmanaged can be a contributing factor in the development of eating disorders.
As parents, we are not only our children’s biggest advocates but their idols too (even though some days it feels like we’re pubic enemy number one, and a simple request to brush teeth may end in a world war). With this in mind, reflecting on how you chose to discuss your body, and bodies in general in your home is an important first step to addressing this issue.
This is something that, after years of body obsession, I am slowly learning to let go of. I’m being kinder to myself, avoiding the ‘fat’ word, or any reference to food restrictions or ‘diets’ but I have to work at it.
As hard as it may be, instead of worrying about your child’s shape and size, focus on how you as a family can create a positive environment through opportunities to move and enjoy your bodies, whilst exploring a variety of nourishing (and yummy) foods!
Empower Her With Killer Comebacks
The reality is, we can’t keep our kids off the playground, nor can we keep them from interacting with their friends on social media. What you can do, is arm them with quick comebacks and I’ve taken it upon myself to offer some suggestions! Not only do these stop bullies in their tracks, they also provide a lesson in standing up for themselves that helps to build a strong sense of self-worth. Comebacks are also a great tool for reminding our kids that they do not to deserve to be treated in any way other than kindly and respectfully.
Here are a few comeback options that will help your girls take charge of the situation, feel empowered to tackle a body bully head on.
- Start off simple, and practice together to express firmness and confidence, so that when faced with the bully, they feel empowered to take control…. “That’s not cool,” or “that’s hurtful,” are perfect examples of bully slap downs.
- Follow Gaga’s lead, and instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive, “I’m proud of my body, and you should be too.”
- Find her strength. Whether your daughter is a ballet dancer or a budding boxer, use their strength to their advantage, “well, what you find fat, can dance on stage for hours to a packed audience. What can your body do?”
- Put them back in their box plain and simple! “No one gets to make comments about my body!”
Because She Worth It!
Comebacks, confidence boosts and positive body talk at home are great places to start if you find yourself in a position where body shame is creeping into your girls self image. Finding ways to build resilience and letting her know she can stand up for herself reinforces her perceptions of her value, importance and worthiness in the world.
A NOTE FROM LAVA TRIBE
We’re mindful that a big factor in a girls decision to drop out of sport (which happens at an alarming rate) comes down to being uncomfortable with her body. Uniforms can be revealing, sportswear can be uncomfortable (especially when her period comes into play) and, overall, it can be the last awkward nail in her sporting career’s coffin.
All of the gear in our range is designed with overcoming this obstacle in mind. Our activewear is second-skin comfortable, super stretchy, constructed with no rub seams and our leggings and shorts boast a mid to high rise waist for modesty and support. Our tees and tanks are long line and contoured to strike the perfect balance between flattering her silhouette and avoiding risk of belly exposure when she lifts her arms. These are among many small details we build into our apparel to make them can’t-take-it-off wearable for tween and teen girls.