By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President
Below are my remarks for a group of high school students on self-esteem issues for young women as they relate to NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Campaign – enjoy! Erin
Some of the most dangerous ideas today are ph-balanced just for young women.
Having a brownie is bad and skipping lunch is good.
You should wait to be asked to prom, unless you have a girlfriend and would like to ask her to prom, in which case you should save your party dress for going to court because your only choice is to sue your school.
If you don’t hook up you’re a prude and if you do you’re a slut, and the length of your skirt is inversely proportional to the amount of respect you’re due.
In all these cases it’s not what we do, but who we are, our fundamental selfhood as young women, that is under attack. It is not easy to overcome. But I will tell you one thing: It’s not “all in your head.” The suggestion that young women should feel bad about themselves is all over the place.
So what should we do? Feel bad about THAT instead? Nope. We hold our heads tall, and that’s exactly how we start to fight back.
We reject the idea that we are only as good as our looks and reputation.
We acknowledge that many of the present-day battles over sexism, or the worthless idea that women are somehow worth less than men, are being shoved into the heads and emotions of young women and, frighteningly, girls.
I’m going to share a few facts compiled by the National Organization for Women Foundation Love Your Body campaign:
More than 80 percent of 4th grade girls have been on a fad diet.
More than 80 percent of 10 year-olds are afraid of being fat.
And, research shows that exposure to advertisements with idealized images of women negatively impacts body image.
The National Organization for Women acknowledges that these are not just self-esteem issues, but political issues, for impossible ideals are used to stereotype young women and send the dangerous message that our existence hinges upon a display for the judgment of others rather than a celebration of who really are.
So, what can you do about it?
The first step comes from within. Recognize that girl, you are here like the sky and you are not the problem. You are not too thin, or too fat, or too prudish, or too slutty, or too fair-skinned, or too dark-skinned, or too straight, or too gay. You are you. You are woman — let yourself roar!
Next, help others who aren’t feeling so good because they don’t fit those impossible ideals. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s what you must do, for as long as one person is getting labeled and treated poorly for it on the basis of unrealistic expectations or blatant discrimination, we’re all next in line to get pissed on.
Finally, hold blogs, magazines, TV stations, film studios and advertisers accountable when they take action suggesting that you shouldn’t feel good about yourself unless you meet unrealistic expectations.
That’s what I did last fall when I spoke out against Ralph Lauren. He Photoshopped and fired model Filippa Hamilton for being “too fat.” She wears a size four.
When speaking out, I brought my own experiences into it. I had anorexia in high school and college, and it almost killed me before I recovered. Advertisers and the media need to know that it’s not those of us real people who should be led to feel ashamed of ourselves, and we won’t stand for bad messages any longer.
On that note and in closing, I want to encourage all of you to go to our website at www.now.org and click on the link for our Love Your Body campaign, where you can take our Love Your Body quiz, take action and find support to help you feel fabulous in the wonderful skin you’re in.