In one episode of the Wonder Years, some boys were discussing an accident that happened during a basketball game. One that shocked them all. A popular cheerleader who stood out because of her large breasts was cheering during a game. As she jumped up and down, a sock emerged in slow motion from her shirt and fell to the ground. The girl ran off in embarrassment, as she clutched her newly flattened chest. As I watched this episode as a kid, I was puzzled as to why a girl would fill her bra. I thought boobs were boobs and they all were nice.
Then I got older and the world told me differently.
The internet was ablaze earlier this month when an un-photoshopped topless photo of Keira Knightley hit screens around the world. Her topless pic wasn’t released because of a hacking incident, but because she wanted it out there. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with discussions about it. Some called her heroic, while others called her a narcissist and attention hungry.
In an interview with Access Hollywood, she explained why she posed for the photo with demands that she not be photoshopped. “I think women’s bodies are a battleground… we’re constantly being told that something is wrong with us… we’re too short or too tall or too thin or to fat, your boobs are too small or too big… you can’t win. I think it’s about time that we actually start going, ‘There are differences and they’re beautiful… We have to start seeing them as great and not something to feel ashamed of.” She has been vocal in the past about her displeasure with movie posters and magazine covers altering the size of her breasts, and she decided to do something about it.
Now, I have issues with the picture myself: If she’s trying to make a point about small breasts, why is she trying to look so sexy with her wet hair, pouted lips and fish net arm-stockings? (I don’t know what they are called so I’m calling them arm stockings.) But that’s beside the point. I should quickly explain why a parenting blog is talking about a celebrity’s breasts at all.
I’m talking about it because the first thing I thought of when I saw the discussion taking place was, “Oh shoot, my daughter is going to have breasts someday!” Usually when parents raise this topic, it stems from worry about the sexualization of girls. I’ve worried about that too. But this was the first time that I considered that my daughter might want bigger breasts or be envious of others’. I want my daughter to be confident and satisfied with her own body.
And I wondered if she will talk to me about something as personal as image issues with her body.
The discussion about her body has already started in my house. We tell her that she is perfect the way she is. That she doesn’t need to impress anyone. We let her display her own style (with some limited guidance). But if we are to ensure that our children are satisfied with their own bodies, we have to be the ones communicating the message in both words and actions.
We MUST explain beauty to our children. Explain it that it is in the eye of the beholder. And that beholder is the one who owns the body. I hope my daughter looks at herself and believes she is beautiful, no matter how the world defines beauty. I hope she doesn’t find her value in the way others view her outer appearance. This is what Ms. Knightley is saying; be and love yourself. You are fine the way you are and you should enjoy what you have. You are created perfectly.
Beauty isn’t the most important thing in life. Most of us believe that. But do we live that out? Our children’s eyes are watching our every move. We can tell them what their worth is, but if we ourselves are focused on worldly beauty, then our children will side with the magazine covers of the world. Dads, do you linger longer than you should at Kim Kardashian on the cover of the magazines? Moms, do you gush over Ryan Gosling’s abs in front of your children? Do you complain about your own chest size, or love handles, or big feet, or thinning hair?
I’m trying to instill in my children a belief a person is valuable because of who they are, not what they look like. And hopefully I am example of how to do that.
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