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Girls, Boys and Body Image

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On Femomom.com, Hayley wrote about the mother with the eating disorder who got a book deal to write about her daughter's chubbiness... Last week, Andrea wrote about her mother's pig fridge magnet and how said pig's location, top of fridge, out of site, or smack dab in the middle of the fridge, affected her mother's mood. A dieting mother was not a chipper one. The saying, fat and happy didn't come outta nowhere.

As for me, the champion of the extra ten, the one who prefers to eat an ice cream than feel deprived, the woman who refuses to agree with friends when they poke and pull at their bodies disgusted with their middle-age spread, I joined freaking  Weight Watchers. My mistake was confessing. If I hadn't spilled my heart and soul out to ya'll I could write about the tyranny of body image and thinness minus any hypocrisy!

I could expound without a fleck of hypocrisy clinging to my stretchy yoga pants about Thinspo and hunger blogs being distracting places for teenage girls. Places to get lost while they waste away devouring that skinny = self-control = beauty. Thinspo: where girls aren't reading or writing great works of literature or working for social justice because they're dieting. Okay, maybe some of them can multi-task. But that's hard to do when you're HUNGRY.We can blog about girls and women and weight, but we must also be concerned about boys and men. They are also fed a destructive  load of horsesh*t about how they should look, be and act. I'm not an expert on boys and men like I am on girls and women. But I'm sure they are tortured by cultural expectations, too. I have a son and I had a husband. Let's leave it at that.

I didn't find any blogs where boys offered each other starvation tips. I found a site where bulking up versus growing lean muscle mass was "explored" and by that, I mean placed inside a bar graph. Boys who drank a powder shake bulked up more. Bulking up is good according to the boy-body cops. Oh, and there was a site for herbal penis enhancement. Enhancement is code for making longer. There was body image stuff and messages distracting boys from doing other more creative activities, too.

Why the dearth of boys sharing powder drink recipes or how to score steroids from Mexico? Girls are socialized to talk and share. The social networking of Thinspo and hunger blogs exemplify that. Boys don't tend to discuss their weight with each other or how disappointed they are in the length of their penis. I know, there are exceptions. But boys and girls are socialized differently. Nature vs. nurture? That's for another day. Mostly, allowing for exceptions, girls talk about their unattainable quest for perfection and boys don't. But that doesn't mean the pressures are less real for boys. They just aren't building controversial websites cheering each other on.

In my house, the bathroom hosts teen products for girls and boys. Scents, washes, soaps, razors, exfoliators and aftershave. My daughter and my son are both supposed to smell and look great by 6:45 a.m. every morning. I think that's a lot of pressure. I'm pulling on my hypocrisy flecked yoga pants and looking for the car keys at 6:45 a.m. I do not smell like flowers or pungent aftershave. We are all lucky, frankly, if I've brushed my teeth.

Could our dialogue change to one of health? Or does  Madonna's perfection cream have us slathered in illusion? I think there are social reasons (focused girls/women are powerful) to keep women worrying about their makeup (I loooooove makeup). But despite the marketing of perfection, girls are acheiving beyond boys. This isn't good news for girls or boys. Having healthy girls and boys is the point, yes?
Again, I think there are social reasons (focused boys/ men are powerful) to keep boys worried about their pectoral muscles and sexual prowess rather than the inequality of the one percent.

A whole generation of young men and women more concerned with how they look than how they'll get health insurance? That's brilliant. Surely that will stave off riots for another decade at least. I've never hatched a conspiracy theory before...

Let's make the discussion one about how to nurture our children. Girls and boys, with information about how to best care  for their bodies, minds and souls. They will grow into each other's partners and they will determine the direction of our country. We must have compassion for boys and girls inside any discussion about body image, media messaging, etc.

This may sound like the rant of a pollyanna, unicorn riding, lollipop grove plantation owner. But if dreaming is the first step to change, then get yourself a unicorn.