Popular Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton seems to have hit a nerve with a recent post about body image. The Florida mom, who often writes about her past struggles with an eating disorder, told Today.com about her children: "With the girls, it's funny when we say, 'Where are they getting this from? They're so young—where are they getting this?' The answer is—they're getting it from everywhere. The message to women and little girls over and over again is, 'Be skinny. Be small. Be skinny. Be small.' They see commercials. They see billboards. They see magazines. They see all of this—this is where they're getting it. And, it becomes ingrained in them just like it's ingrained in us."
A recent experience Glennon had with her tween prompted the blog post that has since been shared close to 70,000 times on Facebook.
"Two nights ago, my ten-year-old daughter, Tish, who is a younger version of me (in every wonderful, terrifying way) sat on my bed and said with a shaky voice, 'Mama, the other girls are all skinny. Why am I different?'" the mom wrote, going on to recount, "I stared at her and silently lost my mind. Ten is when I noticed my differentness, too. Ten is when I decided there was something wrong with me and became bulimic. My life became a total shit storm for the next twenty years. And as I sat on that bed with my baby, I swear to you I became ten again. It all rushed back and I froze. I just froze. I could not think of one helpful word to say. Even though it is my entire job to think of something helpful to say."
Glennon stepped away from Tish for a beat to huddle with her hubby, who convinced her to tell Tish the truth about everything. So, she went and sat on the bed with her daughter for two hours. "We talked about how hard and wonderful it is to have a body, and we talked about what, exactly, bodies are for. I did my best. The truth is—I'm still learning what it means to be a woman and how to live comfortably inside my body. Ten to forty has gone by pretty fast," Glennon writes.
This pow-wow lead to another talk between mother and daughter the next night. Glennon writes, "Then last night, Tish and I went to a bookstore. On our way out, Tish stopped in front of the magazine rack. She stood in front of a rack made up of seven covers—covers that all displayed pictures of women, each blonder and more emaciated than the last, each angrier and more objectified than the one before. These magazine covers held up a certain type of pretend woman for all to see as the pinnacle of female achievement."
Here's the conversation they had next:
"Tish, what do you think women's bodies are for?"
And she said, 'Writing, running, hugging.'
And I said: 'Are women's bodies for selling things?'
She said no.
And I said, 'That's why this feels bad to you. Because this is a lie. There's nothing wrong with you, baby. There's something wrong with THIS.'"
Soon, the 10-year-old was creating a petition, begging the world not to objectify women and to treat them all equally.
In the end, Glennon hopes girls like her daughter will be a force for change in the world, instead of simply accepting messages that created her own body image issues. She ends her powerful post by writing when Tish sees a stick figure on a magazine, "She'll likely get a little pissed. And that's what I want. I want girls who are angry instead of sick."
"I want Tish—and all girls—to see themselves as activists instead of victims, and as shapers of culture instead of products of it," she also tells Today.com.
I love that idea. As someone who also struggled with body image issues, and now has three daughters, I am so committed to helping them overcome some of the negative thoughts I never could at their age. I know I can't protect them completely, but I hope to flood them with enough positive messages about the female body that some of their pain and suffering can be spared. Because Glennon is right; despite what we may think sometimes, our daughters aren't doomed to repeat our experiences. There are enough people like us out there talking about the alternative to self hatred, so that maybe, just maybe, the next generation will have a chance to change things.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.