Stop telling your friends they're beautiful...
Following the re-release of my book Willow Farrington Bites Back, I found myself reading this article, which led to me reading this book. You'll note that the woman featured in both cases is a PhD, so I'm guessing she knows what she's talking about.
Basically the article talks about how difficult it is to change the world when you're also trying to change your weight, hair, skin tone etc. Effectively, by focusing on how women look, we're handcuffing them to an old-fashioned understanding of what a woman/girl should be...which is little more than window dressing.
The book "Beauty Sick" offers deeper insights and understandings into what creates and perpetuates these issues but the author, Dr Renee Engeln offers one very clear, simple piece of advice "Stop telling your friends their beautiful" in fact "stop having appearance driven conversations".
This all struck a chord with me because recently, after an 18 year break, I've begun horse-riding again. Much of the conversation I've heard from riders around me, has revolved around comments concerning the weight of other riders. These were thoughtless remarks that I'm sure the women didn't intend to be crippling or mean. Unlike those women, I've given some thought to this topic.
Certainly a person needs to be fit to ride. It's only fair to the horse but I have seen tiny, skinny women hang off a horse's mouth as though the poor animal has a tongue of steel. I've seen other, heavier women (and men) ride with such light aids and in such unity with the horse, that the animal fairly lifts and floats beneath them. Why then, are we having conversations about weight? Why not make specific comments about skill levels and riding capabilities? I'll tell you why, because we're 'conditioned' to focus on weight. The presumption that skinny is 'good' and heavy is 'bad' is a belief that has transferred to situations other than health (btw...skinny can be incredibly unhealthy).
In conjunction with this, I had a conversation with my step-daughter who was aghast by the idea of shaving for a cure. "My hair is precious!" she exclaimed, stroking her long, blonde plait.
"Really?" I asked. "Do you think we would love you less if, god forbid, you got cancer and your hair fell out?"
She shook her head. "No."
"Of course not," I replied. "We would love you just the same. So you're hair is not more precious than you."
These are just the two most recent experiences that have remained with me and combined with Dr Engeln's work, to feed a sense of dismay about how little we've progressed since Willow was published.
So, to reinforce Dr Engeln's request, I beg you, "Stop telling you're friends they're beautiful!"