Day 30: Anxious girls, phenomenal women

I’ve given some insight into my own girlhood angst in my last few blog posts. I couldn’t pinpoint when I began to worry about my shape and size. I was young but I think I’d definitely made it out of primary school. Today, however, it seems body obsession is starting younger and younger. In this Daily Mail article, entitled ‘I peeked into my six-year-old’s diary … and realised just how early girls learn to hate their bodies’, Angela Epstein reads her six-year-old daughter’s journal, only to find comments about how fat and ugly young Sophie feels. Personally, I’m a little concerned that Angela is reading her daughter’s diary and even more concerned she’s posting a picture of it in the Daily Mail. How’s Sophie going to feel about that? Still, it’s also very concerning that her daughter is having these thoughts at such a young age. But Sophie is not alone. It seems there’s enough evidence of body dissatisfaction amongst primary school children to fill a book. Body Image in the Primary School, by behaviour specialists and education consultants Nicky Hutchinson and Chris Calland, was published in March this year. In it, they say girls as young as six are cutting down on what they eat to be thinner and three quarters of 10- and 11-year-olds would like to change their appearance. In the book, the authors offer help for teachers to address these issues in the classroom and to try to nip body obsession in the bud.

After writing the above, I’ve decided this is all a little depressing and as I have very little time to write anything more cheery myself today, here’s a poem by poet, author, actress and activist Maya Angelou called Phenomenal Woman that celebrates real women who do not conform to beauty stereotypes. I particularly like the reference to ‘inner mystery’ and the freedom this phenomenal woman seems to enjoy in relation to her body. She’s obviously very comfortable in her own skin – something I’m aspiring to be through this Lenten blog and beyond.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me
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