Be Real(istic)

Be Real is a national movement made up of individuals, schools, businesses, charities and public bodies, who are coming together to campaign to change attitudes to body image.’ They are aiming to create a more accessible, more real vision of beauty.

Now, I am all for this. As a woman and mum to 5 girls, body image is a subject close to my heart. It worries me how much pressure girls are under to look good, to conform to a certain image. An image that is, in reality, completely unattainable for various reasons. Those glossy photos they drool over in magazines that are photo shopped to hell. Then, there’s the often overlooked fact that to a large extent, you are what you’ve got. If your mum and grandma were short with large thighs and an ample bust, then there’s a very good chance that you may be too and there just isn’t a lot you can do about it. It’s very difficult to turn a pear into a banana.

Of course, the point of this campaign is to spread the message that you don’t have to change your body shape to conform. They want kids to see beauty as confidence and are saying that it’s not what you look like, it’s who you are. I applaud this, but they are really up against it with this campaign and without trying to sound as if I’m pissing on a brilliant parade, here’s why:

Parents are our kid’s role models. Kitchen shelves all over the world, are heaving under the weight of low carb diet cook books. At the moment, my Instagram feed is full of photos of shredded veg. Photos of every meal, meticulously prepared under Slim fast rules. Mum wants to lose weight. Nothing wrong with that. Mum is obsessed with losing weight. Every pound lost gives rise to an exuberant shout out in her Facebook news feed. We all know that losing weight is bloody hard work and making the ordeal public helps keep the momentum going. Meanwhile, her daughter is taking all this on board. Her mum’s desperation to change her body shape. Her daughter can see that it’s not about who her mum is: a hard working, amazing person who is always there for her family and who gave birth to wonderful human beings. No, her daughter is seeing through her mum’s eyes that it isn’t, in reality, about who you are, it’s about what you look like. Because ultimately, for many, this does go quite some way to defining who they are. 

Then there’s the Social media obsession with make up. Driven at high speed forwards by beauty bloggers, who are telling our impressionable daughters that it is vital to have a different make up brush for each part of your face. Trust me, I know. I know because my daughters are keeping Chinese factories in business. 

There are the models who are starving themselves to within an inch of their lives, only to have curves photo shopped on to their bodies. Oh, the irony of it! Meanwhile, our daughters are lapping up the images. Images that are reinforced by celebrities, who further feed the obsession with looks. In a warped kind of way, they make it all seem more real than the photos of models, because their whole business is built around making people connect with them. 

We’re telling our daughters that they are, ‘beautiful’. Mums proudly post photos of their daughter on social media and the comments of how ‘pretty’ she is, flood in. Perhaps there’s no harm done. Perhaps we are telling her that looks matter. Almost unwittingly reinforcing that thought.

The ‘Be Real’ campaign is spreading such an admirable message. Dove are one of the supporters of this campaign and they have tried to change attitudes to body image before, using ‘real’ women in their adverts. This served to hi light awareness of the issue of body image in advertising and that is, of course, a good thing. My point is that despite a global conversation being initiated by the campaign, kids continue to be bombarded by unrealistic images. The internet is too vast, self esteem is too fragile, humans are too easily influenced and peer pressure is too great to stop our children, especially girls, ever being completely happy with what they have got. 

We really are up against it: from the media and from our own insecurities and inbuilt gender stereotyping. Unfortunately, it isn’t so much, ‘Be Real’ as ‘be realistic’. But we still need to fight it. We must do our best as parents to lay strong foundations from when they are very young. We must try to keep reinforcing the message that it’s not all about their looks and we must continue to encourage them to be active. We must keep on trying to fight what seems like a losing battle and even small victories may count.

28 thoughts on “Be Real(istic)”

  1. It is such a dangerous ine we walk with our daughters each and every day of their precious young lives. I still remember the day that my mother told me that when a girl puts her legs together, you should see 3 diamond shapes form. Well this ashkenazie descented kid did not see that at all. A few years back, a horrid pediatrician had offered up dessert 2x a year for my sister and I — christmas and easter we were to have a cookie. WTF! Moments like those, and too many more led me down a path of self hatred, low self esteem and body dysmorphia. In college I weighed 87 my senior year. My girls will hear no such things or fear any foods. We are working to fight societal pressures placed on girls and women. My kids will grow up to be mighty girls, than strong women. Thank you for the post, which conjures up so many thoughts for me. And millions of others who sit when they pee as well… xoxo <3

    1. Thank you for all your comments. It really is a tightrope that we walk with our girls. The responsibility feels huge and I so often feel that everything is stacked against me! I will keep fighting x

  2. You make such a good point about how we comment on girls’ appearance – ‘ooo you look pretty’ is often said to one of my twin girls in particular and it makes me cringe tbh. She is so much more coquettish than her sister and I wonder if that’s her personality or if that’s a product of these comments already! A thought provoking post.

    1. That’s a really interesting point and you’ll probably never know. My friend was talking about nature .v. nurture the other day in relation to her sons and her daughter. Fascinating stuff.

  3. I really try not to talk about my body in front of my daughter because I’m really not happy with my body image at all, and always try and encourage balanced eating, I don’t say treats are naughty, and how important it is to move every day. But it’s tough when you hate how you look. #MarvMondays

    1. I think that it’s tough full stop. Even tougher when you have your own insecurities. Parenting is like walking across hot coals, isn’t it? Thank you so much for your comments.

  4. Absolutely, could not agree more. It’s concerning how vanity has hijacked our lives, are we not more savvy, more clever and more substantial than that, I certainly believe we are! Power to the human beings, not the plastic face brigade #mg

    1. It’s just human nature and then you suddenly realise that when you are responsible for shaping other littler humans’ thoughts too, it suddenly becomes a bit scary.

  5. Sounds like a great campaign and one all us parents should get behind. My 3 year old son asked me the other day if he was fat, I was do shocked as at just 3 years old he has no reason to be worrying about things like that. The pressure to look good is so strong these days, I’m so glad instagram wasn’t a thing when I was a teenager or I’d have driven myself crazy wishing I looked like half the people on there xx #marvmondays

    1. Oh I couldn’t agree more. There was enough pressure back then, without all this extra stuff. I honestly don’t know how teens handle it all…well, of course, some don’t and that’s the tragic reality.

  6. What a brilliant campaign, I believe every word you wrote. The pressure now must be so much more than we had, just immense from every angle. It scares me if I’m honest. #bigpinklink

  7. Absolutely brilliant post! The pressure is quite ridiculous. I make a real point about not talking about my weight or being fat but instead about being ‘fit’ and exercising to stay healthy rather then to lose weight. It is awful that girls so young are worrying. Makes me sad and angry! Thanks for being an important part of the #bigpinklink

    1. Thank you so much for your comments. It’s all about being ‘strong’ and ‘fit’ as you say, but the tightrope we have to walk as parents to combat the media images is so hard. Thank you for hosting 🙂

  8. This is so true. The campaign is a great thing, but it’s one voice in the many in the media and unfortunately, the majority of the voices are still saying you have to look a certain way.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂
    Debbie

  9. With 2 daughters with different body shapes to one another and to me, I have aways focused on every shape is beautiful. I don’t promote curves because one of my daughter is model thin, and I don’t promote thins because my other daughter has curves, so we just be happy all being us. I don’t go on diets or take about my weight EVER. They know I love my body because it does amazing things for me! I spent all my childhood watching my mum hate her looks, and go on diets every other week, I watched it destroy my confidence and I won’t do that to my children. Fab post! #mg

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