According to Rader Programs, a center for eating disorder counseling and treatment, girls as young as 9 and 10 years old have said that dieting has made them feel better about their body image. When polled, a group of adolescent girls listed gaining weight as their biggest fear, overriding their fear of getting cancer or losing their parents. A shocking 42% of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders admitted they would be happier if they were thinner. Girls this age should be concerned with cooties and coloring, not body image. Why are girls so young having such mature and negative thoughts about their bodies? Because they are growing up in a society that is obsessed with weight and achieving the ideal body.
Studies show that over 50% of commercials aimed at women include mention of physical attraction. Girls who view these commercials regularly are made to believe that a woman’s physical appearance is the most important part of her being. We live in a world that views being overweight as being wrong, something that needs to be embarrassed about and worked on. We idolize celebrities who are frighteningly thin- young girls grow up seeing models that weigh a whopping 23% less than the average woman. We call our statistically average-sized models “plus size”, and the models who have the Body Mass Index (BMI) requirements for anorexia are considered “average”. Society expresses that these women have ideal bodies, and that this is what women are “supposed to” look like.
For the sake of our young girls, we need to make a change. We need to create a culture that recognizes and appreciates average body types, rather than creating dangerous prototypes that young girls strive to achieve. The tween underwear brand Aerie has recently made some positive changes, with it’s campaign “Aerie Real.” Aerie’s website reads, “whether you’re flat as a surfboard or curvy like a coconut, remember there’s no such thing as a perfect beach body.” For this campaign, I believe Aerie is very admirable. They are aware that their primary consumers are impressionable young girls, and they chose to stop photoshopping their models and creating “perfect” (albeit fake) bodies for girls to aspire to. They show a wide array of body types in their bra and bathing suit ads, and they make it clear that the girls pictured have not been retouched.
We can only hope that this campaign will start a trend of average-sized models and pictures that have not been retouched to look perfect. Society’s burden of body image and weight obsession should not be placed on the shoulders of young girls. No first grade girl should be concerned with her weight, or how others view her body. This can only lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression later in life. Instead, we should fill our society with more “real” campaigns, to teach our young girls that every body is different and that’s perfectly ok.