While searching for different media which I could use to improve my parenting skills, I stumbled across a documentary on Netflix, MissRepresentation. This incredible documentary focuses specifically how the media influences women in our society. Throughout the documentary, countless examples are given about how women are portrayed through media and the effects this has on their mental and emotional well-being. I don’t think anyone would argue that women are objectified in media and used as marketing tools. For men, women are sexualized and for women idolized. Not only do the images portrayed of women influence how we are viewed, but it influences how women view themselves. Self-objectification creates negative self-esteem and self-worth and effects academic performance as well as vocation and occupational performance.
So how does a documentary on negative media portrayal of women, influence and effect me raising two little girls? What this documentary did, was get me thinking about how I have been influenced by media, and how this influence trickles down to my daughters. I have always been aware of media influence, and the setting of unrealistic body images through photoshop and glam squads; yet even with the knowledge of these negative influences I have fallen victim time and time again to try to emulate these images I have seen. However, because of this self-awareness, I try to be shield my daughters from negative media influences, as well as negative influences of my personal expectations surrounding body image.
Less than a year ago, I had breast augmentation; One of the fears I had throughout the surgical process, was that I was unsure what I would say to my daughters when they were older. How would I tell them about unrealistic beauty standards set by the media, when I had elective cosmetic surgery? I had many long discussions with close friends about how I would eventually handle this conversation; At the end of it I decided that eventually when they are old enough to understand, I will talk to them openly and honestly in a way which best speaks to them.
Although I realize that in many ways I have my own issues with body image, I try my best to make sure I have positive influence on my girls’ self-image from an early age. As with most women I am not a fan of the scale, and although I am learning healthier alternatives to measuring health and physical fitness, I have always had this internal battle with the scale. However, to a 2 and 4 year old, the scale is super fun, and watching a number pop-up is exciting. To try to create a healthy relationship with body image, weight, and the scale; If you were to come to my house, and my kiddo hopped up there, she would say her weight followed by an excited yell of “THE PERFECT NUMBER!” I genuinely love watching them get so excited, and although they don’t comprehend what a scale does, or what “the perfect number” means yet, I’m hoping that these small strategies will have positive influences. I constantly try to be cognizant of the language I use about our bodies, beauty and image. I try to never use the words “diet” or “lose weight” around them, but instead discuss “eating healthy and feeling healthy.”
My hope, is that awareness of media influences and being mindful of how these influence myself and thus my girls, will reduce the negative impact on how they view other women and themselves. As they get older, I hope that the images they see of women, are those of strong, powerful, successful women. That the images they see of women are not over-sexualized but examples of health and happiness. My hope, is that by continually striving to improve myself to be the best version of myself, that I can be an example of the characteristics I try to instill in them.