Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What would you tell your 16 year old self? - Body Issues

My first challenge of 2012 was to read more. I didn’t want to read a gushy novel that ended happily ever after, I wanted a book that would educate me. After trawling the book shelves of a well-known book store, I came across a paperback lodged in with the diet books. The book was called ‘Living Dolls The Return of sexism’ by Natalie Walters. I know people say ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but this cover just appealed to me, It was clever, naughty and bold all at the same time.  As I began to read this book  alarm bells rang ‘This is a feminist book…’ but I couldn’t put it down.  It intrigued me how the author was entwining so many powerful subjects all into one little book.  Gender discrimination, the glamorisation of the sex industry, sexual abuse, prostitution, sexualisation of young women and pornography are only a handful of the subjects the author Walters touches upon. The book was so enlightening, detailed and truthful.

One subject discussed and seemed to crop up a lot throughout the book was how ‘…artificial images of feminine beauty are held up as the ideal to which women should aspire’ pg 3  as a body conscious girl this subject really stood out to me.  We see it every day in today’s culture young girls and women aiming to be like their celebrity ‘role-models’.  The thing that shocked me the most was Walter describing how these fascinations of ‘aspiring’ to be like an artificial representation of femininity start at a young age. Starting with their Barbie dolls to the female heroines of the silver screen.  I nearly spluttered my tea when it went on to talk about the ‘sexualisation of Disney Princesses’ and how our little girls are being made to look ‘sexy’( but that topic can be for another day). 

It made me realise most of us from a young age are tied into an over vigilant regime of dieting and grooming to fit in with these ‘artificial role models’. But why?  We should be concentrating on more important things with our bodies and getting to ‘know them’ not plaster them in fake tan, hair extensions and cosmetic surgery and create this ‘plastic disguises’ to ‘fit in’. Girls (and guys) , can you honestly hold up your hand and say you know your own body? Do you know every lump and bump?

Just recently a colleague of mine has just been diagnosed with melanoma and she has created a blog to share with others about her battle ( click here to visit her blog ). While reading Lynns inspiring blog I came across a video that’s called ‘Dear 16 year old me’ It is a moving video to help teenagers become aware of skin cancer and how to potentially avoid it.

You might think I am going off on a tangent first talking about my book about feminism and now talking about skin cancer but bare with me. Combining Walters ideas of women starting at a young age ‘aspiring’ to be like artificial representations of femininity and this video on Lynns blog brings home a sense of realisation. We shouldn't focus on these artificial images of beauty like celebrities/glamour models because there's more important body related issues to educated ourselves with. We should concentrate on our 'natural' body, get to know it, not 'conform' our bodies to look just like these 'fake' representations. Young girls and guys should be encouraged to know their bodies, celebrate them and not plaster and hide them in cosmetics. If I was to tell my 16 year old self something I would say 'Don't be upset that you don't look like the skinny girls in the magazines, your body is beautiful, look after it. There are much worse things in life than worrying about your body hang ups. If your that worried talk and ask questions about them, don't cover it up and pretend its all fine. xx PS Use liquid eyeliner... it lasts longer'

So that's it... from a new years resolution developing into a reality check I have come to the conclusion that we should 'get to know' our bodies, give them regular checks, ignore the airbrushed size 0's in the media and celebrate our natural bodies because at the end of the day you only get one.  

Food for thought... what would you tell your 16 year old self?? 


  1. Since the announcement of the bodies issues edition, I have wanted to share this video...very relevant to this and the previous articles this month

  2. very moving Gemma and very honest xx

  3. Excellent video Julie! We'll be finding a way to post this on up!!

  4. I would tell myself to not care about what other people think... one day you will be the tall gorgeous one and they will remain short and start to look like their mothers.