I’m posting this installment a few days later than it should be, but for good reason (There will be a few of these today). On Wednesday I had a list of things I was planning on ranting about, but then one specific message crossed my Twitter stream:
I agree with Erin (aka QueenofSpain) on a number of things, and just seeing that was enough to rouse my interest. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t ready. I clicked that link and I was outraged. Feel free to go read the Newsweek article “Mommy 2.0“ if you can stomach it.
Here’s the gist: Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer has a new children’s book, My Beautiful Mommy aimed at 4-7 year olds being released on Mother’s Day this year. The focus of this picture book is to help 4-7 year olds understand why Mommy would electively choose cosmetic surgery.
A note before the tongue lashing: What you do with your body is your business. I couldn’t care less if you want a nose job, or the bags lifted under your eyes, or botox shoved into your face, or if you wanted to increase the size of your breasts. I would hope you know the health risks, and I would hope you are willing to accept them. I would also hope, however, that you would be intelligent enough to admit that the reasons you make that decision are ultimately, in some part, connected to self image and the vanity we all possess in some degree. You aren’t happy with the way you look, you can change it, you believe it will make you happy. Great. Go for it. But please don’t jump on a soap box and deny that self image, and your perception of self worth based in appearances, has nothing to do with going to a doctor when you aren’t sick and paying him/her an absurd amount of money to make you look “prettier” or “younger” or “better.
Above is one of the panels from Dr. Salzhauer’s book. You’ll notice that the “Mommy’s” physique is already thin, shapely, and not part of the rising percentage of obesity that plagues this country. You’ll also notice that in her delusional thought bubble, she’s even thinner–emaciated in fact, and being crowned by a muscle bound-superhero of a doctor in what evokes a beauty pageant setting. I’m sorry… WHAT?!? Did this doctor miss the ENTIRE feminist movement all together?!
Can we talk about just how damaging this kind of message can be, please? Aren’t we supposed to teach young women that they should be proud of who they are? That they shouldn’t change themselves to please other people? Eating disorders are rampant in this country, and whether you buy in to the theory that unrealistic portrayals of women in the media contribute or not, young girls are obsessed with being prettier (i.e. thinner, better hair, more revealing clothes, looking older and sexier at ages where they should be worried about riding bikes and learning). Bratz dolls will never, and I mean NEVER, enter my home if I were to have a daughter, and I refuse, no matter what the tear filled plea is, to buy one for my cousins. Barbie is even at risk of never entering my home–her only saving grace is that she has held more high powered jobs (doctor, astronaut, cowgirl, teacher, business woman, etc…) than any other “doll role model” on the market. She is classy and intelligent (even though she had that “Math class is hard!” scandal). And while she has plenty of wedding dresses, she never became Mrs. Ken (Take that message however you want). But Bratz dolls are utterly disgusting, and I can’t believe that there hasn’t been an uproar from parents to have them, their cartoons, and the “hot” (read trashy hooker) accessories removed from the shelves. Elementary school aged girls should not be concerned with wearing enough make-up to attract anyone, let alone what color thong will match their outfit. No. No. NO!
Girls try to emulate those that have influence on them. Boys do too. That’s why role models are so important. When little girls spend more time watching TV, playing with Bratz dolls, and desperately trying to be Brittney Spears, what kind of self worth do you think they have? I can’t tell you how many parents I know that complain because you can’t find clothing in stores now that isn’t too short, too low cut, or trashy. Why? Because that’s what is popular, and we all know that it’s easier to feed into that popularity than to stand your ground, make your child cry because you won’t let them paint their faces like little Lolittas and tramp off to the playground, just so they can later see that, “Hey, Mom and Dad were right, looks only get you so far, and if you’re a slave to them, then you’re a slave to the society that dictates what “beauty” is. Gosh, I’m glad I got a degree and can see just how sad my friends really are… all they have is their looks and they’re obsessed with the way everyone sees them…” It’s easier to be the cool parent than the one who is your parent and not your friend.
So when you’re trying to fight this warped sense of self worth that permeates through society for young women, how exactly,is a book like this one supposed to do anything other than reinforce the fact that if you aren’t happy with yourself, and with the way others see you, then you should change that part about you? The girl in that panel is clearly confused–”But you’re already the prettiest Mommy in the whole wide world!” She can see the beauty of her mother, but her mother doesn’t see it herself. And thus begins a vicious cycle…
The point of the book is to justify to children at an impressionable age, that because I’m not pretty enough I need to go have a dangerous medical procedure done so I will appear pretty enough to… who? Myself? My husband? If I’m single, other men? Other women, in the hopes that I’ll feel somewhat superior in my attractiveness? That little girl is the only character who has a brain in the pannels shown on Newsweek’s website, and that’s a very sad shame, because what the mother in that story, and subsequently, mothers who will use this disgusting book to justify to their child why they’ll be bandaged up, is encouraging is a poor self image to her daughter. She might as well be saying, “Sure you’re cute now, but when your tummy gets loose, and your chest isn’t as perky, you’ll need to go see a surgeon too because all that matters to anyone is how you look.”
If the book was focused on medical explanations that can be tailored to a child to help them understand why Mommy has a bunch of bruises and bandages, then I could understand. But this book is emphasizing the justification, and that’s inexcusable. There is no justification for destroying your child’s perception of self worth by setting an example, using words and phrases like, “Not just different, my dear… prettier!” If you want girls to stop focusing on pleasing everyone around them and start developing a healthy sense of self and worth, making looks the priority is doing a serious disservice to your daughters.
I won’t even go into why the fact that it was written by a man is another issue… I’ll let you chew on that yourself for a while.