Monthly Archives: September 2014

Girls, strength, and the beauty ideal: A beach conversation

My daughter is just 20 months old right now, and I find myself thinking about how to help her, in the future, focus on all the cool things she can do, and not just how she thinks she looks in the eyes of others. She’s so full of self-confidence and curiousity and tenacity that I want to do everything I can to protect and nuture it. This question is something I’ll put in my back pocket and save for when it’s needed.

Dr. Rebecca Hains

My five-year-old son befriended an eleven-year-old girl at the beach last week. As they worked together to create a sand castle, her dad and I chatted about my work as a media studies professor and his work as a high school art teacher.

“So, you said your research is about body image?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

“You know, my passion is figure drawing,” he said, “but it’s difficult to teach to high school students today. They just don’t have realistic ideas about the female body.”

“Oh, in what way?” I asked.

“Teenagers don’t know what real bodies look like any more,” he lamented. “They have a preconceived idea in their heads—a bias that they can’t see past. I can see in their drawings that they’re not seeing. So they complain: ‘Hey, Mr. Richards, how come all your women have muscles? They look like men. That’s gross.'”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Your students think…

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