Body Image and Judgements That Take RootBy Darlene Ouimet
It was by understanding all this stuff that made me realize how I had come to feel so bad about myself and this is the truth that set me free. Today I want to look at this from the angle of how at least part of our belief system is formed by what we hear from the authorities around us; our parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adults in our lives. I am talking about the conversations that we hear and the judgements that we pick up along the way and how we believe them to be truth because these people are our role models and our caregivers. Why would we doubt their opinions? (I think it is only fair to mention that these people have also formed a belief system of their own with lots of false truth in it.)
My kids went to a private school for awhile. Among other odd things, they were taught that a girl showing any part of their bodies such as bare legs above the knee, bare arms or any amount of tummy, even in Gym class or at the swimming pool, was just wrong. This “teaching” began in elementary school. All the girls in my daughters grade three class had to do jumping jacks before Gym class (while the boys watched) to make sure that their t-shirts didn’t pop up and reveal bare tummy. IN GRADE THREE, which is ages eight and nine. This is still unbelievable to me. I found out about it because my youngest daughter was so anxious she would do jumping jacks in the kitchen before breakfast. When we talked about it, she had no clue what would be wrong with showing her tummy. No one even tried to explain what was “wrong” with showing your belly, but she believed that it was very wrong. Some girls were just growing fast, and their shirts got too short and they got reprimanded by the teachers. No one ever explained anything and frankly, I didn’t understand it either! She said they were taught a lot about good girls dressing modestly. I asked her what “modestly” meant. Just as I suspected, she had no clue.
This same daughter went to summer camp when she was 10. She had worse stories from the camp then she had from the school. She was not allowed to wear her tankini to the beach without a t-shirt covering. Her very conservative tankini was a two piece bathing suit that showed about ½ inch of her tummy between the boy short bottoms and the top. She asked why not? Her camp counsellor told her that it was because there were boys at the beach and that they would “check her out” if she wore that 2 piece suit. My daughter replied “I’m ten”…. She had to wear the T shirt. I somehow doubt that the counsellor even understood the rules since her own string bikini was beneath her t shirt.
There are six years difference between my oldest (who is a boy) and my youngest. I found out that in the older grades, starting at about grade seven or eight, the girls are taught that this body showing stuff was distracting to boys. The grade eight teacher actually said to me that she can’t have her boys not being able to function because a girl in the class is dressed inappropriately. I asked my son if he was ever told that he was responsible for his thoughts? Of course not. (I told him that if he was distracted by an attractive girl and thinking inappropriate thoughts, that it was HIS fault and that the girl is not responsible for HIS thoughts.)
This does not just happen in school or church either. These messages are communicated everywhere. Think about sitting around the dinner table. There are lectures about the kind of girls that wear makeup. That certain clothing is only worn by tramps. And these kinds of statements go on and on. The girls are taught over and over again that they can cause a boy to lose control, and the conclusion, when a girl is pushed, assaulted, molested or raped, is that she MUST have done something wrong. This conclusion can be drawn by the victim and by society.
This is just one example of how our society communicates right and wrong, never thinking about the consequences to the person listening who may have already been abused, or the person who might be in the future.
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In Truth, Darlene Ouimet