Body Image and Judgements That Take Root

body conscious at eleven

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.

I love your comments and invite you to post as many as you like.

In Truth, Darlene Ouimet

9 response to "Body Image and Judgements That Take Root"

  1. By: Connie Posted: 16th March

    This is sort of on topic.
    I had a similar thing happen to me,,,but when I was an adult.

    I was skinny and didn’t have much of a figure. I never thought I was trying to get a man’s attention by wearing shorts in the summer.

    I was sat down and given a talking to by my pastor’s wife. She informed me that I should dress more modestly by not wearing shorts to church clean up day or any other day for that matter. Turns out her pastor-husband had a problem with lust when he saw women’s legs. And I was making it uncomfortable for him! So the answer was for me to not wear shorts and the woman also informed me that I should instruct my daughters to not wear them either. They were 6 and 10 at the time.

    I still can’t get over the blatant lies inherent in the correction she gave me; that I was responsible for her husband’s lustful thoughts and must do something about it, and that I should allow her to dictate how I should raise my daughters to have the same views on this as she did.

    So glad I got away from that crap, but it took a long time. I started thinking for myself and saw how the women’s submissiveness was part and parcel of a male dominated system.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th March

      Hi Connie
      My girls (and my son) were taught in the Christian school system that they were responsible for “making boys crazy” if they wore the “wrong clothing”. I was livid when my son told me about the way they teach this stuff. It was really hard to undo the brainwashing about this stuff. (and some of it is still not undone! This kind of guilt and shame teaching using christ to back it all up is a tough thing to override!) I told my son that he was responsible for his thoughts AND actions and the girls are too. People have a right to make choices about clothing without being blamed for the actions and feelings of other people.
      Great comments Connie. Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Splinteredones Posted: 21st March

    Girls are sacrificed at the altar of misogyny and have been since recorded time. Your comments here revealing just how those messages are passed on is very eye-opening to many. Men xo not wan to have to be held responsible for rape and so they’re not. Inswearthis is true: if erectile dysfunction was a side effect of the common cold there would be a cure for it a long time ago.

    I do not know how to fight the subtleties of the messages your kids were exposed to. One at a time, I suppose. It’s tough.

  3. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th March

    I was never taught that stuff about boys. It is so logical though that it amazes me that I never thought of it before. It is as thought society gives males all the rights, but they and we are taught that they are not really strong enough to control their urges, as though they just can’t help themselves! I could write a whole post on this, but not today! LOL
    Thanks for the comment Susan!

  4. By: PunkOnFire Posted: 20th March

    What an excellent post, Darlene. I must admit. I had a bit of a light go off when I read the part about boys being responsible for their thoughts. It really makes a lot of sense and sorts out a lot of awkward situations. Thank you.

  5. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th March

    Thank you Susan,

    I am happy that you found me too, and I look forward to more interaction with you in future. There are far too few stories from those who have found their way out of the past and emerged in tact to go on to live in freedom and wholeness. It is the purpose of my life, that we connect with more and more people who have given up hope. Thanks for your comments, support and encouragement! It really means a lot to me!


  6. By: Susan Posted: 19th March

    I left a note on the blog post linked at the top of this one…I am thrilled to have connected with you and look forward to reading more. You say so clearly what I have not yet put to words although I have found my way out of the past and now create each day the life I choose…not that that I was told I would never shed. So glad to meet you! Susan

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