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Month: November 2012

I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful

I first read the following post on US site Off Beat Mama. I was not alone in being stunned by its powerful message and the exquisite writing; within days the post attracted over 102,000 Facebook shares. I contacted the author, Amanda King, and she was gracious enough to grant me permission to repost it here. Enjoy. 


I’ve started telling my girls that I think I’m beautiful. It’s been so easy to tell them how beautiful THEY are, because it’s obvious. They are the thing beauty is made of. They are the reason we started worshipping beauty. They sparkle and dance. When they’re sleeping, they turn into soft cloud babies, little perfect tufts of white on the moonlight.

There are a lot of people like me. Women who know things. Women who have seen things. Women with diseases in their livers. There are a lot of women with scars on their arms and words that carry themselves like sparrows. There are women who were too big for this town, who had their backs bent carrying things like religion and a history that originated somewhere in the crook of a branch that extended over a stream. A place where a patch of the sky was visible through the leaves, where a little girl let her bare leg dangle too far down.

There are a lot of people like me, because we’re all the same. We’re all blood and electricity. We’re lonely under the gaze of god. We’re all wet with dew and swallowing hard against DO THIS, CONSUME, SHUT UP and BE AFRAID to die.

All of you women with lines on your brow, with cracks between your fingers… it’s been a long winter. All of you, you are beautiful and so am I.

The thing is, my children are perfect. I am the grown up, so I’m supposed to show them everything about life. When they wake up in the morning, though, I stare at them and they’re new. They teach me everything. They are babies and they teach me what it means to be a person. It’s easy to see that they’re beautiful.

I am slow and I am tired. I am round and sagging. I am harried. I am sexless. I am getting older.

I am beautiful. How can this be? How can any of this be true?

I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.

“Look at me, girls!” I say to them. “Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.”

Amanda King

I see it behind their eyes, the calculating and impression. I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful. They love me. To them, I am love and guidance and warm, soft blankets and early mornings. They have never doubted how wonderful I am. They have never doubted my beauty. How confusing it must have been for them to see me furrowing my brow in the mirror and sucking in my stomach and sighing.

How confusing it must have been to have me say to them, “You think I am beautiful, but you are wrong. You are small and you love me, so you’re not smart enough to know how unattractive I am. I know I am ugly because I see myself with mean eyes. You are my child and I love you, but I will not allow myself to be pretty, for you. No matter how shining you are when you watch me brushing my hair and pulling my dress over my head. No matter how much you want to be just like me, I can’t be beautiful for you and I don’t know why.”

It’s working, a little bit. I’ve even stopped hating myself, a little bit.

I’ll be what they see. They see me through eyes of love. I’d do anything for them, even this.

I am beautiful.

 

Amanda King is a Pittsburgh mommy of two Super Girls.  She is married to the world’s sexiest accountant and they are all sure to live happily ever after.  When not writing stories and seeking a literary agent, she can be found pouring her heart out at http://www.lastmomonearth.com

Pride

I am thrilled to announce that for the second year in a row, Enlighten Education has been announced as a Finalist for the incredibly prestigious Australian Human Rights Awards in the Business category (winners announced at the ceremony which will be held in Sydney, December 10).

I thought I would take the opportunity to share a few sections from our application with you as I am incredibly proud of the work my team are doing to improve outcomes for girls and to promote and advance human rights and human rights principles in the Australian community.

Enlighten Education is based on the belief that by entering into, and engaging with, the world of teenage girls, adults can encourage meaningful and constructive conversations about gender, identity, education, careers and girls’ futures.

A core component of the company’s work is to increase awareness among girls, their parents, teachers and the wider community of issues of injustice and inequality in Australia, especially relating to girls and women. We also encourage greater harmony between people of different race, sex, sexuality, age and ethnic origin within Australia, because acceptance of diversity is central to our message.

Enlighten Education empowers girls and educates the community about girls’ rights to:

  • freedom from sexual objectification and harassment
  • freedom from the threat of violence, intimidation and bullying
  • fairness and equity in educational opportunities
  • fairness and equity in career opportunities
  • healthy body image and self-esteem
  • the end of social and cultural pressures that place young women at greater risk of anorexia and bulimia nervosa, depression and anxiety, substance abuse and self-harm than other sectors of the community

Enlighten Education works to protect and promote girls’ rights and empower girls to: stand up for freedom of identity and sexuality; have good self-esteem and body image; and make the most of educational and career opportunities—free of discrimination based on their gender or appearance, and free of restrictive, sexualising and objectifying messages from the media, advertising and other cultural influences.

Enlighten Education encourages girls to:

  • be critical thinkers, form their own conclusions, know their own minds and find their own voice
  • decode media, marketing, advertising and popular culture messages that impose limiting gender stereotypes or have inappropriate sexualising messages
  • develop healthy body image, self-esteem and confidence
  • combat bullying and intimidation, and resolve conflict
  • set personal boundaries, deal with sexual harassment, and use the internet and mobile phones safely
  • understand the history and current status of women’s rights
  • become aware of the environmental, ethical and social impacts of their consumer choices
  • get involved in charities and volunteer work to benefit the community
Me working with some Primary School girls.

The remainder of our Application discusses our media outreach work (which includes my work on Channel 9’s Mornings program as well as the various Opinion pieces I write for both blogs and national newspapers), our online presence ( platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and the free Iphone App we launched), the social activism work we have been involved in, and the charity work we do (for both CanTeen and The Mirabel Foundation) to help ensure equity in service delivery.

I know from attending the Award Ceremony last year that we shall be amongst giants on the day; the stories shared in 2011 were so incredibly inspiring and moving.

We feel like winners already.

 

A 21 Day Challenge- for mothers and daughters

Actress Kate Winslet recently made a powerful statement on the importance of modelling positive self image for our girls: “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia (my daughter), because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”

My submission – Day 3 – click on image to read text.

 

Those of you who have read my book for parents on raising positive, happy teenage girls, The Butterfly Effect, will know that I also believe the search for solutions to the problems our girls face haunts many mothers. While it haunts fathers, too, ultimately I believe fixing this mess is women’s business, for we are the ones who show girls every day how to wear the label ‘woman’. And we do not always wear this label as a badge of honour.

Studies have shown that while up to 68 per cent of teenage girls think they are less beautiful than the average girl, 84 per cent of women over the age of 40 think they are less beautiful than the average woman. A 2008 Australian Women’s Weekly survey of 15,000 women found that only one in six were happy with their weight, one in five had such a poor body image they avoided mirrors and almost half would have cosmetic surgery if they could afford it. Binge drinking appeared to be rife, too. A third of the women surveyed drank too much and one in five admitted she had been told she had a drinking problem.

Many of us tell our daughters they do not need to change in order to be beautiful, while we rush for Botox. We tell them inner beauty counts, while we devour magazines that tell us beauty is really only about air-brushed perfection after all. If even the grown-ups are struggling, is it any wonder that our daughters are? Girls cannot be what they cannot see.

It seems that in many significant ways we are far more like our daughters than we are different. How desperately sad.

But this recognition of sameness is also full of possibility. If we accept that the issues we need to work on affect all girls and women, then we have the opportunity to sort this mess out alongside our daughters. We no longer need to maintain the ‘Mother knows best’ facade and try to ‘fix’ everything for them. Or worse still, rage at their unhealthy behaviours, which really only parallel our own – how teen girls hate hypocrisy!

We can join our daughters and work together on something greater; we can together find new connections and deeper mutual understandings.

And with this goal in mind, I recently joined the Real Girl’s 21 Day Challenge.

Sam Power’s submission

Sam Power, my Enlighten Program Director for the USA, was profiled at this blog a few weeks ago. This month Sam has encouraged her Real Girls readers to join her in a 21 Day Challenge; participants will become more positive about their bodies, and enhance their sense of self.

With the aim of being a positive role model not just for my teen daughter Teyah, 13, but for all the young girls Enlighten works with, I have joined in – and what fun it has been so far! Challenges include making a playlist of songs that inspire and motivate (Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” are on mine – spot the ’80’s chick), listing all the things in your life you are grateful for, and asking three people close to you to write you a note telling you what they value you about you. Embedded in this post are the submissions both Sam and I made for Day 3 of the  Challenge – “Take a photo of a part of your body that you love and explain why you appreciate it.”

Love to see your submissions, and love to see you you show all the young women around you that are enough. 

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