Recently my 3-year-old son looked at me lovingly and said, “Mommy, you’re fat!”
I’m an average-sized, curvy woman and I love my body the way it is. Fat is not a bad word, however, I have to admit, my self-esteem took a temporary hit with this one.
He certainly didn’t learn that language from our family so I was left wondering where he came up with it. I realized that while we were watching TV, weight loss commercials were catching his attention and putting these terrible ideas about mommy’s body in his mind.
While my husband and I were busy making sure our son didn’t see TV shows or commercials glorifying violence and guns, there was something else just as sinister seeping into his very impressionable brain. We are concerned that these negative media messages will distort his view of women.
If our son constantly sees ads with women talking about wanting to lose weight, then he’ll learn to constantly focus on and criticize their bodies.
It’s hard enough for me to see these commercials and try to ignore them, but my son has yet to learn about the effects these negative media messages have on all of us.
He doesn’t know that advertisers are playing with our self-esteem in order to get us to buy their products. He doesn’t know that they’ll say anything to get us to hand over our money.
He doesn’t realize there’s a difference between real women and those who have been edited to appear to be “perfect”. He doesn’t know about the lengths that women are pressured to go to in order to fit the “ideal” beauty standards.
If I do nothing, the negative media messages will teach him to value women’s appearances instead of their intelligence, their size instead of their humor, how well they fit society’s beauty standards instead of the goodness in their hearts.
If I do nothing, he might objectify women and think nothing of the violence that is committed against them. If I do nothing, he might tell other women that they’re fat.
I wasn’t planning on having a conversation with him about these things until he was older. His fourth birthday is approaching and I’ve already seen how media messages and social pressures have changed his view of the world. If I don’t get ahead of them, then it will be a lot harder to change any negative perceptions of women he may have developed down the road.
My husband and I want our sons to value women and their bodies as they are naturally, and to treat them with respect and not objectify them. The next time a weight loss commercial comes on, we’ll have that much needed conversation or turn the channel.
Gretchen Edwards-Bodmer is a curvy grrrl from Virginia with a Master’s degree in Humanities and Women’s Studies. You can find her musings about raising two boys in this crazy world at www.grrrlwithboys.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @GrrrlWithBoys