As a feminist and the mother of two girls, I’m constantly looking at my own parenting and questioning what I can do better to make sure I am bringing up strong confident women.
As a young women I had terrible problems with lack of body confidence. I don’t know why that is exactly because it’s certainly not something I learnt from my own mother. I have no memory of her dieting or weighing herself or hating on her body, but for some reason I have struggled with this a lot. Maybe it was due to growing up at the height of heroin chic – hopefully a phrase my daughters will never understand.
I am determined to bring my girls up to love their bodies – whatever size or shape they are, to be full of body confidence and to know that their worth is not based on the numbers on a set of scales. I know that the best way I can do this is to lead by example.
I am not someone who is comfortable wondering around the house naked but if the children walk in on me in the bathroom or getting changed (which all parents know is basically every day.) I make sure I don’t rush to cover up, I don’t back into a wall and try to hide myself. I hold my head high and smile and try to show how happy and confident I am with my body.
I never weigh myself in front of the girls or discuss weight in any way. I do not criticise any part of my body and most importantly I never ever use the word FAT.
On Monday my eldest daughter (she is 5) came home from school with a new reading book, this is a book she has chosen herself from the selection available in her class. The book is called ‘A Piece of Cake’ by Jill Murphy. My partner read the book with her and when he had finished he came to me and said ‘ I don’t think Evelyn should be reading this book, can you look at it?’ I read the first page and I couldn’t believe my eyes!
All the hard work I’ve put in is undone in a few seconds by a book kindly introducing my daughter to the following ideas –
You can be ‘too fat’.
You should be ashamed about being fat.
If you are fat you should go on a diet.
It’s fine for your partner and other members of your family to comment on your body, call you wibbly wobbly and tell you to go on a diet.
I was furious and I immediately sat down and wrote a note to Evelyn’s teacher asking for a new book and for this book to be removed from the library. Do you think I was over reacting? Have I gone too far? Honestly I don’t think so. As I said in my letter to the teacher this book has absolutely no positive message, no educational value at all, it’s simply a vile book written at a time when talking about women’s bodies like this was acceptable. It’s no longer acceptable and I don’t want it inflicted on mine or anyone else’s children.
I’m not stupid I know I can’t follow my girls around making sure they never hear the word fat, that they never hear someone complaining about their weight or talking about dieting, but I can make sure that they don’t hear or see this in their own home and that they aren’t getting this message from school.
I want to be clear that my daughter goes to a wonderful school, with fantastic teachers and she is extremely happy there. This is not a criticism of the school, I am sure most schools have this and also other questionable books hanging around their libraries, lets face it no schools have enough money to be casually chucking books in the bin but there are some books that really do need to go.
So this is my call to arms to mums and dads reading this. If your child comes home with a book that is sexist, body shaming, misogynistic, or full of ridiculous gender stereotyping please raise it with their teacher, explain why you don’t want your child having this rubbish pumped into their brains, it’s highly likely that the teacher will completely agree with you and agree to remove it.
If you are looking for new books to inspire your children here are a few that I have bought for my girls recently that we really enjoy reading together.
Fantastically great women who changed the world by Kate Pankhurst.
Little People Big Dreams series of books by Lisbeth Kaiser and Isabelle Sanchez Vegara.
Giraffes can’t dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Goodnight Yoga by Mariam Gates.
Thanks very much for reading, I would really love to hear your opinions on this.