Last week, as I was trying on a pile of winter sale jerseys, I was privy to the chit-chat of two tweenage girls one cubicle over. From the sizes of clothing they discussed, I gathered they were around 11 years old. For a while, they giggled delightedly while they taught each other ‘model poses’ that they were evidently admiring in the mirrors, but their mirth turned sour when one of the girls decided she looked fat in whatever item she had tried on. “I could wear it if I sucked my tummy in the whole time,” the girl told her friend. “Don’t worry,” her friend consoled her, as the first girl got close to tears, “At least you don’t look like <some other little girl they knew>.”
I walked out of the store with a heart of lead. These girls weren’t yet women, and already they were wishing their bodies different, programmed with self-loathing and judgment of themselves and their peers.
How can we protect our kids from these harmful messages from so young?
The answer is, I don’t think we can. What we can do, is teach them to recognize the messages they’re being pummelled with, and attempt to counterbalance all of the negativity with messages about loving their bodies and appreciating the beautiful differences between all of us.
One such positive message is Steven Universe, an animated series now premiering on the Cartoon Network, in partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project. The Emmy-nominated series revolves around Steven, the “little brother” to a team of magical aliens —the Crystal Gems—who defend the planet Earth. The cartoon aims to build body confidence in young people, by leveraging research that has shown that children’s media can be a powerful source of influence on young viewers’ perspective of their body image and emotional intelligence.
Check out this cute clip for a delightful taster:
Sure, maybe the show is geared at young people, but I don’t know about you – I could always use a little extra body positivity in my life, and I don’t think you can ever get too old for cartoons. So pull up a comfy seat, pour a bowl of cereal, and tune into the Cartoon Network for a bit of fun with a beautiful message!