Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

October 24, 2004


Georgia has been going around to people telling them that she is skinny, the same way she tells people that she's five and that she has loose teeth- personal status information that she finds interesting and is thinking about, maybe is proud of. I said nothing of interest back to her when she told me this several times, but just hoped she would lose interest in this idea and let it go. But as she persisted in it, I started to dread the thought that she could be aware of body image stuff and the American obsession with thinness. I didn't know what I would say to her, and didn't want to have to get into a complicated conversation about it that must surely be above her head. So I finally decided to get more information from her about what she was talking about. I picked a relaxed time (in the bath tub) when she had not recently told me she was skinny, and the conversation went like this:
"Georgia, why do you say that you're skinny?"
"Because Nadine is skinny (her tall and gangly 7 year old cousin) and I like her."
"What does skinny mean to you, is it a good thing, a bad thing, or something that just is?"
"It's something that just is."
I was relieved that the context and value of this topic for her were not the same as adult issues with weight, and was very happy to remember that a child's understanding of the world is very different from an adult's. They can talk about the same subject , even say the same things, but MEAN totally different things. I know that the day will come soon that I'll have to explain sexism to her, but I'm not ready yet. It makes me want to cry to even think about it. I want to do lots of building before she has to know about the tearing down of people's self-worth and all the degradation of body image crap. I have been careful not to EVER say to her that I or anyone else is fat or skinny or needs to lose or gain weight, let alone the word "dieting", which will will really unnerve me if I ever hear it coming out of her mouth. Georgia knows a lot about diet in the sense of eating healthily and it's something we talk about all the time because of all the food allergy issues we have to deal with, so I'm trying to build as much positive there too before she even hears about "dieting". God help me! I'm raising three girls here. I've GOT to get this one right (issue, not girl).

Posted by Bahiyyih at October 24, 2004 03:22 PM

Wow...this post hit me so hard. You have just addressed the issue that makes me most fear being a parent. On the sexism issue, please go and read one of the first posts I made on my blog. It's called "Warning," and it expresses my feelings on some men's treatment of women. As far as the body image thing goes, I have a TON to say on that, but I haven't exactly come to terms with all of it myself. I started to write a blog post on it once, but I never published it. Maybe some day. I think the thing that will really work in Georgia's (and Maya and Girl #3) favor is that she has strong male and female role models. I strongly believe that a strong father figure who demonstrates unconditional love for his daughter can prevent much of the obsession some girls/ women later have over their physical appearances. If I can get more of my thoughts in order, I'll e-mail them to you later. I don't envy you in your position, but I think it's great that you're so aware and concerned about what you communicate to your girls.

Posted by: Katie at October 24, 2004 09:01 PM

Thanks for sharing Katie. I read your post, and I'm so sorry you had such bad (and all too common) experiences being bombarded with creeps. This whole topic is something I've thought a lot about too, and thanks for your advice. That's very true, I think, about good role models since children value their parents' opinions so much and create their self-image based largely on what their parents think of them. It is a real protection against the onslaughts of sexism from societal influences to be aware of all the valuable parts of yourself from the encouragement of your parents, it seems. And also for the parents to explain the crap the kids are going to run into from people and the media, so they can see it as the fall of civilization and not something they need to internalize. At least, I hope parents can be that powerful, and I will try to do these things myself as fiercely as I can. It feels like a battle and I don't want to lose my children to that big sexist machine that will eat them up as they grow, so they have just a wisp of confidence in themselves as people by the time they're women (which is how I felt).

Posted by: Bahiyyih at October 25, 2004 08:03 AM

Holy smokes, Katie! I don't think I know you, but I had a situation yesterday where I didn't feel like I spoke up for women loud enough when men were belittling the domestic violence movement (something I feel VERY passionately about) and I had the same reaction to go over it in my mind and look at what I could have/should have said and done. But here's the thing: That is THEIR garbage, not ours! We are not responsible for their ignorance and abuse, and by beating ourselves over the head about how we handled their gross behavior, we are taking it on as our garbage. I love how we handled ourselves. You are witty and insightful and I'm grateful for the young women who have you as a role model!!!
p.s. hi Hiya, you are a great mom and I'm so not worried about your girls because of it.

Posted by: Layli at October 25, 2004 09:06 PM

I can't believe I read that. I never knew she'd say that about me. It's very special to know Georgia's thinking about me. I'm thinking about Georgia and my cousins in Champoo-banana because we are planning to move back to Champaign.
I almost cried at supper when we talked about moving.
Hi, I'm Mariah.
I'm going to be swan princess for Halloween.
Hi, Nadine again. I'm going to Hermione Granger for Halloween.
Hi, I'm Dad. This was written by committee.
Nadine, Mariah and Dan
PS. "I want to say Cinderella to Georgia", little Amy

Posted by: Nadine Guyot at October 26, 2004 05:44 PM

I have vast (unfortunately negative) experience with this topic. In brief: the influence a parent and particularly a father brings to bear on a girl's ideas about body image cannot be underestimated. It's huge. In that respect, you guys are already ahead of the game because your attitudes DO NOT reflect those of the culture we live in. And you're very protective of your girls in terms of how much exposure they have to destructive forms of media. Because your girls will grow up knowing they are loved and valued for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with appearance, they will be less vulnerable to anyone's attempts to reduce them to one tiny facet of who they are. I know that they will understand and celebrate the many kinds of beauty that transcend appearance & "packaging". You're too right to be mindful, Bahiyyih, but you're already on top of it. And Billy is, too. Much love~

Posted by: Amy Eades at October 27, 2004 11:28 PM

Way to go, Biyah. You really took the bull by the horns and got to the bottom of Georgia's feelings. It's fantastic that you have a handle on picking up cues. You bring wisdom and study to your parenting, and I appreciate seeing them in you.



Posted by: Nana at October 31, 2004 09:26 PM