Monday, October 22, 2012
October is anti-bullying month and this is a subject close to my heart (my post back in February on Pink Shirt Day struck a chord with many of you). Many of my customers have experienced bullying over their breast size at some point during their life. You may think that this is mostly kids teasing each other during puberty (which of course is rife) however, breast bullying happens in many more places, most dangerously, and sadly, within the family.
Bullying is an invidious weapon that hurts the victim from within. The effects can be experienced for years and affect how you feel about yourself long into adulthood. I think we have an opportunity to change decades of ignorance and bullying so that future generations of girls can grow up without the weight of breast-shame to deal with.
Bullying within the Family
You may be surprised to know that this is the most common form of bullying my clients tell me about. Many are singled out for being the most busty sister or daughter and made to feel that they are somehow 'wrong' in their physique. Perhaps much of this taunting stems from jealousy or insecurity with their own shape (it's much easier to bring other people down than to raise them and yourself up).
Perpetual breast taunting and shaming establishes doubt about the validity of your body and makes young women question if they have done something wrong. This can lead to seeking validation about your body and worth for a long time. A supportive and enlightened family can save a busty teen from years of searching for self-esteem and body acceptance.
Ignoring developing breasts and covering daughters in layers of baggy clothing to hide their figures also contributes to a sense of breast-shame. This passive bullying is to try and force girls into a certain 'mold' that women ought to be. Breasts are still incorrectly linked to morality so many parents think that by making their daughters look as though they don't have breasts it will somehow 'save' them from moral peril. This simply doesn't work. You can teach body-confidence and morality at the same time.
Bullying from the Media
It's well disguised but there is no doubt that women are bullied into feeling they 'should' be something in order to be acceptable. We are bombarded with images and words that narrow the size, shape, colour, height and weight we should be. From the tiny selection of magazine covers below you can see the imbued guilt and shame woven into mass media.
Having a great internal compass that says "this is just one way that women can look, there are millions of other ways" allows us to see these women as beautiful but not the only valuable women in our world.
New strategies are coming into effect to stop the runaway train of media weight-dogma. The UK seems to be leading the way with groups like the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image who were part of the first Body Confidence Awards recognizing advertisers, authors, websites, individuals and organizations promoting confidence in children and adults. I don't think that governments ought to be left to determine confidence, but we certainly need some consequences for companies who blatantly prey on our insecurities to keep us in a fear-based-buying-cycle.
A couple of weeks ago our community here in Greater Vancouver was rocked by the suicide of a young girl after years of relentless bullying via the Internet, phone and in person. A tragic litany of events included a barrage of abuse about the girl's breasts. The complexities of digital communication, young women, breasts and society is a topic for a whole other blog, but this journalist's piece is thought-provoking. We need to start arming our young girls and adults with the education and language to understand their own bodies and to be supportive and accepting of other women's bodies before they start looking for validation and acceptance in a faceless place.
As you've probably figured out by now I think words are powerful and even though they can inflict such dreadful wounds they are also a busty girl's best defense and liberation to live happily and confidently in her beautiful body. By giving the women and girls in your life words of encouragement as well as arming them with the vocabulary to love their own bodies, we can change how future generations of women treat themselves and other women. xx
Self Confidence Sites
Body Confidence Sites