Relentless body shaming puts girls at risk

Pressure of unachievable beauty standards, threatening long term potential, starts in girls as young as nine

TORONTO, Nov. 12, 2013 /CNW/ - From the overt body shaming of Hollywood actors like Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham, to the impossible standards set by photoshopped images in magazines, the pressure for perfection is undeniable. A new study from the Canadian Women's Foundation reveals that Canadian girls are the latest casualties of a culture that continues to erode the female gender's self-esteem by promoting an image of beauty that is unrealistic. Girls between the ages of nine and 16 face body shaming and lack of confidence at more than double the rate of young boys. One-in-five Canadians (21 per cent) know a girl who says she's fat and an almost equal amount (18 per cent) know one who says she's on a diet. Respectively, only 8 per cent and 5 per cent know boys who say this.

"The bigger problem here is that the negative and long term effects of body shaming are well documented," says Beth Malcolm, Director Girls' Fund, Canadian Women's Foundation. "Body shaming diminishes self-confidence, decision making and the long term potential of Canadian girls. It prioritizes outward appearance, rather than what's truly important - curiosity, courage, and confidence. Today it is more critical than ever that Canadians continue to nurture resilience in girls."

The study also found that 17 per cent of Canadians know a girl who thinks she is ugly, compared to only 7 per cent of Canadians who know a boy that feels this way.

"This artificial image of beauty for women - thin, beautiful and always sexually available - is having a negative impact on girls," adds Ms. Malcolm. "Girls at a younger and younger age are holding themselves up to an artificial and unachievable standard of beauty. These new insights amplify the importance of teaching our girls the thinking skills required to evaluate the images they see in advertising every day with a well-informed, critical eye. At the same time adults need to model the traits and behaviours that will help girls build confidence and resilience."

Nurturing Resilience: Top 7 DOs and DON'Ts!

1. DON'T bite your tongue.
If people say things you disagree with or treat you in a disrespectful way, speak up. She needs to know it's okay to stand up for herself, even at the risk of hurting someone's feelings or causing disagreement.
   
2. DON'T talk about how fat you look.
Never criticize your appearance in front of her or make negative comments about the way she or other females look. Let her know you value people's inner qualities - like curiosity and courage - more than outward appearance.
   
3. DON'T put yourself down.
Never make jokes about how incompetent you are, or make light of your own skills and abilities. She will learn to minimize her own accomplishments and may lower her future ambitions.

Nurturing Resilience In Young Girls

4. DO let her lead.
When choosing school or social activities, ask her opinion and provide genuine choice. Rather than saying, "Do you want to take dance or singing?" ask open-ended questions like, "What interests you these days?"
   
5. DO let her take risks.
Assuming her physical or mental health isn't at stake, try not to be over-protective. Don't rob her of the chance to be accountable for her own decisions and to learn from her own mistakes. If she fails, congratulate her for trying but don't rescue her.
   
6. DO validate her experience.
If she has 'negative' feelings or is having problems with her friends, don't say "It's not that bad" or try to cheer her up. Listen with respect, acknowledge that things sound difficult, and ask if there is anything you can do. Don't pressure her to talk when she doesn't want to. Instead, find lighthearted ways to strengthen your connection with her, like going for a walk or bike ride. If she is having problems with friends, encourage her to think more critically about the situation; suggest she pretend she is watching the conflict on TV or in a movie; what motivations and solutions does she see? If she is in genuine distress, get outside help.
   
7. DO provide fair and consistent structure.
Presented in the spirit of love and caring, rules help young people feel protected and connected. Adolescents are less likely to engage in problem behaviours when adults know what they're doing, and who they're with. Set clear expectations for behaviour related to attending school, doing homework, sharing chores, and abiding by curfews.

*Methodology:
From September 10th to September 11th 2013 an online survey was conducted among 1,002 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec language). Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

For more information, you can visit the Canadian Women's Foundation online at www.canadianwomen.org or tweet using hashtag #cdnwomen.

Sample Tweets

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  2. 21% of Cnds know a girl who thinks she's ugly. Help girls build self-confidence: 7 DO's and DON'Ts @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  3. Fake magazines images = unrealistic images of beauty. Nurture girl's resilience: 7 Do's & Don'ts @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  4. Body shaming diminishes girl's self-confidence. Teach girls how to evaluate images in ads @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  5. More than ¼ Cnd girls know a girl that thinks she's fat. Nurture resilience in girls: DOs & DON'Ts @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  6. Fake images of beauty negatively impact girls. TOP 7 DOs & DON'Ts to nurture girls' resilience @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  7. Help Canadian girls oppose the culture of body shaming that prioritizes outward appearance @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  8. Teach girls thinking skills to evaluate ad images. Top 7 DOs and DON'Ts to building resilient girls @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  9. 7 DOs & DON'Ts to nurturing resilience in girls. Help girls overcome beauty standards set by Hollywood @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
  10. Cnd girls 9-16 have double the rate of young boys with issues of body shaming and lack of confidence @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW
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  12. Pressures of unachievable beauty standards, threatens long term potential of Cnd girls as young as 9 @cdnwomenfdn http://bit.ly/1bouxgW

About Canadian Women's Foundation

The Canadian Women's Foundation is Canada's public foundation for women and girls. We empower women and girls in Canada to move out of violence, out of poverty and into confidence. Since 1991, we've raised money and invested in over 1,300 community programs across Canada, and are now one of the ten largest women's foundations in the world. We take a positive approach to address root causes of the most critical issues facing women and girls. We study and share the best ways to create long-term change and bring community organizations together for training and to learn from each other. We carefully select and fund the programs with the strongest outcomes and regularly evaluate their work. We have a special focus on building a community of women helping other women. Helping women creates safer families and communities, and a more prosperous society for all of us. We invest in the power of women and the dreams of girls. For more information please visit www.canadianwomen.org

Editors Note: When referring to the Canadian Women's Foundation, please use the full name. Please do not abbreviate or use acronyms. 

SOURCE: Canadian Women's Foundation

For further information:

For more information including interviews with Canadian Women's Foundation representatives:

Katherine Heydon
Katherine.heydon@fleishman.ca 
416.645.3665

Claire Petch 
claire.petch@fleishman.ca 
416.645.3659 


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