The brouhaha over the Sweet Valley High girls now being a "perfect size four," instead of a "perfect size six" seemed a bit overblown, but I had to agree that Wendy's take on it captured the real problem:
I wonder how all of this focus on appearance for younger and younger kids is going to affect them. If they see beauty treatments and grownup-looking clothes as just something fun, that doesn't seem to be a big deal. I always remember girly-girls (they made me want to puke) who looked perfect all of the time even in second and third grade. One wore fancy dresses with sashes and lace almost every day to school, and her mom set her hair on rollers. To me, I thought, whatever, and went to play on the monkey bars. I didn't like to wear skirts because I didn't want the boys to see my underpants and tease me, but that was the extent to which my appearance mattered most of the time.
For extra credit, feel free to speculate about the standards by which the Wakefield Twins will be “perfect” in the 2033 reissue of Sweet Valley High. “As Elizabeth twirled her size 2 figure, the sun gleamed off her flawless Brazilian.” Because isn’t that where they’re headed at this rate? Sweet Valley indeed!
Of course, I remember getting forcibly gussied up for school pictures, and even though some of them were horrible, I wouldn't have wanted them to be retouched (at least until I started getting zits). I do remember one year picture my school picture was particularly bad, and my mom didn't give them out that year, and I remember feeling sad about it. So how sad would I have felt if instead, she had asked them to fix my hair and my still-growing-in teeth, or airbrush out my freckles? Aren't some of those things kind of endearing to parents? Are they really in that much of a hurry for them to grow up?
Maybe these moms could just take a picture of some other kid they think is cute and hand that out instead.
It seems that the quest for child beauty is taking a toll:
Kids form body images almost as soon as they can form words, and already studies show that girls think negatively about their shapes from as young as grammar school. Today 42 percent of first-to-third-grade girls want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of getting fat, according to a 2004 global study by the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign.So what is all this child beauty for? The question is especially frightening when it comes to the eight-year-old whose mother wanted her eyebrows arched "like a supermodel's" and demanded that she be given a bikini wax. I don't even want to think who was going to see the result. I half wondered if the mother whispered in her child's ear, "Here's your one chance, Fancy, don't let me down."
I feel sad for my own lost innocence -- I really didn't want to think about kids being treated this way -- let alone the child's. I don't want to think of eight-year-olds sexualized in this way, painted and waxed, and dressed in clothes more appropriate for an adult. I want them to go run around the yard, refuse to brush their hair or take a bath, and think boys are yuckky, and be allowed to be little girls.
This body-image stuff is hard enough for us adults to deal with. Let's try to protect kids from it as long as we can.