Mirror, mirror on the wall

I think little girls clothed in innocence are the sweetest thing. Sometimes on a sunny weekend, I’ll go listen to a live band in the park, and watching the girls who aren’t afraid to dance will fill me with some deep appreciation for she-power everywhere. I want to wear sparkly bracelets, spin around and laugh no matter whose watching. Those fearless ones are the prettiest, probably because our culture has this warped obsession with aging children too quickly. Bumping into tweens shopping in Victoria’s Secret is terrifying. Girls covered in make-up and strutting in heels when they haven’t even started middle school yet is just depressing.

When did we decide it was okay to make little girls mini-women?

It’s been happening for awhile, we’re just good at ignoring it. Like most people, I grew up with Barbie dolls. Fortunately, society has realized that Barbie is one fantasy who will never become a reality. The curvy hips, the massive chest, the flawless face and the twig legs will not equal a proportionate, healthy body. But with Barbies as the center of my play dates, it’s no wonder my friends and I entered adulthood looking to pop culture for a beauty education.

We naturally want to model what we see on the runway or on magazine covers. Even when we’re grounded and self-esteem levels are rocketing, it’s hard not to cave to peer pressure, wondering if a thigh gap may in fact be true happiness or if a six pack could be worth all the sacrifice.

Once upon a time, we held in our hands replicas of what the world deemed beautiful. Barbie kinda sorta screwed us over.

What I’m grateful for, is an awakening to true beauty – a seemingly heightened appreciation for grace, character, poise, strength and fitness. Our celebrities may still be airbrushed, but with edgy examples of femininity and confidence emerging, perhaps young girls have some hope. Think what you want of the Hunger Games series, but I will relentlessly defend its protagonist, Katniss, for her success as a role model.

Katniss values her family, really above all else. She is not obsessed with herself and she certainly does not duck face in selfies. She pushes herself, choosing to find bravery in the midst of trials. She is not stick thin – she is fit. She may not always have all the answers, but she is honest with herself and when in doubt, she looks to a mentor for advice. 

Barbie’s spray tan and shopping addiction suddenly seem very insignificant. Of course there’s nothing wrong with imagination and playing with a doll. I would just hate for today’s youth to find their identity in make believe. Granted the apocalyptic world of the Hunger Games districts isn’t the stuff of real life either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if more women chose to redefine beauty? We may enjoy Jennifer Aniston’s acting and covet Kim Kardashian’s figure, but we respect and admire women like Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton, Coco Chanel, Oprah Winfrey, Eleanor Roosevelt. We respect and admire them because deep down, we know they would thrive without good looks, thereby making them all the lovelier.

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