Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Body image and young girls

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Are we preening our girls to enter a society influenced by the beauty industry which seeks to impose a cultural norm that accepts the pursuit of 'perfection'? Photo / Thinkstock
Are we preening our girls to enter a society influenced by the beauty industry which seeks to impose a cultural norm that accepts the pursuit of 'perfection'? Photo / Thinkstock

The news story about the mother who injected her eight-year-old daughter's face with Botox has turned out to be a hoax.

The woman had appeared on Good Morning America saying it was to give her daughter an edge in the notoriously cut-throat world of child beauty pageants. Now she's retracted her statement. It turns out that her daughter doesn't even compete in these pageants. The photograph of the child clutching an icepack to her bruised and puffy face must have been faked too.

The hoax generated worldwide condemnation and sparked discussion about young girls, their body images and how long we can protect them from a beauty industry only too keen to find imperfections where there are none.

As the ball season approaches, school girls are being styled, spray tanned, manicured, waxed, polished and goodness knows what else. The pre-ball rituals subscribed to by some of today's young women outstrip the preparation I did for my wedding.

One mother commented: "If they're going to this much trouble for a school ball, what on earth is left to do when they get married?"

Many mothers struggle to strike the right balance, wanting to introduce their daughters to the innocent pleasures of certain beauty routines without fostering an unhealthy vanity. Bubble baths and blow-waves may be fine. Cosmetic surgery and crash-dieting? Not so much.

Last year I took my daughter to a Professionails nail bar for a pedicure and we both left with purple-painted toenails. It was a spontaneous decision, one I'd given no great thought to.

My toenails were tatty, she was with me at the mall and all of a sudden we were perched in adjacent chairs and ankle-deep in footbaths.

Afterwards, feeling only mildly guilty, I texted a friend: "Just had our toes done. I suppose seven is too young for a pedicure?"

Her breezy reply said: "No way. My girls get their toes done every school holidays."

Of course, it wasn't the pedicure itself that I'd had a fit of post-purchase dissonance over. It was the pernicious subtext of the beauty industry - the implication that we're not good enough in our natural state, that as women we are destined to be constantly tweaked and shaped into some other, more acceptable, version of ourselves - I wished I hadn't exposed my daughter to.

But I have a feeling that such covert messages eluded her. Thoroughly enchanted by the process, she'd loved the whole pampering aspect: the warm water, the calf massage and the sparkling polish.

Her discovery of the fact that many women spend a large part of their pay packet optimistically trying to conform to some ideal notion of attractiveness would have to wait for another day.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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