The Internet of Moms exploded this week when it was revealed that the latest issue of Discovery Girls magazine (aimed at girls ages 8 and up) featured a spread explaining “Which Swimsuit Suits You,” with suit suggestions to flatter the bodies of girls who are “curvy up top,” “straight up & down,” or “rounder in the middle.”
As the mother of a 9-year-old girl who still picks out T-shirts with unicorns on them and carries her favorite stuffed animal everywhere, I was particularly appalled at tips on how to “draw the eyes down” or “add curves,” which unnecessarily sexualize prepubescent bodies. But the basic premise of the article—that there is a “right” way for your body to be, and if you don’t meet those standards you need to camouflage your body to mimic them—is particularly destructive for girls this age.
Pre-teen girls are just learning about what it means to be female in this world. Many of them are still firmly planted in childhood, where they take unselfconscious joy in how fast they can run or how many cartwheels they can do or how many soccer goals they can score—and wouldn’t it be great if we could all feel that way about our bodies? Shouldn’t we want girls to feel that way as long as they possibly can? The insecurities and angst of adolescence are coming for them, fast—why would we want to push them into it any faster?
The publisher took to Facebook to issue a statement apologizing for the feature:
Catherine Lee writes, “It’s still hard for me to believe that an article so contrary to our magazine’s mission could have been published on our pages. I have been a loss for words for days. The article was supposed to be about finding cute, fun swimsuits that make girls feel confident, but instead it focused on girls’ body image and had a negative impact.”
I wish that Discovery Girls took more ownership of this mistake, rather than Lee implying that the article was just something that kind of happened to them by surprise. But here’s the bigger truth: My daughter doesn’t need a “cute, fun swimsuit” to make her feel confident, though she does love her turquoise rashguard with the pink dolphin on the front. It would never occur to her not to feel confident in her swimsuit. She certainly doesn’t need the media she consumes to plant that idea in her head.
There is so much body shaming, and so many negative messages about womanhood out there already. It’s hard enough raising a girl in the middle of all of that without a magazine aimed directly at her choosing to participate. Let’s all try to do better, mmmkay?