Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who is Fighting for Her Feminine?

I was disheartened today. I witnessed another pre-teen girl stressing out about her body image. This girl is beautiful, normal height, not overweight. I cried. Has so little changed in our culture?

I relived my distress at the age of eleven. Because I am of Middle-Eastern descent I have more dark body hair than almost every woman I’ve examined. We’re talking thousands of women. I remember, at the age of eleven, asking my mother if I could shave my legs. She, thankfully, not only put the electric razor in my hand but made my father, who is fairly non-communicative, tell me how beautiful my newly shaven legs looked. His positive comment carried so much weight that I remember it still.

Over the years, I grew tired of all of the unwelcome responses. One teenage boy was fascinated by the blonde hair on my arms that didn’t match the dark hair on my head. I was too embarrassed to tell him that I had bleached it. When I became an adult, the reactions from ignorant men were no better. The male family practice resident at my medical school clinic, who fit me for a diaphragm, gave me an unsolicited warning. He thought he was doing me a favor when he told me that I would probably have difficulty conceiving, this because he wasn’t used to seeing women whose hair growth was due to ethnicity. He didn’t bother to ask the other appropriate questions, such as the regularity of my periods, but, instead, assumed that I had an endocrine disorder. I did not escape our cultural ignorance until I landed in Greece. Thank goodness for Greece! There I wasn’t alone, and no one thought me less beautiful or less desirable because I happened to have hairy arms.

I remembered all of this today when I felt this lovely girl’s pre-pubescent pain.

We are still failing miserably if our girls continue to be so hypercritical of their body image. We’ve been aware of this problem for decades. We have even structured groups around this, but we are still failing. What do we need to do to ensure that our daughters know that they are beautiful? What do we, their role models, need to change about our own self-image? How can we guarantee that our message is stronger than the cultural one? Why are we willing to lose our girls to the societal message that they are not good enough just the way they are?

I would love to hear some of the ways that you celebrate your girls, just as they are. How are you honoring their entrance into womanhood? Are there significant women and men in your daughter’s, grand-daughter’s, or niece’s life that you have recruited to reinforce her internal and external beauty?

Who is fighting for her feminine?

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