Discovery Girls magazine recently published an article titled What Swimsuit Best Suits You? and showed us all what’s wrong with growing up as a girl in America. The magazine’s target audience is young tweens, which usually means 10-12 year olds. Here’s what swimsuit best fits a 10 year old girl: one that allows them to play in the sand, swim with their friends, and stay protected from the sun. Here’s what they should not be considering: drawing the eye away from problem areas, adding curves with well placed straps, flattering the body with contrasting patterns—all advice given by Discovery Girls to their readers.
Ugh. Just, no. Are we still really doing this? Have we learned nothing from Gloria Steinem and Marlene Dietrich? Kids should, of course, be able to express themselves through the clothes they wear. They should choose the colors, patterns, and combinations that make them feel great—based on their own preferences, not inappropriate social messages from outsiders about their bodies. In fact, when we tell a girl to consider how other people will feel about the choices she makes for her body, we are taking away the core of that choice.
But it’s easy to forget that. So easy, in fact, that a magazine created with the mission of encouraging girls to love who they are made this mistake. Apparently, Discovery Girls works to further girls’ independence and give them a voice. Much of their content is written by their own readers and they hold leadership summits each year. With that worthy goal, their massive misstep shows us how this harmful messaging can permeate even movements that set out to be positive. After the outrage about the article, the publisher acknowledged they’d made a mistake, but the question is how a group of people supposed to be working toward girls’ empowerment thought this would be an appropriate piece. I think it’s because we, as women, are told to be empowered by the reactions we get to our bodies. It’s so engrained in our culture to accept this as worthy praise, that we’re teaching our children to accept the same guidelines.
When we start talking about this together, it makes perfect sense to be offended. No sane person thinks it’s a good idea to dress a child with those goals in mind, but the messages are so common we forget we’re even receiving them. And, most importantly, we forget we’re passing them along. That’s why it’s so important to say these things out loud—so we can be conscious of our actions and responses. Personally, I’ll be hoping that if I ever have a daughter, she’ll embrace my love for jumpsuits and ridiculous hats, so all attention is drawn to her face.