By Vanessa Copeland

We have all become familiar with the phrase “body shaming” in today’s climate of social media. We have all seen celebrities or friends who have, or have personally, been the victim of an internet troll on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. While this may seem like a recent phenomenon and a product of the technological age in which we find ourselves, the truth is this has been going on for much longer than many care to admit. Most of the women I know are unhappy with the way they look. They feel that they’re too thin, too thick, too short, too tall, too pale, etc. Nearly all of them feel they are too something or not enough something else. As women, we know this is how we feel and how most women feel, but most of us do not stop to think how we got there. Something needs to change.

School dress codes have been proven to target young girls. Girls have been dress coded for something as simple as her tank top sleeve not meeting the required three inches. A girl who is dressed in the same thing her friends are wearing might get singled out because her crew neck now seems “too low cut” since she’s the one girl whose breasts came early. Tall girls find it impossible to find shorts that meet the required five inches above the knee because they’re all legs and the industry only offers short shorts. Girls are not allowed to wear yoga pants that are “too tight and revealing because young boys may get the wrong idea.” When visiting my son’s school for lunch, I noticed that most of the girls were wearing pants while the boys were walking around comfortably in this summer heat in shorts. I have heard many parents say that it is just easier to send their daughters to school in jeans than to try to find shorts that meet the rules of the dress code. Rules that are put into place with the sole intention of young girls not “distracting” young boys, all the while the young girl’s education is being disrupted and her self-esteem damaged. They are pulled from class and required to sit in the Nurse’s station waiting on their parents to bring them something “appropriate.” For the girls, who’s parents are unable to leave work, they are required to wear unlaundered clothes found in the lost & found. Something needs to change.

A recent survey published by Yahoo! Health shows that 94% of teen girls have been body shamed. The same study also showed that it takes most women nearly half of their lives to reach the same level of body self esteem that teenage boys have already achieved. Furthermore, recent studies have also shown that teenagers who think they are too fat or too thin, regardless their actual weight, are much more likely to experience suicidal impulses and attempts. Something needs to change.

We need to advocate for our young women, while teaching our young men what is appropriate behavior and that young woman are not objects to be ogled. We need to keep having discussions with teachers, counselors, principals, other parents. We need to send the message that a woman’s identity is not based upon her appearance. Something needs to change, and change starts with you.

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