A few weeks ago, we began a discussion at Senior Section (this is a Girlguiding unit I run with girls aged 14-25) and body image came up. I can’t remember where the discussion had begun – it may have been talking about gender equality from one of the challenges in the Commonwealth Games ‘Ready, Steady, Glasgow‘ pack. I think we showed this video
We discussed how girls were concerned about being judged by other girls on how big their breasts were or their body size or what they were wearing.
You want to say it doesn’t matter.
And then you remember what you saw fill your twitter feed the morning after any film or television awards ceremony. And you realise that most of it is to do with what the women wore to the event more than how amazing their art work was that they were being nominated for an award for. I can’t help but cheer on Sarah Millican (who incidentally I think looks lovely in her dress from John Lewis that she wore to the BAFTAs in 2013) when I read this article she wrote in the Radio Times. And be raging at shows like Lorraine who spent time slagging off her outfit the next day.
When will this change?
I still remember a day sitting in a church office chatting the wife of one of our pastors. I ended up helping her with some simple admin stuff while I was in there and I loved having that opportunity to speak with a woman who had a bit more life experience than I. It was lovely to chat until a moment where she said out of the blue ‘Oh, you know if you did X, Y, Z with your hair it would look so much better’.
I smiled and nodded. But inside I felt so disappointed. Yep, I know my hair is mental and messy. Sure, if I got up an hour earlier every morning I could probably do something to make it look slightly more presentable. But really? Does it really matter what my hair looks like? Does my worth come from how good my hair looks? How clear my skin is? How put together my outfit is?
Quite frankly, my hope is that people look past my mismatched hoodie that I’ve shoved on over my outfit to keep warm or the messy tangle of frizz that I’ve tried to get out my face by pulling back into a bun or ponytail that has started falling out while I ran for the bus…I want people to care about the levels of wisdom, intelligence, kindness or compassion I show over how good my wardrobe looks.
I want to be able to do exercise to feel healthy and socialise with my friends rather than to look like an airbrushed photo in a magazine.
And I never want to be one of those people buying magazines or watching television which is just tearing apart my fellow women.
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has teamed up with Dove to run a programme and challenge badge for Brownies and Guides called Free Being Me. As I watch some of my Guides walk in with their face hidden in heavy make up and telling me they think they’re fat – I’m seriously considering suggest to my fellow leaders that we should put it on the programme after the summer.
I feel sad that my old pastor’s wife felt the need to comment on my looks that she couldn’t see past them very far to what really counted. I like making the effort to make my nails more colourful, or my hair more tamed and enjoy wearing some crazy shoes every once in a while. But the majority of the time – sleep and comfort have a higher priority, and the highest priority is how beautiful I can make my character over how beautiful the package my character comes in…
I want to be free to be me, and I want my fellow Guides – adults, young leaders, rangers, Girl Guides, Brownies and rainbows to feel they can be free to be themselves too.
I want to be part of creating a world where that can happen…who’s with me?