From the time we can pick up a book (or, really, the first time our moms take us grocery shopping and we notice the magazines on the checkout line), girls are faced with images of impeccably rail-thin models in magazines, women who bloggers applaud for being in “amazing shape”. Girls beholden to the “thigh gap” can’t help but find countless blogs (like this and this and this) where they learn what it means to “have goals” and “be beautiful” and die to be thin. A world where Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld says “no one wants to see curvy women” is also a world where you really can’t win no matter what you look like: if you’re naturally underweight when you’re little, you’re critiqued for “not eating or spending your whole life working out.” If you’re too pretty, you’re shamed: a friend of mine who is a model (a gorgeous gal body and soul) told me recently that her mother never allowed her to take compliments on her looks from friends/family/strangers because she worried these comments would upset her sister, who, like the rest of us, wasn’t quite model material. So many conflicting, body-hating messages from such a young age. And when you can’t get away from these messages and you’re young and vulnerable and just looking to find the person you are and you want to be, you end up being one of the 81 percent of 10-year-old girls who are afraid of being fat and the 42 percent of girls in first through third grade who want to be thinner.
As if all of that isn’t enough, last weekend the “Divas 5K” race in Miami (of course of all cities, Miami — the city where everyone’s in a bikini and with 10 plastic surgeons for every 100,000 people) invited girls as young as eight to participate in a race with prizes including Botox, laser hair removal, and laser teeth whitening. While you had to be at least 15 for the laser treatments and 20 for the Botox (please show me a 20-year-old who needs Botox!), the message was clear: being beautiful is all what being a diva is all about! Forget that sports are good for your mind and body and you could compete for the goal of completing a 5K. No, the 5K Divas have to muck it up with brow-freezing poison and fuzz-erasing laser beams. Because a gal apparently can’t run 3 miles without those steps coming down to how she looks on the outside. Can you imagine if there was a dudes-only race that awarded creatine supplements or hair implants to the winners? (Who knows, maybe there is — I’d be shocked). What a shame though that something as healthy as running has to teach a lesson no eight-year old girl needs to learn.