In a new ad which appears to advertise no product in particular except the guilt of all mothers, Dove asked a few moms how they feel about their bodies and then asked their daughters the same thing. The point of the video is to show women that how they feel about their bodies gets passed on to their daughters and influences how they in turn feel about their bodies. This is true, but also: Ouch.
Dove ads aren’t everyone’s thing. I can see how for a lot of people they are sending one more message to mothers that we are fucking things up, only this time without realizing it. “Good morning, mothers! Here is one more thing you’re doing to screw up your kids.” But despite all of that, in this instance, I do think that the connection between a mother’s body image and her daughter’s is important and worth talking about.
My six-year-old daughter has never heard me say one negative thing about my appearance. Not one. I’m not asking for a standing ovation, here; I’m just telling you that it can be done. And I have a whole host of things I could be critical about and that I am critical about, but I make those criticisms in my head. I have the luxury of working at home, so my daughter rarely even sees me look in the mirror. I realize I may sound like someone who just grabs clothes off the floor and puts them on, and sometimes puts her hair up in a ponytail without brushing it first. And that’s because I am one of those people. You got me. So I may be on one end of the extreme, but despite having a body that is very much not the cultural ideal, I have made a conscious effort not to talk about how I feel about how I look in front of my children.
When I am trying to eat well, I talk about being healthy and getting all the vitamins I need. I don’t know a thing about vitamins, but it sounds good. (I mean how about Riboflavins, am I right?! Anyway…)
And when I exercise I talk about how excited I am to be getting stronger. It all sounds very hokey, but it is paying off in dividends now that my daughter is in first grade. I suppose she loves her body, but we never talk about it in those terms. She just boasts about how fast and strong she is and I double down on the praise for that.
Hearing that those lovely little girls don’t like their legs or their arms hurts my heart. I don’t mean to be sancti-mommy about this, but I can’t understand why any mother would say in front of her daughter, “Uck. I hate my thighs.” This isn’t your fucking best friend; this is your daughter. How can someone be so culturally deaf that they don’t think about the kind of message that sends to their little girl?
Okay. I guess I did go sancti-mommy. Sorry. And I’m sorry that the Dove ad is one more thing to berate ourselves about, but maybe this is an area in which mothers deserve a little berating. No go on, get out there and enjoy your parenting while trying to live up to the standards set by the people who make your soap.