All I want for Christmas is Self-Esteem

Its hard to be a girl these days, harder than it is for a pimp.  If I was a pre-teen now and I had to look at images of women in tge media, I’m not sure how I’d turn out.  So many things work against female self-esteem it’s a wonder the US produces any well-adjusted women.  I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, or at least since the last time I saw my goddaughter.   Early in the AM on the day after Thanksgiving, or some morning that weekend, my goddaughter got into my bed and woke me up.  She’s 11-years-old, but hasn’t quite gotten to that ‘tween “don’t touch me” phase, so she kind of flops all over you.  Its quite sweet once you’re awake, but I digress.  We chatted briefly until she touched my hair and said something like “yuck” or “ewww,” after which she decreed that my hair was nicer before (in braided extensions, or straight and shoulder length).  Huh.

Now I’ll admit that at such an early hour, the Afro was not its most spherical and needed desperately to be picked.  Usually I take umbrage at referring to my hair in pejorative terms, since its healthy and growing and has neat-o little ringlets.  In this particular case, I couldn’t argue with my goddaughter since she doesn’t really know what naturally-textured hair feels like.  Her mother, aunt and grandmother wear relaxers.  She goes to a multi-ethnic school with kids of all cultures and hair types.  Even her brother and father wear closely-cropped hair, so she has virtually no occasion to encounter Black hair as it grows from the scalp.   Still, her reaction to the feel of my hair really hurt, but not because I took it personally. In judging my kinks, she was also judging herself, and I wanted so much more for her.

Why do girls and women hate ourselves so much?  When did it all go so horribly awry?  I blame Hollywood, and by “Hollywood” I mean the entertainment industry.  When I heard of the tragic death of Brittney Murphy (yes, that’s how you spell her name) this week, my first thought was: anorexia-induced heart failure.  She may have had H1N1, and she did suffer from Type 2 Diabetes.  But you can’t deny her dramatic weight loss after Girl, Interrupted, which is weight she really couldn’t afford to lose.  A little working out, sure, and some toning up for definition.  But pointy shoulder blades, protruding elbow joints and thighs the same size as your calves don’t say, “I’m eating healthy now,” they say “I have an eating disorder.”

The problem is that we don’t talk about eating disorders among actresses anymore because, apparently, a star’s weight is nobody’s business.  Except that when you prance your emaciated body around on TV, and you say you look that way because of “diet and Pilates”, you make it everyone’s business.  I have lots of friends who act, and all of the have been told by agents and casting directors that they need to lose weight in order to get work.  And they’re not voluptuously Size 16-and-Sexy like me! They’re Size 6 women, and men with 32-inch waists, who work out and eat right and apparently need to start starving or get lipo for career advancement.  Have you ever seen a TV actor up close?  A lot of them are good-looking, but I’ve never seen so many sunken eye-sockets in my life.  They all look like lollipops, big heads on abnormally-small bodies.  Like it hurts to sit down because they’re so bony.  But on screen they look beautiful, and aspirational, and have completely normal results that can only be achieved through abnormal means.  There’s no way I’m gonna raise a girl to believe that heroin-chic is natural, or that Tyra Banks’ “real” hair just comes out of her head all straight like that.  Imagine the disappointment when their body and hair and life don’t turn out like the people on TV?

Unfortunately, I don’t think we have to imagine a generation of women raised hating themselves because that generation is here and they’re on reality TV.  The onslaught of stupid women doing stupid things on TV is astounding to me, but not as incredible as the fact that so-called “women’s” networks are responsible for publicizing the worst of our sex.  I’m going to single out “Bad Girls’ Club” as the worst of the culprits, since it glorifies the insipid behavior the show is supposed to prevent.  Here’s an idea:  find the most self-centered, materialistic, self-hating 20-something women who are prone to violence, and put them in a house together with liquor, cameras, and shit-else to do.  Of course, they’ll all magically learn to control their tempers, start sharing make-up tips and doing each others’ hair, right?  And then they’ll wax eloquent about their behavior, making profound confessions about becoming productive people and having healthy relationships.  Yeah, I don’t think so.  At least Celebrity Rehab has a clinician.  Oxygen just has limos and admission to the VIP section of some bar/lounge/club on the Sunset Strip which, in my experience, is far more conducive to self-awareness than some time on the therapy couch.   At this point, I don’t know what’s worse:  a TV network for women pretending to help anyone with this farce, when all they’re no better than Joe Francis and “Girls Gone Wild”;  a cadre of young women willingly acting a damn fool on international video for outcomes that remain, at least to me, undetermined; or the viewing public of women (and men) who promote this kind of behavior by watching, and tweeting, and blogging about how funny the show is.

Maybe I’m missing something, or I’m a killjoy, or there’s a 65-year-old church woman trapped in my hot 30-something body.  Does anybody else see what’s wrong?

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