We’ve all seen little baby girls wearing bikinis in the kiddie pool on a hot summer day. No big deal, right?
They’re cute as can be with their pudgy little Michelin Man thighs and their round bellies jutting out over their diapers, jutting out over their bikini bottoms.
It’s really not a big deal. But now there’s a new twist: the onesie adorned with an image of a bikini-clad pinup body, complete with Vivien Leigh-size waist and slender thighs.
After all, that’s what a gal aspires to, isn’t it?
Well, yeah, actually it is. And why is that? Perhaps because from the time we’re old enough to open our eyes, we’re bombarded with images that tell us over and over and over again that to be a proper woman is to be built like Barbie.
I doubt that the makers of this onesie had a nefarious plot to scar infants for life by implying they need to look a certain way. But on some level, that’s what is disturbing—that this image of the feminine physique is so de rigueur that anyone wouldn’t see the harm in perpetuating this way of thinking.
I speak of what I know. That’s not because I’m a mother, but because every day when I get up, I scrutinize my body in the mirror.
Am I having a “fat” day? Which pants will be too tight today? What does it mean that the skirt from last fall doesn’t fit so well now? How big am I going to get? How worthless am I that I can’t get back to a size 2?
I’m not exaggerating. Those are real thoughts I’ve had—in the past week. And I’m not alone. I can’t count the number of my female friends who are well-educated, well-paid professional women with good jobs and loving families but whose self-esteem is affected daily by the number on a tag.
They had loving parents and happy upbringings! But they also know that there’s a standard of beauty and fitness in America, and they perceive that they don’t conform to it.
Was all of this caused by a silly onesie or a baby bikini? Of course not. But we need to be aware of the signals we send young women, at any age.
What we learn as children sticks with us; may those lessons be lessons of love.