Body Image and Young Girls: Resources from WMST-L

perplexed girl

Jeannie Ludlow sent a request to WMST-L, the academic women's studies email list, requesting recommendations for books, videos, and other resources to encourage a more positive body image among young girls. She then posted the following message containing the responses she received:

Date: Tue, 04 Aug 1998 10:20:14 -0400
From: jeannie ludlow (jludlow @ BGNET.BGSU.EDU)
Subject: little girls/body image
Sender: Women's Studies List (WMST-L @ UMDD.UMD.EDU)

Hi everyone. A long time ago, I posted a couple of requests, with promise to post responses to the list. Sorry it has taken me so long to get to this. Busy summer.

Because it has been so long, I am re-running the request and the replies follow it. Thank you so much to everyone who responded!

THE REQUEST for little girls/body image was: I am looking for suitable books, videos, etc., that encourage more positive body image among little girls (elementary school--2nd or 3rd grade, for ex.), especially among little girls who do not "fit" into society's narrow and narrowly-defined standard of normalcy.

I'm especially interested in materials that can help the little girls through incidents in which they are made fun of for their body shape. (My mom's advice to me, as a fat child, was "people are going to say these things to you. You might as well get used to it.") I am also interested in materials that can help parents and teachers deal better with these incidents. I am _not_ (of course) interested in materials that teach us how to help children lose weight. The parents & teachers w/ whom I am working already have too many of those.

THE REPLIES with the posters' names above their messages:

Gillian Rodger:

my absolute favorite source for all things related to body shape is a book by the Australian journalist/author Kaz Cooke called *Real Gorgeous* (Allen & Unwin, 1994). It may be aimed at a slightly older audience than the one you're dealing with but I think its pretty accessible. It deals with everything from what is normal to providing a fabulous critique of the fashion industry. It may also be a little too Australian--like many of us it's very blunt and straightforward.

Jacqueline Haessly:

The book, Mothering Teens, edited by Dr. Miriam Kaufmann, and published by Gynergy Press, has some thoughtful essays that would be appropriate for your project. While the focus of the book is on teens, the material has a lot of applicability for all ages. It also includes an excellent chapter on parenting special needs children, who may or may not have "body image" issues to contend with.

Letician Lopez:

check out the classic Free to Be You and Me productions, both the video(s), books, and wonderful soundtracks; "People" is a animated video production/excellent soundtrack on diversity and has a song on different bodies; Joanie Blank's workbook for girlz on sexuality issues generally "A kid's first book about sex" (not about reproduction); Sol Gordon writes wonderful sex ed books for parents and may include activites?; "Fat girl dances with rocks" is for teens, but is specific to your concerns;Period deal with menstuation and body image for pre-adolescents, and New Moon magazine for 8-14 is a good general resource and I would check out their website and contact them.

Cindy Miller:

I love Belinda's Bouquet, written I think by Leslea Newman. If you haven't seen it, it is about a little girl who is made fun of because she is fat. She talks about going on a diet. The mom of one of her friends tells her a story about her partner (also a woman, an added benefit to the book!) who (allegedly) tried to make all the flowers in her garden look the same by "putting some on a diet." They died, of course, which leads them into a discussion of what bodies need to survive. When you give bodies the same amount of nourishment, they will naturally develop into different shapes, just like when you give flowers the same amount of nourishment, they will develop into different colors and shapes. And, just as different shapes and colors of flowers make a garden beautiful, different shapes and colors of people make humanity beautiful. The only problem from your perspective is that is may be geared for kids younger than you are interested in. Good luck.

Judith Harlan:

My book contains a chapter on "fashion", which challenges girls to develop their own positive body image. For info on it, please see my site: .Have you thought of the magazines for girls such as New Moon and Bluejean Magazine? Or New Girl Times? They encourage positive self image, including body image. A good website that focuses on body image is: About Face. Most of the web girl clubhouses encourage positive self images, too. One I like (and am involved with) is A Girl's World -- but there are several others. A good list of them can be found through the Feminist Majority internet gateway.

Alena Ruggerio:

The book _Style is Not a Size_ (published in 1991, I don't remember the author) is really two books. The first section traces the history of the "norm" in women's body shapes -- goes through the Renaissance painters and the eighteenth century use of weight as a sign of affluence, and gleefully describes the fluctuation of the "scientifically healthy" optimum weight for a woman, etc.

The second half [is] an exhaustive description of the fabrics, silhouettes, undergarments, and accessories that are most flattering to women sizes 14 and up.

Although I am still a seeker and not an expert, I do know that several posts from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (their web site is at have alluded to a FAQ list directed explicitly at school-aged children. Again, I think they're aiming at teenagers here, so I don't know how helpful this would be for you, but I do know that their resource lists have been invaluable in my own quest to discover body confidence.

There are also many fashion magazines out there directed explicitly at plus-sized women. Check out the new one, MODE, at any Lane Bryant store. There is also one called BBW (for big, beautiful woman) and another really popular one I can't think of right now. The last few pages of BBW and MODE also would point you to more resources to pursue.

Barbara Inselman-Temkin:

Phifer, Kate Gilbert. Growing up small: A handbook for Short People. Paul S. Eriksson (publisher), Middlebury, Vermont, 1979.

Thanks again to everyone for your help!!

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