As a millennial, I’m more connected to technology than any previous generation. My peers and I communicate and interact in a new way that sets our generation apart. Three-quarters of us have at least one social media account and American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching television.
While access to more information and fast communication is often convenient, it comes with a constant exposure to media that sexualizes and exploits women and girls.
I don’t remember when I became aware of my body and began comparing it to women like Victoria’s Secret Angels, but I know it’s something I continue to struggle with today. I can watch video after video exposing the power of tricky lighting, makeup, and photoshop, but there’s still part of me that wants to look like the celebrities and super models in magazines and on television.
The worst part is, I’m definitely not alone. 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.
Our negative perception of our bodies translates into a high rate of eating disorders; in fact, 65 percent of US women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.
As advertising permeates our culture, we need to emphasize positive outlets where young girls and women see women who are valued the way they are, and for qualities beyond their appearance. I grew up with Barbie, but now girls have access to dolls with freckles and more than one body shape.
In college, I’ve been able to focus on the amazing things a woman’s body can do, and worry less about the way they look wearing fancy clothes and makeup in photos. I look to strong women I admire, and hope I can someday raise strong girls and boys who are inspired by their sisters, despite my own self esteem issues.
I find solace knowing there are so many examples of women bravely raising girls. There are countless campaigns inspiring women to be proud of their bodies, and resources for parents to help their girls build self esteem early.
In a world where anti-aging products and services are projected to be worth nearly $200 billion by 2019, body image remains a struggle through adulthood.