Warning: This post is not about running. This post is about something that's been bothering for awhile - what we teach young girls about their bodies, their place in society and their relationships with the opposite sex.
This morning, a woman I follow on Twitter retweeted a link to an article in which the author argued there was nothing wrong with allowing - even encouraging - teenage girls to get their legs and pubic areas waxed so they'd feel more comfortable participating in summer activities like going to the beach and swimming. The crux of the argument seemed to be that it was important to ensure young women were able to satisfy societal expectations so they wouldn't be negatively affected by other's criticism of their bodies.
Really? That's how we should respond to societal expectations? By teaching young women to conform to them?
How about if we teach them that they are beautiful just the way they are?
How about if we teach them that many societal expectations are ridiculous? That much of what's expected is oppressive, painful and downright dangerous? Yanking hair out by its roots, for example. Or starving themselves to stay too thin? Or wearing shoes that permanently damage their feet and backs? Or dousing themselves with carcinogenic chemicals so that their faces and hair look a particular way. Or going to tanning salons?
How about if we encourage them think about why those expectations exist and what they say about our culture, and in particular the relationship between men and women?
Why, for instance, don't men wear ridiculously high-heeled shoes that shorten their calf muscles, encourage deformations of their feet, and make it impossible to run from danger?
And why do some men (and women) find hairless female genitals so attractive? Is it something to do with knowing significant pain was inflicted to create them? (Tiny bound broken feet spring to mind.)
And why don't we teach our daughters and sons that sex isn't about emulating the unrealistic (often pornographic) images they see around them in music videos and advertising, on television and the internet? That they have a right to be treated with love and respect. That how they feel and what they enjoy matters. That girls and women aren't just playthings for boys and men.
The reality is that, however much waxing, dyeing, tanning, and starving young women do to conform to societal expectations, they won't feel better about themselves. They'll just learn that what's important is how they look and how well they conform - and not what they think, what they feel, or how they treat other people and themselves.
If you think I'm over-reacting, please take the time to watch "Sext up kids", a documentary aired by CBC's Doc Zone in February 2012. I saw it a few months ago and haven't been able to shake it since.