A Note From the Founder

 
 

A note from the founder

Seven years ago, I was lying on the beach reading "Tiny Beautiful Things," a book of collected advice columns by author Cheryl Strayed and I came upon a section where a recently divorced older woman was concerned about getting naked in front of a new man. She was worried about what he'd think of her body. In her response, Strayed encouraged her to claim her body and added that "this was feminism's one true failure… we never stopped worrying about how our asses looked in jeans."

With a slight caveat - specifically that we live in a society that has left women no choice but to believe we must worry about how our asses look in (and out) of jeans - I don't think the significance of that worry can be overstated.

As a woman in our culture, I am well aware of how insidious the focus on appearance is. I grew up reading "Backlash" and the "Beauty Myth," identified proudly as a feminist from age 17, and rolled my eyes at the girls who carried their own bottles of fat-free salad dressing to the college dining halls. But I also grew up with a mother who would prepare meals for the family, and a separate, low-fat meal for herself. I was told to "put on some lipstick," before leaving the house as a teenager. Yet, even with this personal understanding, once I began actively researching the impact of this disproportionate focus on appearance, I was startled to learn of little girls, age five, six, seven, who were turning down ice cream because they were "fat," of eight-year olds who were wearing Spanx, or a nine-year old who had plastic surgery because she was so badly bullied over her ears sticking out.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing pieces of information I came across was in a study on body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in 7- to 11-year-old girls, which found poor body image was established in girls as young as 7, regardless of their actual body size. Wrote the authors, "significantly, body dissatisfaction was not confined to overweight or obese participants, nor indeed those who perceived themselves to be overweight...."

Body dissatisfaction has become so normalized that it's positively status quo at this point.

This is largely what drove me to create The New York City Girls Project. I thought "someone should do something about this." And, I realized, that someone could be us.