Photo Credit: Cathrine Westergaard/Girl Scouts of America
Reduced-fat Daisy Go Rounds aren't the only thing the Girl Scouts have done to help women feel better about their bodies. The nearly 100-year-old organization has partnered with Wilhelmina Curve (the plus-size division of the prestigious modeling agency) to produce a healthy body image campaign for girls.
The idea was born from a recent Girl Scout Research Institute survey that found that 89 percent of the 1,000 13- to 16-year old girls polled thought the fashion industry places too much emphasis on being thin; 31 percent admitted to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight.
In an effort to help shore up these plummeting confidence levels, the Girl Scouts have tapped curvy models Leona Palmer, Julie Henderson, Anansa Sims and Lizzie Miller (you might remember her from her nearly nude shots in Glamour magazine last year), who share their views about body acceptance. (Watch their video clips here.)
"The fashion industry remains a powerful influence on girls and the way they view themselves and their bodies," says Kimberlee Salmond, a senior researcher at the Girl Scout Research Institute. "Teenage girls take cues about how they should look from models they see in fashion magazines and on TV and it is something that they struggle to reconcile with when they look at themselves in the mirror."
In addition to the videos, the Girl Scouts joined forces with the Dove Self-Esteem Fund to create the Uniquely ME! self-esteem programming, designed to challenge girls’ attitudes shaped by the media's glamorization of ultra-thin bodies. The Girl Scouts have also been working to ensure passage of the Healthy Media for Youth Act, a bill which promotes healthier images of women in the media.
Some people, however, have voiced concern that the Wilhelmina Curve campaign seems to be glamorizing the modeling industry and its focus on looks. On lemondrop.com, a blogger quoted model Leona in her clip, who says, "Modeling actually got me in my body in a whole new way. I cared a lot more about my body and how I was taking care of it.”
"That's great," blogger Julie Gerstein writes, "but is it realistic or responsible to promote that notion to an audience of young women who already have mixed messages about the fashion industry? Rather than use models -- whose very profession reinforces negative notions about beauty (even plus-size beauty) -- why not have regular women talk about body-image issues? Instead of fashion models, give girls examples of women whose goals, priorities and marketability go beyond what their bodies look like."
Actually, I think the campaign is a fabulous idea, exposing these girls to an "alternative" type of beauty and the notion that they needn’t be a size 2 to be successful or considered beautiful. The vast majority of images these girls see, from Bratz dolls to the Victoria’s Secret catalog that lands in their mailboxs every week to the Lean Cuisine pizzas their moms stock in the family freezer, all point to a similar message: Thin equals good. Their's is a world of extremes: In school, you’re either a pretty, skinny cheerleader or a fat cow who gets teased.
Would it be wonderful to have “real” curvy women speaking out to the Girl Scouts? Of course. But having uber-successful models speaking to them while wearing cute Girl Scout tee shirts they is a creative way to provide at least some inoculation against the raging epidemic of disordered eating.
Never a Girl Scout myself (I was a Brownie-sort of gal), I’m not intimately familiar with the organization other than the fact that their coconut and chocolate-striped Samoas tasted really good crumbled in vanilla ice cream. But check out this reader comment from Kelly, 18, on lemondrop.com -- do we need any more proof that this new initative is a needed one?
“You want a story? Come look at my troop. We're a group of girls from ages 11 to 18, and we can do anything. We have faced everything together. Divorces, cancer, a girl in a three-week coma, breakups and all the bumps and scrapes of teenage life. In high school, we have 18 girls in our troop. That's more impressive when you consider there are 350 girls in my high school, and we're not the only troop. We have girls going off to Ivy League schools and girls going to community college, girls of every weight, color, religion. Girls who have rebuilt playgrounds, raised spina bifida awareness, rebuilt hiking trails, created award winning websites, and collected hundreds of thousands of coats for children with HIV. We are mighty. We go bellydancing, bowling, white water rafting, spelunking, and rock climbing. We learn from Ren Faire actors, occupational therapists, police women, pharmacists, and more. We support soldiers in overseas hospitals with care packages and homemade quilts, cards and DVDs.
We CHANGE THE WORLD. Us, ourselves. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth...a positive message for girls is a positive message, no matter who it comes from, and we need more of that.”
Do you think the Girl Scouts plus-size model videos are effective in building self-esteem for young girls? Chime in below.
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