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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Using Babies for Adult Messages: Don't Do It, Part I

Something crossed my tumblr yesterday that really bothered me. It took me a while to place what my problem was, since I agreed with the overall message, assumedly being that women shouldn't concentrate so hard on being thin. Whoever posted it wanted women to know that stick-thin is not beautiful. More precisely, that extreme skinniness is not as sexy as having a little extra weight.

And there's nothing wrong with that message. Especially if it will help young women with their self-image and self-worth. Fighting the exagerrated and impossibly unattainable societal view of sexy is something I support, moreso than ever since I have three-year-old daughters, who soon are going to have to be strong enough to love themselves inside and out, regardless of what they see in the pages of magazines.

But this public service announcement really rubbed me the wrong way, and here's why.

It used babies.

There was one adorable roly-poly little guy, and one adorable skinny minny. An arrow pointed at the bigger one. "This," it said, "is sexier than this." The phrasing ended at another arrow that was pointing at the thinner baby. I have the pic saved on my hard drive, but I don't know where it came from, so I'm uncomfortable reposting it.

First of all, I'm just uncomfortable with people calling babies sexy. I don't think the poster or the rebloggers are perverts or anything, but sexy is simply a term that shouldn't be applied to infants. On the one hand, I can see their point, trying to enhance the message changing the situation around it, by placing it squarely in the lap of innocence. On the other hand, just no. The inappropriateness of the message vs. the photo outweighs the message itself and all its purported nuances.

Secondly, if the bloggers think that babies are uneffected by the weight/beauty debate, they're mistaken. How many posts do we see where parents are worried about their children's weight. Either for legitimate health reasons, or, more unfortunately, because other people are telling them that their baby is too fat, too thin, too something. They are babies. There is no sexier than, there is no too fat, there is no too thin. Each baby is different, grows differently, stores nutrients differently and needs different fat levels to be healthy and happy. The children pictured were so young that they were only eating breastmilk or formula at the time the picture was taken. It's not like they were making bad life choices. By bringing attention to the way their bodies process food, the bloggers are undoing their entire intent. They're essentially saying, "hey, this little guy has a slower metabolism than this girl. He's chubbier and she's skinnier through no fault of their own and through no fault of their parents. Let's stare and pick it apart anyway!" And isn't the point not to judge people about their looks? Good job.

I personally have an issue with the picture because it straight up told me my girls weren't pretty because they were skinny. Well, actually, I don't have an issue with it because it didn't say pretty, it said sexy, and just ew. But assuming the deeper message meant pretty, then my kids got the short shift.

We took them home at 3.5 pounds. It took them two months to fit into newborn clothes. They were then 6 or 7 pounds. At two months. It was all we could do to get them to eat. Every ounce was a battle, every one gained, a victory. Pointing at a skinny baby and implying there's something superficially wrong with her makes light of some very real and serious issues that these parents may be facing. And if the babies are not struggling to avoid "failure to thrive" and they're just naturally thin, well, there is still nothing wrong with that.

The babies are at least two months old here. Those are newborn clothes.

These kids have their whole lives to be judged by strangers. Let's not start it at three months or six months by splattering their image across social networking sites and labelling them sexy or not sexy.

Babies and social experiments just don't mix well together. Don't do it. Think of the kids.

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  1. I think my petite, skinny twin is just as beautiful and healthy as her chubby twin brother, thankyouverymuch! Anyone who applies the word "sexy" to babies has automatically lost me.

    That sounds like it was one poorly thought out PSA.

  2. Honestly, I can't get behind a message that determines any specific body type to be more/less attractive than another. A curvy girl myself, I don't think that my figure is inherently superior to my long time friend who is stick thin and has struggled to gain weight since we were children. Bodies come in all shapes and sized, and they're all beautiful. Appreciating fuller figures doesn't mean we have to criticize thinner ones.

    As to the "sexy babies" thing, yeah, just yuck.



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