If you’re a man, you’ve probably owned at least one GI Joe in your lifetime. While you destroyed every anthill on your battlefield, the girl next door with cooties was busy brushing the hair of a Barbie, which you never understood. A lot has changed over the years. We still don’t understand girls, but cooties have turned to STDs and Joe and Barbie are no longer in every home. In fact, in recent years, Joe and Barbie have suffered critical commentary by many psychologists and feminists who claim they promote bad body image. These toys, critics claim, drive children to desire an unrealistic body and sets them up for failure when they fall short. These unnatural body styles also may lead to things such as eating disorders or over exercising. Sure, over the years Joe has been following an intense workout routine and Barbie has been to the plastic surgeon, but are these really images that are damaging to our youth? Let’s consider this…
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 10% of Americans have suffered from some type of eating disorder in their lifetime. While this statistic is astonishing, it holds little light to the 61% of Americans who are overweight or obese. Yeah, that’s right- Despite all the youth working hard to look like Joe and Barbie, 1 out of every 5 Americans are still obese. Did we all work hard to look like our favorite toy and give up once we fell short? Not likely… I find it far more likely that we didn’t try hard enough to be like Joe and Barbie.
Is it really that bad for us to teach our children that body image matters? We all know we feel better about ourselves when we look good. Studies have proven that employers are more likely to hire the man with strong pecs over those without. Better body image is generally synonymous with better health and with millions of government dollars going to obesity related illnesses a year, is it not fair to say it’s our responsibility as Americans to raise healthy kids? I’m not downplaying eating disorders and from someone who used to suffer from one I can personally tell you that it’s a serious matter. My personal argument with these critics is in the fact that we worry about children developing poor body image, while providing them with the food and video games that will destroy their bodies. What’s worse, is the fact that as Americans we are growing calloused to the sight of an obese body!
While it’s been proven that the body dimensions of these toys truly are unattainable, I see nothing wrong with setting an outlandish goal only to fall short and still be better for the struggle. I think it’s far more damaging to raise a child who doesn’t appreciate the importance of working hard to achieve a nice body. I’d rather my child be upset because he can’t look just like GI Joe, than out of shape and unhealthy because it’s easier that way. It saddens me to see the public humiliation taking place against smokers, while a much more dangerous killer is being accepted. A morbidly obese individual can now receive disability for their “disease” . If a kid has a biting problem he will be punished for his inability to control this urge, yet we see nothing wrong with a grown man unable to control his gluttony. I often hear female clients upset that they were made fun of by coworkers for their muscular arms and legs or abs, but she’d be in the unemployment line if she retorted with a fat joke.
It pains me above all else to hear people justify their bodies with idiocy and lies. You’ll hear women quote “Marilyn Monroe was a size 14!”, while not understanding that in the 50s that equated closer to a smaller size by today’s standards. I hear guys justify their guts with things like, “I’m on a strength cycle” or “Abs are useless muscles”. Well, I have news for you- You can be strong with low body fat, and abs are in fact among the most used muscles during intercourse. Useless, eh?
So, if you’re worried that your kid (who might be in his room shooting cops and beating old ladies with bats on his XBox) will develop self esteem issues from GI Joe or Barbie, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are being the healthy role model your kid needs!