Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

20 May 2009

Book Review: You'd Be So Pretty If... by Dara Chadwick

When I was pregnant I dreamed about having a daughter. And I kinda freaked. How could I possibly raise a strong women-child in this body obsessed world when most days I loathe my body? How long could I fake it so she doesn't pick up on my body hate? Well the Goddess did send me a woman-child who not only looks JUST like me but her favorite thing to do with me is to squeeze my belly fat. OK she likes to do that with everyone, but she also adds in "Mommy's the squishiest!"

You'd Be So Pretty If...Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies - Even When We Don't Love Our Own by Dara Chadwick tackles just this issue. This was a painful book to read but I loved it. I'm also mailing my copy to Amy. She was over when I got the copy and looked at me, "I want that!"

This was one pseudo-academic book that really used the personal memoir aspect perfectly. Chadwick grounds her book in exploring how women learn to criticize our bodies from media, but especially from our own moms. Chadwick's mom had a saying, "If you think you're fat, you probably are." By the end of the book Chadwick reinterrprets that saying to mean that we are in control of how we feel about our body.

The journey thou is hard, but one that I believe all moms of daughters should take. There's a chapter in there for dads and brothers as well. Chadwick starts us off with the idea that as moms we create a "body image blueprint" for our grrls. "As mothers, how we feel about and relate to our own bodies - and the conscious or unconscious expression of that relationship - creates a "body image blueprint" for our daughters (pg 8)." It's pretty obvious once we start to think about it, isn't it? Stop and think about what you learned about your body from your mom.

I learned that it was something that had to be controlled, reigned in and would eventually fail you. I remember my mom weighing her food. I can now see that my mom used "fatness" for talking me into covering up more of my body. I look at pics of myself back in middle and high school and think, "Seriously? I thought I was fat?!" When in fact she was trying to hide my very developed body.

And I love that Chadwick included "the talk" in her book. She links our developing bodies to our sexuality or perceived sexuality because grrls bodies are going thru puberty, evolving to our eventual woman form and with that adding weight.

Chadwick writes a lot about how we interact with our daughters. Not just how we comment on their body, or how we comment on our own, but also how we accept or decline compliments in front of them or from them. Chadwick quotes professionals that say we shouldn't use the word fat in front of kids. A few months ago I would had been all "Hell yeah!" but Dawn's recent musings on our fat tummies has me rethinking that stance. I'm trying to get my mind wrapped around how to allow the use of the word fat, teach the kid not to use it for others - at least in a negative sense - and all that.

The issue of media education comes up and as board member of WIMN, I totally agree that we need to teach all kids how to see thru media. But even those of us with all the media savvy still fall prey to media messages. I know all the photos are photoshopped, but I'm still pissed when I can't get my hair to look "just like hers!" I also think that Chadwick takes her daughter's very privileged experience of seeing behind the scenes of a magazine as too representative of how all girls could be and thus minimizes the harmful effects of our photoshopped world.

I also have to add that I felt Chadwick minimized her own eating disorder. I can sense that she is still coming to terms with it and I get that. At one point she says she flirted with an eating disorder, later admits to losing thirty pounts in high school from an eating disorder and near the end dismisses her eating disorder past as an "adolescent mentality." From all the things I've read on eating disorders, it is a mentality, but not just for adolescents. And she does mention this, I was just floored by the wording.

Despite the slight issues I had with the book, I can't say enough how I hope that every mom out there reads this book. You might even find a way to love your body more, forgive your mom for how she programmed you or just know that you really are impacting your daughter with jokes about your body. Chadwick also gives you some good points on how to talk to the men in your lives (Dads & brothers) on how their boy behavior is not going over as "just a joke" to your 13-year-old daughter and to cut it the fuck out.

Oh and Amy, I want my copy back when you're done.

Grab a copy for yourself at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review after I requested it from the publisher.

4 comments:

Thanks for the heads up on this book! I just had an essay published on HipMama.com that was inspired by the squishy belly fat that moms hate and little kids seem to love. That love/hate balance is so precarious at times I feel it's going to crush me. For my daughter' sanity and my own, I'm going to check out this book.

Thanks for the review. I've seen this on the new books rack at the library lately and didn't pick it up because I was afraid it would be wishy-washy stuff and didn't grab it for that reason and because I don't expect to raise a daughter any time soon. I'll definitely give it a look now, though.

I need to read this. Despite my husband thinking I'm "small" I have always been convinced that I am hideously fat. But my FAMILY did that to me. All the women in my family are under 5 feet tall and LESS than 100 lbs, and here I grew to be 5'6" and 130 lbs -- which made me seem Amazonian to them. And when I decided I wanted to go to college for dance - something I had done at all my life, my grandfather told me I was "too fat to be a dancer."

I went on to become a professional musician, and when I started to gain some minor celebrity, the kids (and adults) all sat around the internet message boards talking about whether I was fat or not. Quite hurtful. I suppose 130 lbs is quite fat for Hollywood standards though.

I don't want to do this to my kids (luckily I have boys now, but I hope to have a girl someday.) But I'm not sure how to stop this insecurity. Especially with what motherhood has done to my body.

I need to read this book. All I know is I would NEVER, EVER try to make my children feel bad about themselves, in ANY way, especially physically.

Yes please do check it out. It's not like I love my body afterwards, but it's given me a new view of my body & how I interact with my daughter. And I would love to hear what you all think of it after you read it.