Magazine Tells Tween Girls to Find Bathing Suits That Hide Their Figure Flaws

tween girls at the beach

If there's one thing tween girls don't need to be worrying about (and indeed, there are many things), it's what kind of bathing suit will most effectively hide their figure "flaws." Unfortunately, that's exactly what a recent spread in a popular magazine for girls ages 8 to 12 is all about, and -- understandably -- parents are having none of it. 

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Discovery Girls, which is ordinarily a super cool mag with content encouraging girls to be more confident and follow their dreams, is getting a fair amount of flack for a feature titled "Which Swimsuit Best Suits You?"

discovery girls

It looks benign enough at first, with its cute, colorful illustrations, but the advice within is anything but cute: Girls who are "rounder in the middle," for example, are told to distract people from their mid-sections with "busy geometrics," while girls who are "curvy up top" are cautioned to draw onlookers' gazes away from their brand-new cleavage with details like side-ties and cut-outs. (I did mention that much of the target demographic for this counsel hasn't even hit middle school yet, right?)

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Honestly, this is the kind of backwards BS that would make me roll my eyes if I saw it in a magazine for grown women, so it's particularly disturbing to find this kind of body-shaming brainwashing being specifically marketed toward young girls. In fact, as the mother of a teen daughter, I find it downright irresponsible. I mean, come on! And I'm not the only one, as reactions to the spread on social media are proving:

Seriously. The sad part is, I really wanted to believe that we were (sloooowly) starting to move into a more body-positive society. Starlets and models no longer have to be a size zero to be considered attractive; we're (sloooowly) finally starting to place more of an emphasis on the creative and intellectual accomplishments of girls and women. Actually, up until now, it seemed like Discovery Girls was part of that movement -- so what gives?

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In an open letter on Facebook, Catherine Lee, publisher of Discovery Girls, apologized for the spread, saying:

I am in total agreement with all of you regarding this article, so much so that I wanted to make this letter as public as possible. We want to make sure that our girls know that any article that makes you feel bad about your body is not a good article, and should be questioned.

It’s still hard for me to believe that an article so contrary to our magazine’s mission could have been published on our pages. I have been a loss for words for days. The article was supposed to be about finding cute, fun swimsuits that make girls feel confident, but instead it focused on girls' body image and had a negative impact.

Exactly. But if the publisher of the magazine feels this way, the question remains: How did this article end up on its pages in the first place?

To me, the fact that this happened is just further proof of how insidious this kind of criticism of women's bodies is in our culture. If we're not careful, even those of us who should -- and generally do -- know better (like the editors of this magazine) can end up buying into and perpetrating the meaningless and unattainable standard of beauty that has tortured us as women of all shapes and sizes since we were the same age as Discovery Girls readers.

At least this unfortunate editorial misstep has sparked a dialogue about how not to damage the self-esteem of adolescent girls en masse, and that's a good thing. At least parents weren't posting tweets of approval ("This is just what my round-middled girl needed to hear!"), as I can actually imagine happening in, say, the '50s (if Twitter existed back then). At least we're making progress.

But does it have to be so sloooow?

 

Images via iStock.com/angelacolac; @15minbeauty/Twitter

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