Perth women urged to “own” body image debate

12 Mar 2008

By The Record

By Sylvia Defendi
“If teenage girls are princesses, then women are queens and we need to stop letting the dragon into the castle,” Enlighten Education chief executive Danielle Miller said to over 300 women at the recent Get Real! Forum.

Enlighten Education founder Danielle Miller. Photo: Anthony Barich

A teacher turned body image educator, Miller challenged the women of Perth to own the body image debate and work towards addressing some of the disturbing effects of a perceived need for physical perfection.
“Yes teenage girls are cutting and purging and crying, but they are also loving and laughing and they are wanting us to step up,” she said.
Miller invited women to become informed by accessing the research available in the Faking It report, but also reminded them to maintain their emotional connection to the worthy cause.
And as someone who works with young girls to help them effectively deal with body image issues, Miller shied-away from statistics and shared her experiences with the youth of Australia.
“I work with teenage girls every day and they are the most beautiful and amazing things. But they also get a hard wrap. They’re labeled as difficult and challenging. It is only once we realize what they have to deal with that we come to understand why they are displaying these negative qualities,” she said.
Most importantly, Miller added, was that teenage girls wanted more than anything else to be loved and that they also possessed the biggest capacity for change.
However this change could only be realized in teenage girls, noted Miller, if older women took the courage to purge themselves of negative body image.
“We say to our daughters how beautiful they are in every way, but then ask them if our bum looks big in those jeans. We have to own this debate and become more alert to the part we play in this,” she said.
Indeed Miller told women they could not solely blame the manufacturers of Bratz Dolls, when they put them at the top of the ten bestsellers list, last Christmas.
“Teenage girls want us to call this for them. They want us to set boundaries,” she said.
She called for women to become informed and discover the simple ways in which they could strengthen a young woman’s self esteem.
“It might be as simple as going home to your daughter and telling her how beautiful she is; that she doesn’t have to change and that you don’t want to either. Girls can’t be what they can’t see,” she said adding that if Bratz, Britney and Bacardi Breezers were what these girls were seeing, then it was up to every woman to offer some other alternatives.
For more information on Enlighten Education visit: enlighteneducation.edublogs.org or call: (02) 9629 5842.