I can finally tell you that a couple of weeks ago I was approached by change.org about our petition asking Barney’s and Disney to not make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 super model just so she can “look good in a Lanvin dress.” Today change.org started promoting it and at this moment there are 91,885 signatures. I’m incredibly grateful for the attention it’s getting because I think that this is such an important issue and so representative of the mistakes that we make as a society that harm girls, women and eventually everyone.
Of course the criticism followed (though, to be clear, I received way less negative feedback than positive feedback on this one). One of the biggest critiques I received was that this is just a small thing – why aren’t I working on getting treatment for people who have eating disorder? Who cares about the Barney’s window. One person even said that “Barneys already discriminates against fat people so making Minnie Mouse skinny is actually consistent with their beliefs – this is not big deal but even if it was they should be applauded for sticking to their guns.”
Look, here’s the deal: the little things help us see where the big problems are. Just as a random hypothetical example, Barney’s and Disney think that it’s ok to completely change the body of a cartoon character who they know is beloved by children, including lots of impressionable young girls, and has been for 84 years so that character can look good in a dress that almost no women can fit into. They think it’s ok to suggest to little girls that instead of insisting that designers make dresses that fit them, or making their own dresses, they should instead drastically alter their body by any means necessary. That if they don’t fit into a high fashion dress then they should change their body.
That is indicative of some major problems in our society. Not the least of which is that Disney – a company that caters to children – doesn’t care that this is the message they are sending to little girls. I’m not arguing that every little girl will take this message but how many little girls set up for a life of hating their bodies is too many? How many little girls’ self-esteem are we willing to sacrifice for fashion? I say one little girl being injured is way too many for some fashion statement.
The little things aren’t little. If we call them out early and often, if we put the pressure on, then we can stop the little things before they become big things.
How would a world without body shame affect eating disorders? How would it affect our overall health? How much time, energy, and money would we have back if we had never once been given the message that our body should look like somebody else’s body? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.
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