The good intentions of a middle school in Mississippi backfired after a parent called them out on social media for utilizing a potentially-damaging means of helping kids deal with their “body image.”
Struggle with body image is not uncommon, especially among teens and adolescents. While this is often more pronounced among the female population, anyone of any age, size, race, age, or gender deals with it at some point in their life.
Perhaps such were the thoughts of a well-meaning Mississippi school, Southaven Middle School when they came up with the supposedly genius idea of helping their female students deal with the challenge.
However, their chosen methods proved inconceivable to parents, earning them bouts of criticism on social media.
A Shocking Message
One woman, Ashley Heun, whose daughter, Caroline, attended the school took to Facebook to share the dreadful note from the school her daughter brought home.
The letter requested her to affix her signature, approving the distribution of shapewear and other body-altering items to her daughter.
The letter, titled “Why do girls suffer from body image?” outlined some of the hardships faced by coming-of-age women in society.
The note explained how social and cultural experiences in society subconsciously births the desire to adhere to the societally approved definition of beauty.
Going further, the letter affirmed that women in the United States felt more pressured to measure up to the mostly-unrealistic expectations, leading to the early onset of body image crisis.
After building on the damaging effects of negative body image, the note further dwelt on the benefits of having a positive body image, including good self-esteem, mental health, and physical health.
Following several paragraphs of insightful messages every girl undoubtedly needed to hear, the school eventually dropped their outrageous bombshell. The sickening line read:
“We the counselors of Southaven Middle school would like to have an opportunity to offer some healthy literature to your daughter on maintaining a positive body image.”
As part of their “healthy literature” initiative, they opted to provide girls with shapewear, bras, and other health products if applicable.
At the bottom of the note was a tear-off section for parents to fill and return to show their approval. The section contained a list of shapewear top and bottom sizes as well as bra sizes for parents to tick.
Ashley, whose daughter was about 13, admitted to feeling angry after reading through the note. To her, teaching a girl to alter her shape in middle school was beyond outrageous, as it would only enhance her negative body image. She wrote:
“So you begin this masterpiece detailing how damaging a negative body image is for girls, how the stress of conforming to an impossible perceived image can adversely affect their mental health. And then offer to give them Spanx so they can better fit the perceived image?”
The outraged mom accompanied her post with a photo of the atrocious letter, which she deems a product of the ignorance of counselors at the school.
Southaven Under Fire
The Mississippi mom’s post immediately stirred an online frenzy, as netizens called out Southhaven’s horrendous methods. Describing the idea as stupid and ignorant, a Facebook user wrote:
“The fact that they sent this home with the girls is ridiculous. The whole letter is unbelievable. But they gotta know that the girls are going to read this. And what a shitty thing for them to see.”
Another user described the school’s approach as insensitive, while a third condemned them for allocating funds to shapewear, a temporary fix, rather than targeting those efforts towards teaching the girls’ self-confidence. A user commented:
“I’m in utter disbelief that those entrusted as counselors to impressionable young women would perpetrate this completely atrocious information.”
One mom described the note as the most deplorable thing she ever came across, while another opined the temporary fix would do more harm than good.
Meanwhile, several netizens suggested people were missing the point, as they could have better tackled some of the root causes like obesity and the desire to measure up to men’s expectations. A comment read:
“Why aren’t parents teaching their sons that looks shouldn’t be a top priority? How about we start there and not allow young boys to sexualize females.”
Other users commended Ashley for not looking out for only her daughter but deciding to speak up, thereby looking out for other kids.
During an interview, the mom revealed why she chose to share the ordeal on Facebook and expose the school’s ill-conceived intentions. She divulged:
“I decided words and social media is a good tool and will use that to rally the troops to change this and to really let the school know how exactly tone-deaf it was.”
Remarkably, her message had the desired effect, as Southhaven confirmed in a statement that they called off their plans to distribute shapewear to students.
The experience has led Ashley Heun on a new journey to reach out to girls out there who in some way felt less about themselves.