Recently, I heard one 9-year-old girl ask another this question: “Would you be a model in just your bra and underwear for $20,000?”
The girls quickly agreed that it was a pretty embarrassing idea, and that a more appropriate fee would be $5 billion. The conversation didn’t have anything to do with body image thoughts or concerns. Since I spend part of my workdays with preteens, teens and adults (and sometimes nine year olds) who focus extensively on self-consciousness or self-hatred related to their perceptions of their own appearance, I was struck by the absence of these issues.
So, I decided to see how the question played with another age group. In a totally unscientific endeavor, I texted the question to a group of my friends. My non-random research sample consists of a small group of women, between the ages of 35 and 50, living in a suburban town outside of Hartford, CT. They have a variety of body types, fashion styles, family situations and professional positions. Here’s what I found:
20 percent said: No
20 percent said: It depends (on factors like who would see the photos and the style of the photography)
60 percent said: Yes
The responses counted as “yes” were given without qualification, and some indicated they’d do it for a much lower fee (eliminating any financial desperation hypothesis). One woman texted the group a self-portrait taken in the mirror with the caption, “Imagine what I’d do for the $20K!” Another said, “Yup, if they don’t mind a curvy woman with a big ass.” A couple of women asked me if I actually had leads on such offers.
As with the young girls, self-image concerns were not abundant, with the “no” responses appearing to focus more on modesty or morality than on self-consciousness. So, how can we interpret this notable scarcity of poor body images and the high percentage of women in the sample who were willing to be lingerie models? Are they permitting themselves to be objectified for cash and succumbing to the pressures of an exploitative society? Or are they modern-day heroines who have journeyed through their formative years and emerged with body confidence and self-esteem intact?
Since I happen to known them personally, I know that all of the women are heroines. It’s not because many of them said “yes”—that’s a personal choice. They’re heroines because of their openness to discuss the question and support each other, without engaging in group fat talk, and their individual self-respect and humor make them embodiments of hope that girls of all ages can find comfort with themselves and their bodies. Fostering a healthy body image in yourself throughout the stages of your life is empowering, whether you choose to remain fully dressed or not.
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