Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Dangers of “Fitspo” and Young Girls

Nothing to proveBella Miranda has been an all-star cheerleader for five years. That level of cheerleading is elite and requires an almost unbelievable level of athleticism. These cheerleaders are expected to hold other girls on their hands and balance on someone else’s hands while doing feats of flexibility that most people couldn’t do standing on solid ground. They have to dance, jump, do tumbling sequences across the mat that will remind you of the Olympics, and do a standing back tuck, all while smiling and looking like none of it requires any effort at all.

Bella is involved in track and field, volleyball, softball, and cross country. Her current schedule sees her “in track and field at 3:30 p.m., then she goes straight home at 4:00 p.m. to be at the gym at 5:00 p.m. Mondays are 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the [cheerleading] gym, so that’s four hours. She does open gym twice a week. Some days she does private training for two hours. Every day she trains for two to three hours. At home, she does burpees and V-ups and push-ups. She has competitions on weekends.” Her “fitspiration” Instagram account has 17,000 followers.

Bella is also ten years old.

Her mom Carrie, who helps her run the account, says that she wants her daughter to be “a symbol of fitness” and inspiration for other girls who may come across her posts.

Before I break this down, I want to tell you a little something about me. I decided around 5th grade that I wanted to be a professional clarinet player. I practiced for hours every day while also playing soccer and volleyball, being a cheerleader (the regular school sport kind, not an all-star,) taking dance classes, competing in figure skating, singing in choir, acting in school plays, competing in math and science competitions, and getting grades that would eventually make me valedictorian.

I don’t say this to brag (my junior year of college I decided I didn’t want to be a professional clarinet player, but I did get to play Carnegie Hall, so it wasn’t a total bust). I say this to explain that I was also a driven kid, involved in lots of things, and busy all day too, and my mom supported the hell out of my dreams. My issue isn’t that Bella and her mom have decided on this path for now.

And before anybody starts, I have no problem with Bella’s pictures, poses, or what she is wearing in them. If you are sexualizing a ten-year-old, you have a problem, and you need to fix that, like, yesterday. We need to place blame on abusers, and not their victims.

What I want to talk about is the idea that her mom wants Bella to be a “symbol of fitness” and an “inspiration” for other girls. That’s where this whole thing falls right off a cliff.

You can read the rest of the piece here!

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