Too Many Low Self-image Stories to Count by Marlene Targ Brill

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “Not for Ourselves Alone” is running a special series called 30 Days of Bodyshaming, designed to give a voice to the many different experiences of girls and women. This series will feature guest posts by professors, writers, a cartoonist, young girls, and mothers. Gut wrenching and honest, these stories are presented in an attempt to bring about a deeper understanding of the plight of girls and women as we make our way in world that, for us, is hostile at its best and violent at its worst.

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When you asked me to write a post about body image, I had too many low self-image stories to count.

One more recent episode occurred when I was going to a high school reunion. My husband and I dropped off our then-baby at my parent’s house, so we could have a night out. I was feeling good about how I looked and what I was wearing. But I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my mother. The first thing she said to me was something like, “You’re wearing that dress?” “The color doesn’t do anything for you.” Perhaps she questioned the low V neck. She might have also judged something else about my appearance. Me being me, I felt terrible and spent way too much time during the reunion party in the bathroom checking myself out and making sure my clothes were straight, hair combed, and makeup just so.

Anyone who knows me now (or even back then) knows this isn’t my usual modus operandi, particularly wearing a dress at all. One when I was a teenager, my brother pointed out some hair on my upper lip. Hence, another self-conscious moment that has lasted a lifetime. People need to know their effect on others and watch what they say. Few people would comment on specifics like these to boys and men.


Marlene Targ Brill learned to write by reading to her students. She writes award-winning books for readers preschool through adult. Her most recent titles are Speech and Language Challenges: The Ultimate Teen Guide (Scarecrow Press), Margaret Knight: Girl Inventor (NNSA/CBC Honor Book), and the fun Tooth Tales from around the World (Charlesbridge Press), the only nonfiction history of the tooth fairy and other tooth traditions.

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