The email came earlier this week with a subject line of "love your body day." It had been sent to the entire athletic department and quite possibly the entire University, and it was inviting people to be aware of the fact that this past Wednesday was to be "Love Your Body Day," an awareness event promoted by the NOW Foundation, part of the National Organization for Women.
TigerBlog has high self-esteem, so he's fine with his own body. Still, TB clicked on the link in the email, and he was a big fan of what he saw.
NOW Foundation's website had information about the event, which tackles an issue that TigerBlog strongly believes; namely, that mass media and pop culture send awful messages to young girls and women about body types and that these messages result in all kinds of terrible physical and mental health issues. The foundation site began with this text:
"Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries work hard to make each of us believe that our bodies are unacceptable and need constant improvement. Print ads and television commercials reduce us to body parts -- lips, legs, breasts -- airbrushed and touched up to meet impossible standards. TV shows tell women and teenage girls that cosmetic surgery is good for self-esteem. Is it any wonder that 80% of U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance?"
It's an important issue on college campuses and especially in collegiate athletic departments. It's something that is taken extraordinarily seriously here at Princeton.
The athletic department has a strong commitment to what is generally known as "wellness," which obviously puts its emphasis on preventing problems before they happen. The University has a full-time staff of professionals under University Health who can deal with any number of issues, and the athletic department has direct access to among others a full-time dietitian.
There are also any number of people who come in and speak to Princeton athletes about issues such as drinking, drugs, depression and anything else that might become a serious issue.
The public face of Princeton athletics, or any college's athletics, is the games the teams play. To many, that's all they ever see of what goes on here, healthy young men and women wearing orange and black and competing for Princeton. Way more often than not, that's the case.
Still, TB has been in many meetings or spoken with many coaches and athletes about issues that have come up, and many of the stories are heartbreaking. And TigerBlog can't help but think that many of these problems begin by looking in magazines or on TV or at movies.
The messages that bombard little girls from an early age are astonishing. Maybe TB never paid really close attention to it before Little Miss TigerBlog came along, but he can see the effect that pop culture has on kids in elementary school. Or, if you don't think it's that big a deal, go to the next middle school football game that TigerBlog Jr. plays in and look at the 12- to 14-year-old girls walking around after school.
To be honest, it's frightening. Little Miss TigerBlog went for her annual checkup, found out that she weighed 74 pounds and got upset because most of the other girls in her school still weigh in the 60s. Forget that LMTB is off-the-charts tall and doesn't have an ounce of fat on her skinny frame. She was still upset about what she was told she weighed.
Why? Because that's what society is already telling her. Sadly, too many girls grow up and have these thoughts escalate until real problems exist.
The athletes at Princeton, especially the women, are lucky that they have the access to help that they have.
Love Your Body Day was this past Wednesday? It should be every day.
As for young girls, they should forget the "famous" women shown all over, the Kardashians and Magan Foxes and Real Housewives of Wherever.
Look here instead. And here. And here. And any number of other athletes here at Princeton. They are role models for the right reasons.