Let’s Hear It for the Boys: How Men Help Fight Our Body Image Battles
Our dad is cool. Like really cool. He knows everything there is to know about cars. He knows somebody everywhere we go. He can find a Maverik gas station — by pure instinct — anywhere they exist. He doesn’t get scared. Ever. Babies and old people love him. He can do anything. Literally. And he has made sure we have known that our entire lives. We usually laughed and rolled our eyes when he would smile and say “I can do anything,” but he has yet to disprove that statement. That kind of confidence is hilarious, but also really, really awesome. Example A: Dad is rocking some serious back hair, but never once hesitated to display it for the world to see at the waterpark WHILE braving all the scariest slides – despite Mom’s hesitation to let him. Hahaha.
But seriously. Watching our dad live with that kind of unflinching confidence has been an amazing asset to our own self-perceptions. We’re pretty confident in ourselves and our abilities too, and we can definitely attribute part of that to our cool dad. That confidence has helped carry us through the kind of rough times that all teens and young adults go through, including body image crises. If Dad can brave the waterpark crowds with all that luxurious body hair, then why should we be nervous to enjoy the sun in our swimsuited bods — whether “beach ready” or not?!
Dads are key in the fight to redefine beauty. Dads can show us what it’s like to believe we are capable of doing anything and overcoming any problem. Whether they’re blatantly promoting positive body image in their own families or simply living as examples of men who value women for more than their appearances, boys and men have a major role to play in this fight. With the help of our amazing Facebook fan-base, we want to share a few reasons why dads (and other male supporters) can be so awesome for the body image of girls and women everywhere.
- Recognizing Our Abilities: Thank you for supporting our abilities and helping us succeed in whatever arenas we choose. You have helped us break out of the mold that limits our potential by telling us what we can and cannot do, and have taught us we can do anything, regardless of what we look like!
“My dad and I used to take long drives just to philosophize. Our family vacations were trips to the mountains to hike and swim in waterfalls. He encouraged me to practice a musical instrument and took me to the orchestra, showed me books on great artists, and taught me how to cook. He really put the emphasis on LIVING life instead of moving through it as a mannequin.” – Annie
“I was not a very good athlete growing up, but that didn’t stop my dad from coming to every game possible, driving me to 5 a.m. practice, and encouraging me. He never mentioned how terrible I really was. He also would shoot hoops with my sister every night, even after a long day of farm work. He encouraged all of our endeavors, including music and theatre, coming to every concert and performance. Sure, he told us when we looked nice for specific events (usually smiling and saying “You sure clean up nice!”), but the focus was never on how we looked. It was always on what we could accomplish. And even when we inevitably stumbled or downright failed, we knew we were loved for who we were. Every night (including when I would come home from college, and even the night before my wedding), my dad would come upstairs, make sure everyone was settled, and say “I love you, see you tomorrow. You’re a good kid.” – Danielle
“My dad helped me be confident by not mentioning my looks or body on regular basis. Instead he always encouraged me in my abilities and he always taught me that I could do whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it. He didn’t want me to think I couldn’t do something because I was a ‘girl.’ He also let me be opinionated even when as a teenager it meant arguing with him. He never stifled my spirit and I think it made me the assertive and determined woman I am today.” – Brittany
- Compliments that count:Thank you for helping us see our value and our worth. When you compliment us on more than those easy comments about our hair, weight loss, clothing, etc., you teach us that we’re more than bodies to be looked at, judged, and fixed. You help us stop minimizing ourselves and other women to just bodies by helping us see them for their beautiful talents, characters, and gifts! The compliments that stick with us for a lifetime are those that acknowledge our valuable qualities, like a good attitude, selflessness, talents, and honesty. Thank you for these.
“My grandpa also always makes a point to tell his granddaughters especially that they are beautiful and then proceeds to point out why. 9 times out of 10 it has nothing to do with physical beauty.” – Cassie
“My husband proposed to me on Valentine’s Day even though we had reservations for a fancy dinner later that night, he actually proposed to me in our kitchen, while I was still in my pajamas. He told me that I was just as beautiful when I first wake up as when I’ve done my hair, makeup, etc. That truly changed the way I saw myself and how I hope I’m raising our daughter to feel about herself.” – Pauline
“I really can’t recall dad ever saying anything bad about anyone’s looks, or even usually commenting on them at all. He told my mom, my sisters, and me how beautiful we were all the time. It is evident in both his words and actions that he still find my mother very attractive and beautiful after 40+ years of marriage and 7 kids. He’s been supportive and always encouraged us to dream big. He complimented my sister and me in every way, in how smart and funny and creative we are. That environment that my parents created has given way to the way I see other women. I’ve always thought my friends were beyond beautiful. It was more recent that I realized the reason I could honestly claim they were the most beautiful women on the planet was because I was not judging them by the worlds standards, but rather a standard that is as unique as they are. Perhaps that comes from my dad, who sometimes didn’t look up from the paper while I rushed by, but yet was perfectly certain I always looked amazing.” – Elyse
- Objecting to objectification:Thank you for turning away from all media that objectifies women’s bodies. You help us recognize what messages are so hurtful and limiting to our potential, and remind us we can look away and not buy into those lies. When you turn that trashy magazine around in the checkout aisle, switch the channel when a sexually objectifying commercial is on TV, and steer clear of pornography, we remember it and can’t thank you enough.
“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the men in my family value FAR more than outward beauty. They spend time, energy and money on making sure that the women around them know that there is MUCH more to being pretty than appearance. And especially my dad tries to have conversations with his girls to let us know what beauty is and it’s not what the media says. Dad has stopped commercials before just to explain why the message they are sending is wrong and every time a Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on, he changes the channel because he has told us that he doesn’t want us to compare to that or see a man admire that in a woman.” – Cassie
“My father helped me in regards to how I felt about my body simply by never talking about another woman in a sexual or degrading way. He has always been a great example of a decent and respectful man in my eyes.” – Sarah
“My dad and my husband are amazing examples of men who refuse to accept the objectification of women as normal and natural. Both of them speak out against the harms of pornography and stay far away from it. They recognize how harmful those ideals are for women and for men to buy into. Both of them scoff at the blatant objectification of women on the screen when the camera tilts up and down their bodies and zooms in on their parts. I am beyond grateful for the support and love of two men who really, really understand that women are more than bodies to be looked at and they treat women accordingly. It’s the BEST!” – Lex
- Shutting down the negative self-talk: Thank you for helping us recognize how hard we are on ourselves and the ways we buy into media’s lies about how we should look. When we say negative things about our looks out loud, you shut them down and tell us we are beautiful as-is. You teach us we are beautiful because of our outsides and our insides, and that beauty is so much more all-encompassing than what profit-driven industries would have us believe it to be.
“My grandfather was always my biggest influence. I remember coming home from school and being upset a boy had called me ‘fat,’ my grandpa looked at me, of course with concerned eyes and said ‘don’t you ever let the opinion of anyone, especially a man dictate how your day is going. People who only see the outside beauty are the ones you don’t want to waste your time on anyways.’ I will never forget that conversation and many others with him.” – Rebecca
“I had gained some weight and was vocalizing it to my husband. He took my hand and looked at me and said ‘It doesn’t matter how much you weigh. What matters is what is in here,’ as he pointed to my heart. ‘That’s the reason I married you.’” – Sephra
“I lost my hair to alopecia when I was seven. Hair is totally and utterly associated with female beauty whilst baldness is the butt of too many jokes and remains largely a middle aged male issue. While my hair darkened from it’s naturally streaked blonde and fell out in huge clumps, I never felt the need to hide from the stares, the mean comments or the mirror. My dad was the reason for this, I know now that he was truly devastated, that he cried many a tear over my loss but I didn’t know it then. He was my rock, he held me tight, told me I was beautiful and I knew that to him I was. I could cope with the rest of the world because of my dad. After three years I asked him to shave the remainder off for me, I don’t believe I could have asked anyone else. He freed me by being able to give me my dignity and choice without judgment and with loving care. I am still bald and I have the confidence to go anywhere and without shame because I was given that resilience by my family when I needed it most.” – Rowan
“My father has called me beautiful pretty much everyday of my life. I’m adopted from South Korea and grew up with my step dad. He always made me feel it was okay to be me and it has helped me in every aspect of life. I’ve gone through issues with my looks – ‘I’m too athletic looking, I wish I had blonde hair and blue eyes, I wish I was taller.’ My father never compared me to others, and always supported all my swimming accomplishments. One day it clicked. It didn’t matter how others saw me and if I fit in because usually I don’t and that’s okay! Great even. My dad has always been an amazing example of unconditional love and without him I’m not sure I’d be the confident woman writing this today.” – Tiffany
- Putting health first: Thank you for not buying into media’s lies about what “health” looks like. You know we’re more than a number on a scale or a clothing size and you treat us accordingly. You encourage us to be active and you don’t put us down for not fitting an unattainable ideal.
“My dad has been my biggest supporter over the five years I’ve been in on-and-off-again recovery for an eating disorder. He’s always been available on the other end of the phone, no matter what time, when I needed to cry, scream, rant, vent, or more recently, celebrate. He came with me to my early doctor’s appointments and talked me through my fears and apprehensions, and no matter how horrible I felt during the weight-restoration process he’s always told me that I look beautiful. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I love him more than anything. If he hadn’t kept believing in me and encouraging me, I don’t know if I would be in the safe, healthy, and working-towards-happy place that I am today.” – Allison
“Growing up, we never had a scale in our home. (There still is not one) He knew that young girls are vulnerable to the pressures of society, and being the dad to five girls, he never wanted us to obsess about our weight, but rather that we knew we were each uniquely beautiful.” – Rebekah R.
“My dad was the only ‘dance dad’ that I had ever seen. He came with me to every dancesport competition, helped me with my hair, and was always there to remind me that it was my skills that mattered more than how I looked – and at the end of the day, if we walked away without a prize, I would still be just as precious and valuable as I was at the start. He helped me at every competition, and it was worth it when we won the gold. My team was full of bullying girls who almost all had eating disorders. I was the biggest on the team and my dad helped me maintain myself esteem at the most difficult of times, consistently telling me how smart, mature, and skilled I was. It was because of him that I managed to resist the pressure to become like the others. It was because of him that I still enjoy being myself today.” – Rebekah H.
“My dad always came to my sporting events. He brought me a snack of a bagel, lunch meat and juice every single time. Unbeknownst to me he was teaching me the value of food for fuel.” – Monica
- Showing us what equality is all about: Thank you for helping us see and feel what it means to be in an equal partnership. You didn’t just pay the bills and feel like your responsibilities were done. You didn’t treat us or anyone else like we were just pretty faces. You showed us we were valuable and capable and loved.
“My grandma had Parkinsons for 24 years before she passed away and the last five of those years she was only awake every one day out of 3. My grandpa would wait until the days that she was awake to make any decisions about finances, or the house, or possible trips/visits from the grandkids. Because he said that they have always done things as a team and he wasn’t going to let a sickness stop that.” – Cassie
“My much missed dad was an early feminist. He cooked and shared housework and he encouraged us to study and get a good education. We never believed for a moment that we were defined by our looks or less than any man. My dad was an amazing man and I miss him everyday even though he’s been gone 20 years.” – Julie
“Though he travels a lot for work, throughout my childhood my dad was there as much as he could be, rooting for me during track meets and horse shows and promoting every academic achievement. He (and my mom) raised both my brother and myself in a mostly gender neutral fashion. I was never discouraged from doing ‘boy things’ and my brother was never discouraged from doing ‘girl things.’ I never felt like my dad wanted me to be anything other than what I was – I made him proud by being myself. I am moving to another state in less than a week to follow a new career and I would not be strong enough or half the woman I am today without my dad.” – Arah
“Dad never made me feel like there was something I couldn’t do because of my gender. Nothing was off limits for his girls. When I was diagnosed with anorexia he did everything he (mom too) could do to make sure I had the best treatment.” – Liz
- Loving Mom and valuing motherhood: Thank you for showing Mom love and for letting us see it. For loving her for more than her looks, for telling her the reasons you love her, and for teaching us what love can look like.
“One of the biggest ways my dad influenced me for good in this arena was in the way he treated my mother. Not once did I ever hear him criticize her appearance or say anything to even HINT that his love for her was based on what she looked like. Rather, he was always trying to persuade her to get out and enjoy life rather than worrying about her hair or her makeup or whatever it was at the moment. Similarly, he always helped me feel beautiful and confident through simple and sincere compliments. Some of those compliments were about my appearance (and I remember them meaning a lot, especially during my insecure teenage years!), but many were focused on my attributes or achievements in other areas. I have never doubted my dad’s unconditional love for me, and I will always be grateful to him for being a safe haven when it came to body image issues!” – Rachel
“My guy has always told me I am beautiful. Even in the morning when my makeup is smeared and my hair is a mess. I fluctuate up and down in weight, about 20 pounds or so and when I’m up, and he never changes his opinion. One day, he told me he loves the stretch marks on my belly, he called it my mommy badge of honor. He really is a positive, amazing man. I am glad he is here for my daughter and me.” – Jessicah
“When I was making a fuss over my pudgy tummy my husband told me he found it attractive! It meant that I had given him 4 beautiful babies! I’ll never think of my pudge the same way again!” – Nan
Men can do so much good in this fight to take back beauty and health for women everywhere. These incredible examples are only the beginning. To the boys and men that support and value girls and women for all that they are, THANK YOU! You are so necessary in this battle. We love you! Please share this post with the men in your life and thank them for doing what they do while inspiring them to keep helping. For more tips on how guys can help support the girls and women they love in this life-long body image journey, check out this awesome list.