Poetry of Teenage Girls: Uncovering the Superficial Image of the Ideal Woman
In this day and age image is everything and to teenage girls body image consumes them. Our society continues to print false images of women in magazines, creating this idealistic view of how women should look. Many times these superficial images cause young women to doubt their own beauty simply because they don't reflect the same images as various actresses or models. Our society is creating a disease that is infecting these girls with eating disorders and self-hate. Young girls should be basking in their youth and celebrating the magnificent changes their bodies undergo, instead of comparing themselves to the next hottest face on the cover of various popular magazines.
Many women are out there trying to help these young women recognize their beauty and their potential. They are trying to unmask this false beauty and replace it with real and raw images of women, true beauty. The most recent of these women is Alexis Jones, the author of I Am That Girl, but back in 2001 another woman Betsy Franco published a book of poems and writings all written by teenage girls. Titled Things I have to tell you, was started as a project and became a place for young girls age 12-18 to tell their story, their struggle. Many of the poems in this book are inspiring and heartbreaking. While reading this book I often found myself wanting to reach out and save girls like this, because I saw my younger self within their lines. The broken, the damaged, the silenced I too felt angry and confused during my adolescent times; hating myself for what I couldn't change and for not being stronger than ridiculing words.
The poems in this book that inspired this hub are about body image and self-hate and how our society continues to promote this kind of backward thinking, but it also celebrates young women and their imperfect bodies.
The first poem is entitled "Be Perfect..." by Laura Veuve age 15. What I love about this poem is how at such a young age this girl can unveil these superficial images of perfection and colors it all bullshit. It's a poem about how this superficial BS surrounds these young girls yet when one girl can't live up to perfection and ends up with an eating disorder or slicing up her wrists everyone seems shocked and wonders how this could happen. This poem calls those people out on their "bullshit".
-Shocking studies show eating disorders
on the rise in teenage girls-
You should have seen this coming
You raised me
Your society screwed me up
I read your hypocritical magazines
I went to your schools
I dealt with your sons' running commentaries
My parents can't protect me
My friends can't protect me
My wonderful, loving,
ignorant community can't protect me
So I protect them
I have to cope to survive
Why hurt them too?
Oh, I'm fine, Mom
The next poem "Contemplating fat and thin", by Becky Mann age 17, brings an eating disorder to light. In just a few lines, you get this image of a girl going to her scale day in and day out in hopes of her perfect number, but when a higher number appears she says to herself "No food, you're fat / double the run" (page 21). Then she weighs herself later and gets her weight, but at what cost.
A smile stretches across my face
my heart skips a beat
I open my eyes to see
the scale at just eye level
a bruise from just the night before
and one today to match that one
from tumbling to the floor
Contemplating fat and thin
It feels like I will never win
When we focus on numbers on a scale we tend to stray away from healthy habits in order to obtain a worthy number. Becky Mann does an excellent job of illustrating that in her poem.
Another writing that sheds light on these superficial ideals of women is a writing done by Gabrielle Turner age 19, "As Good As She Looks". Here is a writing about how ones culture that once accepted curvacious women as beautiful are now diminishing them to nothing, just "lazy and ignorant" (20). My absolute favorite part of this writing is the powerful sting this young girl leaves you with:
By focusing on how women look instead of how we feel and think, society
silences our voices. By making us objects of beauty, it takes away our spirits and
Now while this book has poems and writing on this idea of a superficial beauty, it also has poems that empower young women to believe in their own beauty and love themselves. One of those poems is "Damn, I Look Good" by Miriam Stone age 16. What I love about this poem is how one dress can make a young woman feel like a vixen about to ravish any man she wishes. It empowers these girls with the man-eater complex and I think that can be great for young girls. It builds confidence and helps them to accept their bodies instead of hating their bodies because they don't look like a super model.
Tried on a dress the other day,
Showed off my skin
In just the right way,
Rolled off my hips
Cascading hair falling
Just to where my back
Lies graceful, smooth, bare.
Temptress in a dress
No one can resist.
This coquette can get
Any man she's set
A female Don Juan.
The best, I confess,
Cannot help bu obsess
In one hell of a dress.
The other poem that illustrates a young woman celebrating her body is "Apricot Bath" by Lindsay Henry age 17. This poem can inspire young girls to, well not give it up so easily. Make sure that the guy you're with can love everything about you instead of just what he finds attractive. Make sure he loves your mind and the fact that you don't always agree. Make sure that he can focus on your conversation without straying to the curves of your breasts or thighs. This poem takes sex out of the equation while sitting naked with a guy in a bath and only allowing him to kiss you once you both know all there is to know about one another. My favorite lines of the poem are in the middle when she tells him what to love her for.
But if you must love me
Love the little smooth scar on my knee
no my eyes
Love my round belly
not my legs
Love the two freckles on my neck
that look like a vampire's kiss
not my lips
Love my square, pudgy toes
not my smile
Interesting documentary about eating disorders in young people, especially athletes. It's an interesting look at how both young women and men in intense athletic sports suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life.