A Mississippi high school has offered body-slimming shapewear to female students this month, sparking a furious reaction.
Southaven Middle School in northern Mississippi sent a letter home to parents of teenage and tween girls, detailing the issue of negative body image.
It concluded with an offer from the school’s counselors to provide shapewear — a basic piece of clothing used to alter a person’s body shape — to one of the students, ages 10 to 14, whose parents agreed.
The shocking letter was shared on social media by mother Ashley Heun, who said she was “stunned”.
Southaven Middle School in northern Mississippi sent this body image letter to parents of girls at the school, who are between the ages of 10 and 14
Mother Ashley Heun shared the letter online, denouncing it for perpetuating the problem of negative body image
“I got this home with my 8th grade daughter,” Heun, whose daughter Caroline is at school, wrote on Facebook.
It ended up offering body image literature as well as top and bottom bras and shapewear, asking parents to provide sizing for their daughters (stock image)
The memo’s headline is nonsensical, “Why do girls suffer from body image?” – which should be more accurate: suffering from a ‘poor’ or ‘negative’ body image.
The memo goes on to discuss how “social and cultural experiences” create a “desire to stick to an “ideal” body shape” and how girls are “more likely than boys to have a negative body image.”
While the memo is especially thoughtful, pointing out that “women in the United States feel pressured to conform to strict and unrealistic social and cultural ideals of beauty,” it also claims girls with positive body image are more likely to feel good about themselves. self-esteem, physical and mental health — and it offers a surprising way to support that.
“We, the Southaven Middle School counselors, would like to have the opportunity to offer your daughter some healthy literature on maintaining a positive body image.
“We also provide girls with shapewear, bras and other health products, if applicable.”
She wrote: ‘I’m devastated, although I’m not sure if I’m more pissed off about the fact that they had the ‘balls’ to send this home or the VERY ignorance of the ‘advisors’ at the school’
At the bottom of the form is a tear-off section for parents to return, which allows them to agree that their daughter will receive “the healthy literature, shapewear, bras, and other products provided by the attendants.”
It includes a list of sizes parents can circle for shapewear, top and bottom, as well as bras.
Heun was shocked by the letter, telling Today that she had taken to social media to “gather the troops to change this and really let the school know how exactly tone deaf it was.”
She wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m beyond p***ed, although I’m not sure if I’m more pissed off that they had the “balls” to send this home or the VERY ignorance of the ‘advisors ‘ at school.’
“So you start this masterpiece describing how harmful a negative body image is to girls, how the stress of conforming to an impossibly perceived image can adversely affect their mental health, and then YOU OFFER THEM TO STRESS THEM SO THEY CAN BETTER CARE THE OBSERVED IMAGE? !? What. The. All. F@%text.”
Other social media users have also expressed their disgust.
A representative from the school has since said the initiative had ‘terminated’
‘What the hell is this,’ wrote author Glennon Doyle. ‘Which school hands out ‘shapewear’ to female students?? It’s too early in the day for this shit, but tell me where the hell to show up.”
“I absolutely do not believe that those entrusted as counselors to impressionable young women would continue this completely horrific information,” wrote one Facebook commentator.
‘This is not acceptable. This is going to do so much more harm than good,” said another.
“The best way to teach our girls to love themselves is to give them scarves? I am a mature woman in shapewear and still trying to discover self love. Someone has really missed the point here,” writes a third.
‘I can trace about 70% of my body image complex to extremely sexist, humiliating and inappropriate school dress codes. Why were so many male school workers reacting to my body as I hit puberty? And why are we still giving our girls even worse BS twenty years later?’ a Twitter user chimed in.
When Today was reached for comment, a school spokesperson said the initiative had “terminated,” although it was not acknowledged as a mistake.
Social media users, including author Glennon Doyle, have also criticized the ‘unacceptable’ policy
“The district has been notified of the parental consent form sent to parents by Southaven Middle School,” said Lauren Margeson, the DeSoto County Schools superintendent’s assistant.
“District officials understand how this type of information raises serious concerns among parents,” she added.
Heun said she was made aware that bras, underwear and other health items would still be available to all students, adding: I support that 100%. I don’t want any child without it.’
“What I do hope is that now that this is getting the attention it has, I hope that parents will think about the messages their daughters (AND SONS) are receiving about body image and the pressure there is to be ‘perfect'” , she said.
‘I hope it can lead to conversations between parents and children, teachers, counselors and school board. Raising a child, especially a teenager, is like walking a tightrope, trying to strike a balance between nurturing self-esteem and teaching personal responsibility, and trying not to project your own insecurities onto your children.
The bottom line is that I never want a child to feel ‘less than’ because of their appearance. They are all perfect as they are.’