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A middle school in Mississippi has been forced to apologise after it was blasted online for offering shapewear to young female students in an attempt to help the girls with their body image.
One mum was so outraged by the note she received from her daughter's school that she shared it to Facebook where it quickly went viral.
"So this is what my 8th grade daughter brought home from school today. I am beyond pissed," wrote Ashley Wells Heun in her Facebook post, which included a photo of a permission slip allegedly sent home from the Southaven Middle School, from school counsellors.
The form pictured was was titled, "Why Do Girls Suffer from Body Image?" and went on to explain that "female body image is a product of personal, social and cultural experiences, and often emerges as a desire to adhere to an 'ideal' body shape."
The notice then came with an offer to receive "healthy literature" as well as "shapewear, bras and other health products."
Ashley lashed the note in her post, writing: "So you begin this masterpiece detailing how damaging a negative body image is for girls, how the stress of conforming to an impossible perceived image can adversely affect their mental health, and then OFFER TO GIVE THEM SPANX SO THEY CAN BETTER FIT THE PERCEIVED IMAGE?!?
"What. The. Very. F@$&. How, in the hell, are you promoting a positive body image by saying 'here, you’re too fat. You need shapewear to make you look thinner.' Are you freaking kidding me?"
The post quickly went viral with many people calling out the school's failed attempt at spreading a positive message about body image.
"This is SO screwed up. Thank you for speaking out about it!!!" one person commented.
"This is horrible," another said.
It gained even more traction when it was shared on Twitter and Instagram, with 'Should I delete that?' podcast host Alex Light writing: "Girls need beauty standards and the ideal of the ‘perfect body’ to be shattered so they don’t feel like they have something to live up to."
"Where do these body image problems come from? Hmmmm… hard to figure that one out… How do they imagine this is 'help'?? Maybe they can teach a class on Instagram posing too so all the girls can do it better," was another shocked response.
Another said: "I can trace like 70% of my body image complex back to extremely sexist, degrading and inappropriate school dress codes. Why were so many male school staff commenting on my body the moment I hit puberty?? And why, 20 yrs later, are we still feeding even worse BS to our girls?"
Speaking to Yahoo, mum Ashley said she had no idea her post would go so viral.
"I'm kind of speechless at how this kind of took off, but I'm glad that people agree how badly this comes across," she says, explaining that, after posting the handout to Facebook, she sent an email to the principal (which she shared with Yahoo).
In the email, she noted, "If my daughter begged me for shapewear, I would tell her no. Now I find out that you are ENCOURAGING her to wear it. I, honestly, am baffled that a 'counsellor' who is TRAINED in child psychology would actually think that this is a good idea."
Ashley says she then received a call from the principal, with an invite to sit down and discuss the situation, which she did.
"He apologised profusely and said that it was meant with 'good intentions.' They have canceled the 'program' but I'm still bothered at the lack of forethought in the first place," she says.
"I am all for providing bras and other essentials for girls who don't have access to them for whatever reason, but handing out a letter to all the girls in class (yes, in front of the boys) is just… creepy? Inappropriate? Ill-conceived? And shapewear has absolutely no place in a middle school. Ever."
Meanwhile, teen and adolescent psychologist Barbara Greenberg said the note was "completely appalling".
"If it wasn't true, I would think it was just a bad joke," Barbara tells Yahoo. "Are they also offering shapewear to boys?"
"The message is loud and clear: that your bodies need to be shaped and altered and the appearance needs to be changed. That their bodies as they are aren't good enough," Greenberg says, adding that while the effort may have certainly been "coming from a good place," it "really missed the mark."
Additional reporting Beth Greenfield.
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