Colleen Hammond | News Editor
In an age of Instagram beauty moguls and endlessly filtered images, the notion of body positivity is almost an unattainable goal.
Internet users across the western world have felt an increasing pressure to have the “perfect body” in recent years as images of stick-thin models and wildly muscular influencers have taken over social media.
It seems that every second spent on social media is yet another reminder of how the average person will never look, sound or be as attractive as the internet façade.
According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders, 9% of the U.S. population will develop an eating disorder within their lifetime. This equates to rough 28.8 million Americans suffering from these conditions.
Since the advent of social media, eating disorder experts have noted that the perpetual bombardment of filtered images and “perfect bodies” has greatly contributed to a rise in eating disorders in the U.S.
Children, mainly girls, as young as 11 have been reported to struggle with their relationship with food, dieting, exercise and their bodies because of their early exposure to unrealistic body standards.
However, a Danish TV show is doing their part to combat body dysmorphia and insecurity in children’s appearances.
The show Ultra Strips Down, takes an unconventional approach to educating children about their bodies.
The show, which is available through Ultra, the on-demand children’s channel of the Danish national broadcaster, features a host speaking to a room full of children ages 11-13 when five adults come into the room and disrobe in front of the children. The children are then allowed to ask any questions they have about the bodies they see in front of them.
This removes some of the taboo and awkwardness from discussing puberty. It also expands children’s perception of what a “normal” body should look like.
While the average American is probably scandalized and appalled by this idea, the show has been a huge success in Denmark, even winning an award for best children’s program at the Danish TV Festival.
To help ensure the safety of the children throughout the filming and production of the show, the “models” are carefully vetted to make sure no one with malicious intentions is near the children.
In addition, the children who compose the live studio audience spend weeks in school discussing the show both before and after. They are well prepared for the event and are frequently asked throughout the filming process if they are comfortable and if they would like to leave.
Children are also encouraged to participate by the host who frequently reminds the children, “Remember, you can’t do anything wrong,” and “There are no bad questions.”
Audience participation helps guide the dialogue and encourage children to feel comfortable in their own bodies. The show uses “everyday” models with a variety of body types.
Although Danish children are culturally more comfortable with nudity than American children due to the practice of nude beaches in Denmark, Ultra Strips Down aims to eliminate the taboo of nudity and place it in an educational context.
Unfortunately, the American market is not ready for such a radical step. However, the existence of the show should open our eyes to how we educate American children on body image.
For some reason, standard American education does not include even the most basic of anatomy lessons for middle school children. American culture has so hypersexualized nudity that even nudity in anatomy textbooks is often heavily censored to avoid showing genitalia.
While there is nothing wrong with waiting until children mature to their pre-teen years to have these discussions, the complete avoidance of the topic altogether is proving detrimental to young people.
Without this education and judgment-free discussion, young Americans are taught that their bodies are something to be ashamed of. This shame mixed with the false iconography of “perfect-bodied” Instagram models is a recipe for disaster. We are placing our children at a great disadvantage by avoiding discussion of normal bodily functions.
The American education system needs to adopt a system to educate young people on their bodies in a stress-free nonjudgmental space. American culture needs to stop intrinsically associating nudity with sexuality and encourage all young people to be comfortable in their own skin.
Although a TV show of adult nudity may seem drastic, it is just one example of how western countries need to bridge the divide between youth and adulthood by permitting curiosity and discussion around the human body.