Social Media and the Body

When going beyond the clear gendered expectations of children’s literature, it also works in a way that informs perceptions of the body. Although many common depictions of the body refer to it in ways that allude to the adult frame, children’s literature does a lot in regards to constructing what is commonly attributed to the body.

Children’s literature develops societal constructs as to what the body means, and ways in which it is appropriate to represent it. It forms the ways in which children learn about their bodies through texts like “Everybody Poops” but also creates a basis of knowledge for things like basic hygiene and sexual maturation. Children’s literature works in a way that allows children to gain a better understanding of their body and what it can do, but also the things that are good and bad to do with your body. A lot young adult fictions works with the topic of sexual maturation within these young adults, and often works in a way to create stigmas against it, reflecting the values of society.

Not only does children’s literature affect what children think they should do with their bodies, it affects what children think their bodies should look like. Hager looks at the fact that there is a significant lack of representation in children’s literature for fat people. These texts are representing thin figures as responsible and vilified, while heavy characters are all represented as sexually promiscuous, passive and powerless. These body stereotypes can be seen in The Bluest Eye in the way the prostitutes are portrayed. The misconceptions of weight and worth aren’t the only stereotypes perpetuated through children’s literature. Hyper thin, European ideals of beauty are presented as beautiful, while all other things are encouraged to morph into that idea.

This specific idea, the idea that white is beautiful, continues into modern society and outside of the context of literature itself. Just the other night while on Instagram I came across a post that perfectly depicted the continued idealization of white beauty. The white girl depicted is explicitly shown to have more beauty. It is literally labeling the white girl as beautiful. They show here in a more refined manner, with more detailed clothing and accessories. Meanwhile, the colored girl is directly labeled as ugly. She is presented with an expression that is entirely disinterested. Children’s literature works to form what children are to find as beautiful.

2 thoughts on “Social Media and the Body”

  1. I think your argument throughout this post is great! Your statement about The Bluest Eye’s “heavier” characters was quite interesting to me. Honestly maybe we did not discuss it much in class but this connection was never made for me. I have noticed too that throughout any media and literature, including children, the “fat” characters are always to be of comedic relief of some sorts. Aside from this your discussion of the Instagram post is strong as well. I have noticed a lot of these themes you discuss throughout my social media accounts as well! Great job!

  2. Abbie,
    Great post! You’re right in saying that children’s literature can be very powerful in influencing how children perceive their bodies. This is especially true when it comes to representing one body type as beautiful and another as ugly because it directly shows young children how they “should” look. This can be incredibly harmful to a young child’s self image when they are in such a flexible period in their life because they can have an extremely low confidence level. It is really disappointing to see that this book for children directly labeled one girl as beautiful and another as ugly.

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