Do Small Towns Give Girls Immunity?

While speaking at a Toronto conference for eating disorders professionals, several Canadians said they were puzzled over why that year’s US election campaign seemed, as one person put it: “obsessed with small towns.”

That led us to a discussion of this question: if a girl is raised in a small town, is she better protected, or have greater immunity, from the hyper-sexualization of females than girls growing up urban and suburban areas

I don’t think so. If geography holds any protection, it is marginal. No matter where we live, girls and boys, and women and men, are inundated with the notion that they should be constantly judging women’s bodies—and also inundated with the tools to do that judging.

I’ve lived and raised my children in a small town and a small city, Marshall and Duluth, Minnesota. Both 150 miles from the nearest big city; Marshall has about 11,000 souls and Duluth about 80,000.

But stand in either town’s shopping mall and the view isn’t much different than inside the enormous Mall of America in the Twin Cities—or Beverly Center in LA, NorthPark in Dallas, Paramus Park outside New York City, or Bradley Fair in Wichita.

And that doesn’t even take into account the geography of marketing and body obsession that is un-tethered from physical geography—on smart-phones, TV, websites, catalogs, magazines, billboards, bumper stickers, and conversations around the water cooler or behind the schoolhouse. There is just as much access to the Internet and cable TV in Ord, Nebraska as there is in Orlando, Florida.

For better and for worse, we and our children are actually part of a global community in ways unlike any earlier generations, no matter where we live. And so, we have the responsibility—and opportunity—to influence that global community for the better, and to mitigate the toxic impacts (such as body image obsession) it has on our children

Your can learn a lot more about what Dr. Margo Maine calls the "Global Girl phenomenon in her book Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and the Pursuit of Thinness

You can also help provide some real immunity by participating in the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. (Full disclosure: I'm on CCFC's advisory board and think it's the most effective and efficient nonprofit I've ever seen.)

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