Counselors from Southaven Middle School were forced to revoke a program to distribute free shapewear to its female students after receiving criticism from parents.
Southaven Middle School in Mississippi has come under fire for offering free shapewear to its female students as a means of tackling their "body image issues." In a permission slip addressed to parents, counselors discussed the effects of negative body image on a girl's self-esteem and other aspects of her life. To mitigate these consequences, they encouraged parents to share consent for their daughters to receive "healthy literature" as well as free shapewear, among other items. One parent took to Facebook to express her serious concerns about the offer, slamming the school's counselors for their ignorance on the sensitive subject, CNN reports.
I’m sorry what??? A middle school offering shapewear to help girls with their “body image issues.” There is so much wrong happening here. Absolutely shameful.https://t.co/RtISZUBJat— Liuba Grechen Shirley (@liuba4congress) January 14, 2022
Ashley Wells Heun, whose daughter attends eighth grade at Southaven Middle School, posted a photo of the permission slip on Facebook. "So this is what my eighth-grade daughter brought home from school today," she explained. "I am beyond pissed, though I’m not sure if I’m more pissed at the fact that they had the 'balls' to send this home or the VERY IGNORANCE of the 'counselors' at the school." Evidently, the mother was not pleased about the way in which the school's counselors had decided to navigate the topic.
"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?" Heun asked. "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?" Since it was first posted, her post has received hundreds of comments from similarly concerned parents and educators who did not agree with the middle school's approach.
In the permission slip, the school requested parents' consent to give female middle schoolers "healthy literature, shapewear, bras, and other products." The school stated in the consent form, "Female body image is a product of personal, social, and cultural experiences, and often emerges as the desire to adhere to an 'ideal' body shape... Girls with negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies are more likely to develop certain mental health conditions, such as depression and eating disorders... A negative body image may also lead to low self-esteem, which can affect many areas of a young girl's life. She may not want to be around other people or may obsess constantly about what she eats or how much she exercises."
The letter then went on to affirm that there are steps the school and families could take to help girls develop a healthier body image. However, their mechanisms of doing so seem counterproductive. For instance, apart from the physical side effects of wearing shapewear (such as skin irritation and restricted blood circulation), indicating that girls must wear apparel that even temporarily alters how their bodies look could send the wrong message. Instead, experts believe focusing on how young girls can develop confidence around their bodies would be more effective and healthier in the long term. According to Kids Health, parents and counselors should help young girls build healthy relationships with food and exercise and counter negative messages in the media.
Heun, infuriated by the consent form, spoke with the school to demand better. Lauren Margeson, DeSoto County School’s executive administrative assistant to the superintendent, has since shared in a statement, "The district has been made aware of the parental permission form sent to parents by Southaven Middle School. District officials understand how this type of information causes serious concern from parents." The program presently stands canceled.