Killer Butt Injections and the Female Quest for the Perfect Body

perfect bodySigh, the perfect body. What is that? No hypotheticals here; this is a real question. Better yet, let’s put that on hold. What I really want to know is, who told us what the perfect body is? Who convinced a whole society of people that particular body parts have to look a particular way? Who set the parameters of what acceptable butts, breasts, bellies, thighs and faces look like? Is it the film industry, the music industry, magazine publishers, the media in general? If so, how did they get to be so powerful? How did they, in their grand intelligence and wisdom, become the purveyors of aesthetic truth? More importantly, why did we, women of the world, give up our right to define beauty based on our own personal standards? As you can see, I got questions.

Because as I read about Kelly Mayhew, a 34-year-old woman who died after receiving butt injections in someone’s basement, I wonder about her thought process leading up to the event. I wonder how unsatisfied she must have felt when she looked at her body. I wonder if she obsessed over how big her butt wasn’t, over how much it didn’t look like the mythical ideal we’ve all been convinced of. I wonder if she found a shady-looking ad for basement butt injections and thought, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need!” I wonder if any part of her felt uneasy about getting a medical procedure done in a basement. I wonder if she even researched the practitioner or if she simply put blind faith in the intoxicating idea of achieving Nicki Minaj’s posterior. Lastly, I wonder if her fully informed, loving mother (and I use the word “loving” with all sincerity) ever thought to advise her daughter against altering her body in such an unhealthy and unprofessional way. But then again, why would she? We’ve all had a sip (or a gulp) of the “perfect body” Kool-Aid.

Am I a person or a thing?Photo: Thomas Brault

We’re all affected, including me

It’s a lot to carry, this body hate, this body obsession. It clouds our minds and fogs our vision. Makes it hard to see reality for what it is. Because the reality is that Ms. Mayhew’s butt (along with the rest of her body) was just fine. I can say that without having ever seen it because I reject any and all rigid standards imposed on female bodies. Intellectually, that is. I reject them intellectually, with all of my consciousness. But in the recesses of my mind, though, in those shaded areas that only absorb and feel, I am no different. I have felt that same unsettling sense of dissatisfaction. I have made unrealistic comparisons and had fanciful thoughts of “what if,” and “if only.” How could I not?

Apparently, a woman’s body is not her own. It is but a blank screen to have projected onto it the motives and schemes of the world. It is a receptacle, a holding place for lust and distraction. At least that’s the undercurrent. But not to worry, the face of the message is much more palatable. It’s covered in sexy cool and sounds like liberation–or a believable imitation. It sounds like your favorite song, like the tingle of validation, like the buzz of the male gaze, like the opposite of lonely. It sounds like everything we are taught to want to hear.

Hard to believe it’s actually toxic.

Redefining the Perfect Body

When the illustrious Sir Mixalot said, “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” this is not what he had in mind. His goal wasn’t to shame women who don’t have big butts, but rather to stretch a restricting beauty convention. We should all move to stretch the ideas that have been bred into us. We should all move to re-center our thinking around a spacious and inclusive standard that allows each woman to feel complete as she already is.

So that’s where I am now: re-centering, restructuring. I’m retraining my eyes to see myself in a way that I can be proud of, that my daughter can be proud of. Rather than itemizing each part and comparing it to something that may or may not be real, I take it in its entirely and marvel at the strength. I have a butt that cushions my fall. I have breasts that allowed me to feed both my children. (Not once did I have to use formula.) I have a belly that offers me balance on a daily basis, not to mention it grew my children without complication. I have thighs that carry me through life with ease, and I have a face that allows me to experience this world. I’d say that’s a perfect body. Wouldn’t you?

~Nadirah Angail

Your Child’s Self-Image is an Extension of Your Own

My kids swear I’m beautiful. I try not to do anything to convince them otherwise.

What so many women forget (myself included sometimes) is that our children don’t see us through our eyes. They see us through their eyes, which are fresh, uninfluenced, and unconditioned. So however you look is automatically beautiful, regardless of how near it is to a narrowly defined beauty convention.

Because your children love you, they instinctively love the way you look. And that’s where the magic happens: In allowing our children to love us wholly, we give them quiet permission to love themselves wholly.


Isn’t that one of the major goals of parenting, to have children who feel fully satisfied with and grateful for their bodies, their minds, their quirks, their talents? That’s what every parent wants. We want our daughters and sons to see themselves through a panoramic lens rather than one hyper focused on reductive images of masculinity and femininity.

All beauty is beauty

It is important for mothers to realize that all beauty is beauty. That means there is no harm in being comfortable in who you are even when your child, on the outside, appears to be something different. Here’s an example. My daughter and I both have kinky, spirally hair. (If you’re into hair typing, we’re all up in that type-4 region.) The biggest difference  is that her curls are tighter than mine. Not a problem at all, but she notices that her braids don’t hang the same way mine do. She likes long hair, so she used to ask, “How come my hair doesn’t look like yours?”

A part of me used to want to respond, “Well, I wish my curls were as defined as yours. Mine is so limp.” That’s actually a true statement, but in saying that, I would have been normalizing a model of ingratitude and envy. I would have been teaching her that it is perfectly fine to dislike the parts of you that aren’t like someone else. So instead, I’d simply explain, “The kinkier hair is, the shorter it looks. I think it’s really cool that we can have the same style but it still looks different. Curly hair is so versatile. And check this out.” I’d grab one of her curls and stretch it down her back, then I’d let it go and watch it catapult back up into place.  That always made her smile.

These days, she’s a natural hair pro. She can tell you all about her hair and the amazing things it can do. She’s pretty excited about it, and I didn’t have to put my own hair down to get that result. Winning!

I’ve learned. I know now that it doesn’t matter if your look is slightly or even drastically different from your child’s. It doesn’t matter if your skin, hair, features, and body types are not the same. What matter is that you show them what it looks like to love yourself just because you exist. That’s really all we need to do.

This isn’t about that superficial self-love that is really no more than a mix of vanity and attention-seeking. You don’t have to announce that you’re cuter than the next chick or that you’re the sexiest thing alive. All that does is create in their minds a sense of competition and scarcity. What you have to do is behave in a way that suggests you like yourself. Easy enough, right? Not always.

Being beautiful through ugly moments

I was working out with my daughter the other day. I did a big side stretch and happened to get an eyeful of my stretch marks. I typically don’t even notice them, but in that moment it looked like someone had put them in bold, italics, underline, and superscript. I saw her looking at me, so I tried to play it cool. I just went on with my stretching. She went on stretching too, but only for a second. Then she stopped and pulled the side of her shirt up. “Where are mine?” she asked, inspecting her non-hips for similar markings.

“Kids don’t have stretch marks. You usually get them in your teen years when your body is growing quickly. You may or may not get them.” She accepted that answer and went back to doing what the woman on the instructional video told her. There I was, mortified by some little lines, and all she wanted to know was, “Where are mine?” Because she saw them on me, her mother, she assumed they belonged there and were no less beautiful than the rest of me. Kids teach us so much.

It is hard to unlearn damaging ideas as an adult. It’s easier to never teach them.

~Nadirah Angail

A Loving Message to Moms about Little Girl Warm-Weather Fashion

Mothers, please be mindful of the things you buy for your young girls (and tweens and teens). I know much of the available clothing is cute and colorful and embellished and even inexpensive, but it is also very small and very tight and not at all suited for a child, especially one who likes to run, jump, play, or just move, period.

Modesty aside, let’s just talk practicality. Does it makes sense to put low-rise, super-short shorts on a child you know will be on the jungle gym, on the slide, on the swing, jumping, twisting, twirling, and doing every other type of big movement kids love to do?

I can’t tell you how many exposed behinds I’ve seen on little girls at the park. You don’t know who could be there, scoping out your baby’s body–maybe even taking pictures and uploading them to some freaky site. Some people are truly twisted.

A lot of moms think its not a big deal; they’re just cute clothes. But I have seen girls’ shorts with the words “low rise” printed on them as a selling point. That means the manufacturers specifically designed the clothes to show more skin… on your young child. That means there was more fabric there, but they instructed the seamstress to cut it out to ensure maximum exposure…on your young child. And to make matters worse, many of the shirts are too short and tight to cover up what the pants don’t.

I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m jumping down their back or judging their parenting. I promise that’s not the case, but if we don’t protect our daughters, no one else will. These clothing manufactures (many of them) don’t care one bit about you or your child. All they care about is making money and advancing the agenda of child sexualization.

Yea, I know… I probably lost you there. Most moms don’t believe there is an agenda to sexualize young children. They think its all about the quickly changing tide of fashion, but when fashion makers continually design children’s clothing that is hardly functional because of how skimpy it is, I don’t know what else to call that. It’s not as if one controversial company decided to make sexy kid clothes. It’s standard practice at this point. I can find teeny weeny girl’s clothes at…


A pair of Target's "low rise" cut-off shorts.
A pair of Target’s “low rise” girl’s cut-off shorts. Sizes 4-16.


walmart shorts
A pair of Walmart’s “roll cuff” shorts for young girls. Sizes 12M-4T. I especially appreciate how they rolled the legs up to make them even shorter.


A pair of H & M’s denim shorts. Sizes 1 Yr-10 Yr. Based on the picture of the adorable little model on their website, I’d say they’re supposed to fit nice and snug.

…and pretty much any other store that sells children’s clothing. In fact, when it comes to jeggings, mini skirts, booty shorts and stretchy spaghetti strap tanks, I can find those easily, without even trying. What I struggle to find is a pair of pants that aren’t “skinny,” or a shirt that isn’t “fitted,” or really anything that doesn’t look like it’s sucking on my child’s body. So, trust me, something is going on. None of this is a coincidence.

More than just clothes

As our girls are being dressed in less and less, their self-image is changing more and more. Understand, mothers, these aren’t just clothes. They are messages being sent to and about our children. When a young girl dresses up in her mother’s clothes, the message she receives is, “I can be just like mommy when I grow up.” Assuming you’re a good person (and I’m sure you are), that’s a beautiful message to receive. But when a young girl dresses up in short and tight clothes designed specifically for her, the message becomes, “I can be like an adult now.”


Not when she grows up and is mature enough to understand sexuality, what it means, and how it can be used in good and bad ways. Not after she’s learned about modesty, discretion, and consent. Not after she’s grown out of her impressionability and gullibility.  Nope, she gets to take it all on now…as a little kid… who can easily be tricked, mislead, and used.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the change in a little girl’s attitude when she puts on something small and tight. I have. Sometimes it is a subtle switch in her walk or a look in her eye. Other times its a full-out transformation in her behavior. This is because she knows what she looks like, and worse, she knows what that means. Our daughters aren’t blind. They see, just like everyone else, how women’s bodies are used and displayed. They see that women are often treated more like things than people. They see how glitzy and sparkly it can look. They want in–unless we teach them to see what’s really there.

That’s sparkly glamour is an illusion. It’s thinly veiled oppression. As long as we’re busy putting our parts in the front window for the pleasure of men, we’ll never get to develop the parts of us that could truly benefit ourselves (and the rest of humanity). So, again, it’s not just about clothes and fashion. It’s about teaching young girls to not buy into the idea their bodies are to be used as tools for men’s sexual gratification.

Solutions and options

It’s important to note that my daughter hasn’t been reduced to wearing potato sacks. There are clothes out there that are not super tight and small. You just have to be willing to look.

  • Burmuda shorts- Though the color and pattern options aren’t as varied, most stores sell burmuda shorts, which often come down to the knee or stop right above. I’ve noticed denim shorts are usually shorter and tighter than others, so maybe you’ll have more luck avoiding those altogether.
macy shorts
Found these on on sale for $10.99. Sizes 2T-6X. Other colors available.
  • Relaxed fit jeans- Most jeans are made to fit skinny these days, but you can find relaxed fit jeans that are fitted enough to stay up on a child’s small frame, but loose enough for them to breathe and move.
hm relaxed pants
Light pink H&M relaxed fit jeans. Sizes 1 YR-10 YR
  • Hi-low skirts- Not sure how long there will be around, but they are hot right now. They’re are longer in the back and usually come to at least knee length in the front.
childplace skirt
Great length on this colorful hi-low skirt from Children’s Place.
  • Leggings- I wouldn’t advising letting a little girl wear leggings as pants, but I’m all about a pair of leggings under a dress, skirt, or shorts. It allows them to be as active as they want without their little rooties showing!
Found these on Love to little bow on the back of the leg. Leggings come in every color and pattern imaginable!
  • If all else fails, you can always take an old pair of pants and cut them into shorts. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can hem the bottom to cover the ragged edge, or you can simply roll it up and iron it down. Works for me!
  • Last but not least, remember who’s paying the bills!- I know what it’s like to have a picky dresser, but I always have the final say when it comes to what gets purchased. I’ve  heard some mothers say they’d like to buy longer and looser clothes, but their daughter won’t wear them… To that I say, “Woman up, mom!” She aint running nothing! Sure, she might get upset, she might even cry, but she won’t hate you, especially if the two of you have an on-going dialogue about what it means to be a young woman. I’m no dictator–it’s important for kids to have a say–but there is no way my child is walking out of the store in skimpy clothes I paid for. When I tell my daughter I’m not buying something, I always tell her why. Then I usually offer to buy something else instead. As a general parenting rule, I’d rather focus on what they can have instead of what they can’t.

Happy Marriages are Built on Like, Not Love

Photo credit: Morgan SessionsBut people don’t get married because of like. It isn’t like that makes you sync up your life plans and sell off all your extra belonging that won’t fit into the new house you’ll soon share. It’s not like that makes you buy dresses and order cakes and book venues. Love does all that! Love brings couples together, and love is what keeps them there, right?

Perhaps. For sure, love can be the impetus to work through trying situations, but like makes you want to do it.  Like makes it easier to compromise, easier to forgive, easier to be kind. Love just makes it easier to tolerate a stale marriage.

I know, none of this sounds good. No one wants to accept that love isn’t the panacea we’re taught it is. It’s much easier and funner to believe that love is like every singer says it is, like every romantic movie says it is. We want to believe that those tear-jerker scenes in The Notebook are love personified. They’re not. They’re just Hollywood’s glitzy reflection of the imaginary magical love we believe we should all aspire to.

And that’s why so many relationships fail. We’re all waiting for this magical love to sprinkle its easy-dusty over our lives. We think once we find someone to love, the hard work is over. When we discover that this is not at all true, we assume the love is gone and the relationship is, therefore, over. Poor us. We were never taught the truth.

Love builds the foundation, but like constantly renews it

Think of your family members, aunts, uncles, cousins. I bet you love them, don’t you? Even that cousin you almost came to blows with, you live him. You know that if push came to shove, that’s family and there is no breaking the bond. But do you like them all? Probably not. And tell me, how often do you make an effort to be around the ones you don’t like, and when you are around them, do you have a good time? Or do you just tolerate them because they’re family and you love them? That’s what love does. It makes you tolerate things, and put up with things, and grin and bare things. Love is that last rung on the ladder that keeps you from letting go. And thank God for that rung! I love love. I need it. It’s crucial in times of crisis. But when it comes to the day-to-day business of being a happy spouse, like is what you need.

As long as the like is maintained, the love will be protected, But if you let the like wither, the love will crack and crumble. It will shed and splinter, peel and chip. It will fall away from you just as easily as you fell into it.

How to increase like

Like has to develop naturally. It can’t be forced or feigned. It has to happen on its own, but that doesn’t mean couples who are struggling to likes each other have to give up. All it means is that you have to create the type of environment where like can reemerge. That’s all that has to happen. Because surely there was a time when you liked each other. The like was there! It can come back.

First, remember he’s not that bad. Likeless couples tend to create internal images of their spouses that only focus on the negative. You forget he used to make you laugh. You forget he gives the best massages in town. You forget his Michael Jackson impression is both horrible and epic at the same time. The only thing you’ve been able to remember is that he gets on your nerves. Well, you get on his nerves too, but you two don’t have to punish yourselves because of it.

Commit to spending more time together, but it has to be private (read: no kids) and relaxed (read: no talk of agitating issues). What you do is up to you, but I beg of you, no movies! Your like won’t grow back because you sat in a loud, dark room and starred at a screen for 90 minutes. It might also be a good idea to skip a romantic dinner, just for now. That might be too awkward for a couple who feels they’ve grown apart. Instead, choose something interactive, something that requires that you talk or do some type of activity together. Take a fun class at a local community college, do karaoke, cook a meal. Find a way to engage and connect, and make a habit of it. It’s not enough to have a good time once.

Remember how nice you were when you first met? Get back to that. Be sweet, thoughtful, funny, flirty. You probably didn’t notice you stopped doing these things. You only noticed that he stopped. Funny how that works.

As the two of you reconnect and renew your like, thereby refreshing your love, you will create the type of rapport that makes it easier to speak truthfully and candidly. You’ll be able to peacefully address those topics that used to send you into a tailspin.

Remember, it is your undeniable right to suffer through a “tolerable” marriage, but why would you want to? Why not have a joyous marriage? You have a right to that also.

~Nadirah Angail

Digging Through the Arrogance to Find Parenting Jewels in Dame Dash’s “Be your own boss” Interview

dame dashFirst off, shout out to Harlem for being so unified! It’s clear there are certain things Harlemites just don’t do, like call other men boss (which  I guess is akin to elective castration. Not sure on that. I’ll have to watch the interview over.) But anyway, you guys act on one accord. I like that.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, chances are you didn’t watch Dame Dash’s recent interview on The Breakfast club. References to it were flooding my timeline and the “tweet like Dame” hashtag  was thoroughly enjoyable. I just had to see what everyone was talking about. Here it is in its entirely if you want to check it out.

Here’s a popular clip if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.

To be sure, Dash is arrogant, and he seems to take a “me and mine” approach to business that totally ignores and disrespects the many support positions that are necessary for any business to thrive and grow. There is no shame in being an employee. The shame is in speaking so poorly of employees when you, yourself, employ others. That’s foul, son.

The Breakfast Club co-host Charlamagne said it best:

If you’re a businessman, a boss like you say, it’s very dangerous to not show any respect for your customers. When you say things like, “There’s no pride in having a job,” you’re sh**ting on your employees and you’re sh**ting on the everyday consumer …”

Dash said a lot of things I felt were off base and completely unrealistic for most people.  You want to encourage others to start their own businesses? Excellent, but how would you suggest they go about that when you’ve told them never to have a boss? If they don’t have a rich father willing to front them seed money and they don’t think it’s wise to get into street pharmaceuticals, how else would the average Joe get the capital to start a business? I’d suggest getting a job and saving up, but Dame told me real men don’t do that.

Let me tell you what I know about real men (and women too): They value work, period. They don’t discount it just because they’re doing it for a business they don’t own. They also don’t underestimate the value of the skills they can develop and experience they can accrue while working for someone else.

Also, this whole “entrepreneurs don’t have bosses/can’t be fired” idea is false. When you work for yourself, your boss is whatever client your dealing with in the moment. As a freelance writer, my boss is whoever’s paying me to create content for them. And I can certainly get fired if I’m slacking on the job.

But, despite the avalanche of arrogance and all his circular reasoning, he said some valuable things we could all share with our children.

“I’m doing it for my kids.”

Dash spent a lot of time talking about his son. Your son too. I think it’s safe to say dude is really concerned about sons, but I get why. It’s unfortunate that much of what he said was lost in delivery, but what he was attempting to say (I think) is that parents should work to establish a financial foundation for their children so they can have options later in life. Every parents wants to be able to make choices for their children based on what is best, not what they can afford or what others are willing to give. Every parent wants their children to grow up to have access to all opportunities that interest them.  That’s what I think he meant, and I agree.

I’ve never had aspirations to be filthy rich, but I have always wanted to be rich enough to provide for my children in the way I see fit. That’s a message I share with my children. I don’t just tell them to work hard. I tell them WHY they should work hard, WHY their father and I work hard. Much like everyone in Harlem, we are a unit, a team. So we, the parents, have to work to support the team. If we don’t work, if we don’t produce, the whole team suffers and my son won’t be able to have cookies. I don’t know about you, but I want my son to have cookies! (Watch the video clip above if that went over your head.)

“There is a pride you should have in ownership.”

No one cares more about a business than the owner. The owner has the most at stake. The owner has his/her name on the line. The owner has his/her family’s bread and butter on the line. An employee may or may not be invested, but an owner is invested by definition. Ownership molds and matures you in a way traditional employment can’t. That’s not to knock employment. I’m all for bringing home a reliable check that you can use to feed your seed, but never limit your mind to just that.

Even in these early years, I talk to my children about the possibility, the option, of owning their own businesses. I never want them to limit themselves to the jobs that have already been created. It may be that the position they’re most suited for is something they will have to create themselves. They need to be aware of that now so they can have enough understanding to make the decision later.

“Stop worrying about other people’s pockets, what other people have and what other people can do for you.”

There is nothing wrong with competition, but make no mistake, you are your own greatest competitor. The sooner a person learns this, the better. So many of us go through life trying to keep up with someone else, trying to do what others do. But what satisfaction is their in accomplishing tasks others have chosen for you? You were not put here on earth to serve people. It is not your job to try to keep pace with the next guy. It is your job to carve out your own unique path as you serve God and become the best version of yourself. You can’t do that when all your attention and focus is on what someone else has.

I tell my children regularly that they don’t need the approval of others. All the people who matter in their lives already approve. Everything else is immaterial.

“You don’t need any money for knowledge.”

These days, it’s hard not to have access to information. The internet puts the entire world in your hands, and a great amount of it is free or low cost. Even Ivy League universities like Harvard offer free online classes for anyone who wants to enroll.

I’d love for my children to go to college, but I’d hate for them to think formal education is the only way to gain knowledge. Informal education, the things you learn from world experience and personal study, is just as valuable, if not more so, than anything you’ll glean from a prepared lesson.

It is through my informal education that I was able to check and verify the information presented to me in schools. Because I certainly won’t accept something just because a teacher said it. I question and dissect and test it against everything I already know to be true. No formal schooling taught me that.

If nothing else, I admire Dash’s hustle. He obviously knows nothing of humility and graciousness, but I like how convinced he is of his own potential. He’s the only person who believes in himself more than Kanye believes in Beyonce. That’s impressive. I can’t hate.

~Nadirah Angail

I Finally Made My Children Turn the TV Off. I’m So Glad I Did.

Have you ever been watching a nice family friendly show with your kids and then a super-grown commercial for something like Scandal comes on? In addition to diving for the remove, you’re wondering, “Why is this even on during Free Willy?!” That’s the type of day I was having when I decided to do a 30-day no-TV challenge. I was sick of the curse words, sick of the sex slipped into everything, sick of depressing, “We only talk about death and mayhem” news, sick of kids shows that aren’t kid appropriate. So I said, “Enough.”

Why I did it

Up to that point, I had gotten pretty lax in my TV stance. I had always planned to raise my children with minimal TV, but as a stay-at-home mom who was constantly surrounded by two demanding children, I began to rely more and more on TV just to get a break. I didn’t want to do it, but I needed something to get them out of my face! So, I let them watch a show here, a show there… and then another show here, and another show there… and then three shows back to back here, and four shows back to back there. And even though they were always children’s shows (allegedly), I was constantly bothered by the themes. I mean, who said THIS is children’s content? It’s practically one step down from Young and the Restless.

Before reaching my breaking point, there were many times where I wanted to cut back on TV, but I always thought, “But then that would be more work for ME! I’d have to entertain them every second of every day.” That thought alone is stressful, so I shoved it aside and went back to whatever I was doing. But you can only ignore things for so long. Sooner or later, you’ve got to face what’s there. For me, that meant making a commitment to watch no TV for 30 days straight.

Off to a rough start

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to get the children on board. I just told them they could have a party if they went a whole month without TV. Notice I started with the reward first. They agreed instantly. But early the next day, my 3-year-old jumped up and wanted to watch TV. I told him, “No-TV challenge, remember?” He wasn’t having it. He started crying.

At that moment, I had to reassess my decision. “Are you ready for this?” I asked myself. I could have canceled the whole thing and avoided a meltdown, but I had avoided it long enough. I had to do what I had to do. I distracted him by talking about the party he’d get at the end of the month. “So what kind of pizza do you want at your party? Who do you want to invite?” I started naming cousins. It worked, but sure enough, he was back at it a few hours later. My daughter was doing just fine, but I could tell it was going to be a struggle with him. For the first few days, I wanted to give up every other hour. It was real work getting him to forget about TV and even consider doing something that didn’t involve staring at a screen.

Amazing things started happening 

After the first few days, Son mellowed and accepted that we wouldn’t be watching TV. That’s when it started to happen: the peace, the creativity. They seemed like totally different children! You probably think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I wish you could have seen the transformation for yourself.  I’m used to them fighting a lot, but without the TV, they were calm and loving. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve all heard of the studies that suggest watching violent scenes on TV encourages children to be violent, but my kids never watched that sort of thing. So why were they so easily agitated when the TV was on and so relaxed without it? I now know the answer: stimulation. TV provides constant, fast-paced stimulation that makes it easier for children to be in an irritated state. With the TV off, they were relaxed enough to NOT get upset every time something happened. And not only were they not fighting, but they were working together and saying things like, “We’re a team!” It was truly amazing to witness. I’m not to only one to get these types of results. 

Once I noticed the difference, I kicked myself for not doing this early. Just days ago, they were whiny TV Zombies on the verge of WW III, and now they are calm children who do puzzles, make up stories, and create all types of fun projects with things they find around the house. Just yesterday, they used some old boxes to make a train. They tied the boxes together with a plastic bag. Genius!

The kids had a blast with the train the built.
The kids had a blast with the  cardboard train they built.

I originally thought I’d have to do more work (and I do), but its not at all like I’d imagined. I do spend more time reading to them, making up stories with them, and helping them think of things to do, but they do a pretty good job of entertaining themselves without my constant input. And their play is so imaginative! They make up colorful stories to go along with their activities. It’s truly amazing considering they used to just say, “I’m bored,” whenever I made them turn the TV off.

hey completed their 30 days a while ago, so we’ve added TV back in, sparingly. Thankfully, they don’t ask to watch much anymore, and I don’t mind it in moderation. But they know there won’t be anymore back to back episodes of anything.

Of all the changes I’ve observed, the biggest has been the change in me. I’m not sure how this is going to sound, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I like my kids way more when they aren’t watching a lot of TV. Does that sound bad? Does it sound like I didn’t like my kids before? Well, I won’t front: Sometimes I didn’t like them suckers! As much as I love them, my like was a little shaky at times. It’s hard to like your children when they’re fighting all day and crying about EVERY SINGLE THING. But once I cut the TV off, it all changed. Their entire disposition became much more pleasant. Before, I constantly thought about boxing them up and shipping them off to Anytown, USA. Now, I’m totally okay with keeping them.

Would you ever consider a no-TV challenge? If you’ve already done one, how did it go?

~Nadirah Angail


I’m Trying, But I Just Can’t Get with Princess Culture

You know, I’m just trying to live my life. Under no circumstances do I want to be that parent who has a problem with everything, buuuuuuuuut I kinda have a problem with everything. Ok, not everything, but a lot. Case in point: princess culture. I’m fine with frilly dresses and the like, but my daughter is not some doll whose purpose is to be dressed and paraded around to someone else’s liking. She won’t be anybody’s sexy damsel in distress, and she won’t be anybody’s eye candy whose hair and makeup are fixed just so–at the expense of her mind and soul. Nope. Can’t do it.

Maybe it sounds like a big leap from tutus and tiaras to mindless, objectified shell, but my eyes are open. I see how even cartoon characters are drawn to be seductive. I see adult-ish children’s shows whose 12- and 13-year-old female characters look straight out of New York Fashion Week. I see how young girls are often steered toward things related specifically and exclusively to appearance. Is it wrong to want to look good? No. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if my daughter wore pink and purple glitter and sequined shoes 24/7, but what she’s not gon’ do is think that’s all there is to life, all there is to her. So, when she’s done accessorizing, done putting on her sixth coat of crackle nail polish, she’s going to read and think and pray and create.

Little Mermaid's Ariel rises from the water.
Little Mermaid’s Ariel rises from the water.

Princess culture and boys

I’ve done a lot of talking about my daughter, but boys are affected to0. In fact, I’d argue the affect is worse on boys because, while girls are being taught to treat themselves poorly, boys are being taught to treat girls poorly. What happens when little boys watch movie after movie and TV show after TV show about pretty girls looking for handsome boys to fix their lives and love them? What happens when they see girls caring only about looking good and getting a date? What happens when they are covertly and overtly taught to be sexist? The message then becomes, “Girls are here for fun and folly.”  I can’t let that type of message go unchecked in my home.

My son is 3, but he’ll be in school soon enough, surrounded by other boys who may or may not have been socialized in a way I agree with. And if I were a betting woman, my money would be on their not being socialized to value girls wholly. I say this because I’ve been a kid before; I remember the things boys said and did to girls back then. I also hear the things boys in my neighborhood say and do to girls now. Not much has changed.

Schools are notorious breeding grounds for sexual harassment–everything from 5-year-old boys engaging in butt-pinching behavior, which they probably don’t even understand yet, to high school boys committing rape on (and off) school grounds. Sadly, its not uncommon for boys to think girls are just for looking and touching. These messages start young.

It’s not just about princesses 

I wish princess culture was the only issue. If so, it would be relatively easy to combat . Most girls are over princesses by their tween years. Problem solved, except it doesn’t end there. By about age twelve, princess culture is most often replaced by airbrush culture and “I’m nothing if I’m not sexy” culture and “I’ll only eat every other day so I can be waif thin” culture. This idea, that women are but a collection of poseable parts, is so pervasive and inbred that many refuse to acknowledge it. Instead, they break the internet by getting bucket naked in a “tasteful” photo shoot. Instead, they make Instagram porn and wait for the likes to roll in because, you know, it’s artistic. Instead, they Jedi mind trick you into believing it is an empowering form of feminism.

Clearly, Yoda's been reading Malcolm X's autobiography.
Clearly, Yoda’s been reading Malcolm X’s autobiography.

Action steps and solutions

So, what’s an aware mother to do? Me, myself, I just lock my kids in the closet and only let them out for 30 mins a day to watch a pre-screened episode of Arthur. But you probably aren’t as hardcore as me. Here are some more-politically correct options for anyone else who just isn’t feeling princess culture.

  • Create your own narrative– Since my daughter loves princesses, I just go with it. I wouldn’t dare try to fight it. But I tell her being a princess is not about being cute and dainty. It’s about being confident, strong, and kind to others.  Disney is aware of the backlash, so they’ve created a string of commercials like this one to cast princesses in a different light. I can dig it.
  • Find the good- I have little use for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella (even though I love the music in the Brandy and Whitney version), but I love Mulan,  Merida (from Brave). and Tiana (from Princess and the Frog). They are all strong, take-charge, capable characters. I have no problem with my daughter wanting to be like them.
  • Point out messages that counter yours– If the kids are watching a show that rubs me the wrong way, I’ll tell them. Even if I turn it off, the message has already been delivered. I can’t just let it seep into their subconscious. I have to highlight it and mark it as wrong, invalid. So, if we’ve been watching a show for 10 minutes and all they’ve talked about is boyfriends and girlfriends and how so-and-so is devastated because she doesn’t have a date to the 5th grade dance, I’ll say something like, “Guys, I’d rather find another show because this one keeps talking about having a boyfriend/girlfriend, which shouldn’t be a focus in 5th grade.” My kids know their mother, so they rarely protest.
  • Find something to say yes to- When you’re a socially aware parent, you find yourself having to say no to a lot of things. That’s no fun for the child, and it makes them more likely to want to sneak and do it anyway. Instead of saying no all the time, I’ll offer up an alternative. “No, we can’t watch that show. I don’t think there is anything on there that would benefit you, but you can…”
  • Show your daughters how capable they are- When things break around the house, I don’t call maintenance or the hubs, I call the kids. I bust out the screw drivers and YouTube how-to vids and get to work, letting my daughter take the lead whenever possible. We’re not always successful, but I still think there is value in making an effort.

I want balance in all things, so I’m not anti-princess. But I know anything that goes under the radar cannot be examined. That’s risky, too risky. I want my kids to learn how to decipher and discard messages that won’t add to their development. This is just one thing they’ll have to deal with. I know there are many more. I want need them to be ready.

That said, if my daughter wants a princess-themed party, she can have it. If she wants to see a princess movie, she can watch it… if I one day decided to let them out of the closet for more than 30 minutes.

~Nadirah Angail

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