Last week while watching Marvel's Agents of SHIELD I had the pleasure and perplexity of watching the following advertisement;
Intrigued I went to the website and was again pleasantly surprised. I'm familiar with some companies trying to subvert and adopt the Health at Every Size and body acceptance message and use it to sell their product. This is not that. Instead, Cheerios is partnering with Big Sisters and Big Brothers of Canada to create mentoring opportunities for girls ages 12-14 who need it. Sure, Cheerios comes up looking pretty good for doing it, and it *might* boost sales, but they're not saying "Hey, eat our terrible tasting cereal and lose weight to feel AWESOME" like Special K is. Cheerios is owned by General Mills while Special K is the flagship cereal of the Kellogs company, so, unlike I thought at first, like say Unilever owning both Dove and it's 'real beauty' campaign AND Axe's terrible commercials, there's no double standard here.
The language is somewhat problematic, insisting on 'eating well' and 'being healthy', as if these things were readily available to all girls regardless of class, race, ability, etc, but at least Cheerios and Big Sisters is putting in the effort; they acknowledge the mind and spirit aspects of health, state flat out that diets and measurements (hopefully they include BMI in there!) are fairly useless, and are strongly focused on preventing eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food. This is not a weight loss disguised as body acceptance campaign, this is a reaching out and guiding girls to ask questions, be informed and make their own choices about their own bodies campaign. In their own words:
"It's for girls 12 to 14 years of age and focuses on physical activity, balanced eating, and self-esteem. The program goal is to positively shape the lives of girls by helping them build a confident self-image – setting them up for a healthy future."
Confidence is the only way to say "No" to all the body hate and fat shaming out there. Confidence is the only way to find and rock your own style, whatever that ends up being. Confidence is key to all the important aspects of self-discovery young people begin to make at this time in their lives. I applaud Big Sisters and General Mills/Cheerios for teaming up to help instill this most valuable of assets in a new generation of young women. Confidence isn't something that just comes to you; it must be modelled and nutured like a small, vulnerable seed. With proper nourishment the seed of confidence can flourish into a Muhammad Ali or Amelia Earhart; without it the spark of confidence fades into a faint glimmer no brighter than the intermittent flash of a firefly's bottom.