Raising Healthy Daughters Who Know No Woman Is an 'Angel'

by Amanda Magee
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I am, before and after children, a woman. I began as a tomboy, awkwardly growing into a flirtation with applying a cat eye with black liquid liner (never did do it). I discovered that regardless of how I dressed or what I aspired to, being a woman in the workplace comes with surprises (or disappointments, depending on how far you thought we’d come).

Writing about raising daughters has taken me down many paths, from railing against “Real Women” to raging against the downplaying of violence against women and sexual abuse. I’ve addressed my concerns about how weight may come to play a more starring role in their lives than is healthy.

© Amanda Magee

The most recent thing to wedge a massive divide between women was the #ImNoAngel campaign. Using beautiful photography and gorgeous women, Lane Bryant mounted a campaign to offer a counterpoint to the Victoria’s Secret Angels and to “redefine sexy.”

I get it. I’ve been in the mall and had to pass window displays with perfectly airbrushed images of women who shimmer with everything most of us are not; most of them wouldn’t, either, without the assistance of a graphic designer. I’ve felt less than as the buildup to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue reached a fever pitch.

I just don’t think that the solution is to take “sexy” away from anyone. Shouldn’t we be trying to give it to all of us? Or maybe even try saying that life isn’t all about being sexy, that feeling sexy is just one small part of being alive? What makes us feel sexy is going to evolve over time, after all.

The #ImNoAngel hashtag—which, by the way, as a person in the advertising industry, makes me nod my head and think, “Well played”—is not a solution either. As a woman and as a mother, it makes me feel like, Here we go again, let’s start another fight about who is better.

The either/or and good/bad positioning of the campaign perpetuates a one-upmanship of womanliness or authenticity. I am one of the people who has lived between angel and not: never quite plus size, but never, ever busty and slim. I do love the flutter of feeling desirable, but the more solid foundation (heh, bra humor) is feeling powerfully multi-dimensional.

I am smart.





Curvy and sinewy.

Rough and delicate.

© Amanda Magee

The reality of the culture we live in is that sex or scandal sells. Since someone decided at some point that we’d villainize women over a size 10, Lane Bryant had to take a somewhat racy attack position to get a foothold in the media. I do understand that, but I want to feel good about standing behind them. In some ways, it feels like they are putting all of us in a fight we never started.

My hope is that we can use our voices and our spending habits to work toward a time when we all have people we see in the media or in catalogs that represent us.

I want each of my three daughters, who are shaped in wildly different ways and drawn to different things, to feel seen and heard. I don’t want them pitted against one another for being more appealing or more feminine than the other. I hope there may be clothes that are crafted for the broad shoulders and long torso of my middlest, petite patterns with edge for my free-spirited firstborn, and a gnarly mix of black and textural fabrics that can handle my youngest’s athletic ways. I yearn for options other than pink, but just as important as options is the acknowledgement that shape and style don’t make us better or worse than other women.

Not a single one of us is an angel. We are women, and we are fantastic.

This essay first appeared on Medium.

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