Are We Obsessed With The Bodies Of Teen Girls?


Last week, an ad featuring Jennifer Love Hewitt ran in several publications. The Hollywood Reporter ran an untouched version of the ad. Entertainment Weekly treated her to a digital breast reduction. (You can see the photos side by side later in this article.) If their goal was to make her look more modest, they didn’t. Her cup size may have shrunk to a size B, but they treated her black—is it a spaghetti strap nightie—to some shrinking as well.

No, Entertainment Weekly did not arrive at modesty, but I do think they had a final destination. Whether they did it intentionally or not, they fed into a trend that alarms me as I keep  my pulse on the beauty standards of Western culture: a titillating fascination with the teenage body. From advertisements that illuminate a Catholic school girl fetish to college girl’s budgeting for regular Brazillian waxes, I see women doing almost anything to look younger. Most saddening, is that little girls do almost anything to look older.


While some girls begin to grow breast buds at the age of 8, most won’t begin until they’re about 12 or 13. That means that while a few of us are fully developed by age 18, the vast majority may not have filled out entirely until we are as old as 28. So, why am I getting letters from mothers of ten-year-olds whose daughter’s feel the pressure to wear padded bras? Why are sixteen-year-olds getting breast implants as birthday gifts? And why is there a rise in the percentage of older woman having breast reductions? Our society has an unhealthy fascination with the barely budding female body.

Gone are the days when a woman’s body—matured so that her womb is rounded and her breasts are full—is celebrated. While you might find such a body in Renaissance art or even in the 1950’s iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe, you’ll not find it in today’s cultural mediums. (Monroe was almost thirty when she was a the height of her beauty icon status.) Instead, what we celebrate today is an obsession with the body of teenaged girls. And that’s where I think Entertainment Weekly landed with their obscene alterations. What do you think?

I’m writing this as a rant. A cathartic raging against our ability as women to enjoy the beauty of each stage of life. Oh, that a gangling, flat-chested eleven-year-old could be celebrated for her freckles, pig-tails, and infectious giggles. That a teenager could enjoy the budding of her body without the self-conscious awareness that the world is oogling her, expecting her to be sexual. And that a thirty-year old could embrace her curves and the fullness of a body that has born and can create life.

This blog is for the girls out there—aged eight to eighty—who are fed up with a myth of beauty that gives us only a few years to celebrate. Today, I modestly celebrate the fact that the belly behind this laptop has given life to two amazing human beings. What are you celebrating?

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  • I agree! How awful is society’s pressure on our girls? i have 3 girls and am a youth leader at my church… we recently had a purity workshop and I spoke to them about their growing bodies and how God intended sex and sexiness to be attractive inside marriage…and if they are ready to get married at 15 then it would be ok to say Im sexy and I know it…but if not then YES enjoy the pigtails and girly dresses….be Little!
    I enjoyed your rant. I do not like seeing women half naked in our magazines or news reports but the least they could do is keep it natural! why make her look younger by making her breasts smaller…. the world is full of perverts!

  • A look at the bigger picture shows that a sexualized image of younger and younger girls coincides with human trafficking and an acceptance of child pornography. I have called for constitutional action to stop both. With the prevalence of “sexting” the legality of sending images of body parts of underage students is in question. Now is the time for tough laws to protect our girls.

  • I totally agree. I’m bustier than some other girls and people frequently guess that I’m 15 when in reality, I’m only 13. Once I asked my mom why people think that, and she told me I was maturing more than other girls. Now I’m fine with it but the girls around me are insecure because of the magazines they read and tv they watch.

  • I heartily agree. I would say though that when you dedicate this post to girls age 8 to 80, I hope you meant 8 months. That’s how old my daughter was the first time someone gave her a string bikini! Yes, I’m serious and I was sick. As soon as I could, I threw it in the trash.

  • I agree about the issue you’re discussing. However, I suspect a large part of the trend about older women getting reductions is less about looking like a teen and more about finally being able to take a load off of our backs once we’re done with pregnancy and breastfeeding. I personally am an M cup and there are only two things holding me back from a reduction: fear of pain and recovery issues, and fear of what that teaches to my daughters if they have inherited my issue.

  • Our culture and the mainstream media is disgusting. It is horrifying the garbage they put out for our teenagers to digest. I’m sick and tired of it in so many ways.

    Keep on ranting, Dannah. All of us who work with teens to provide beautiful, healthy and amazing alternative’s to the mainstream crud that is out there….
    I only wish Christian Media wouldn’t crutinize their own so much, that they are essentially cutting out everyone knowing how many amazing Christian Women are out there!
    Bless you darling friend!

  • It is not only the advertisements that encourage our little girls to be teenagers but the freedoms granted to them…internet, iphones, texting, shopping at the mall in unchaperoned groups, school dances at young ages…privileges reserved for older teens and young adults in the past. Moms and dads should spend time with little girls affirming their little “girlness” and participate with them. Moms and dads often feel peer pressure from other parents to purchase clothes and gadgets and allow teenage type activities to make their girls “fit in.” “Age appropriate” has new meaning by today’s standards…I would rather choose God’s ideas on that!

  • @Carrie You are a brave, and strong young woman Carrie. You are evidence that there’s not one way that we should be at any given time, but we can rejoice and celebrate in our diversity. We don’t have to settle for one single way of being beautiful!

  • @Carrie You do know that there are always good reasons for cosmetic surgeries and breast reductions. Being an M cup is one of them. From a health stand point, you have a good reason to consider it if you have back pain. Very reasonable. You don’t have to be afraid of what you teach your daughters in this case.

  • Dannah, thank you so much for bringing these issues into light. I believe there is little more important in the lives of women and young women than to bring their minds OFF of PHYSICAL BEAUTY! There is so much more to life but it is next to near impossible for them to truly believe that. The awesome part is…NOTHING is impossible for our God and I pushing forward with wholehearted expectancy that God will redeem the girls of this next generation. Keep doing what you are doing Dannah, never hold back. You are inspiring the likes of women like me to publish books like:

    I even quoted your book “Secret Keepers” in my chapter on modesty. I am jumping on your ministry train with everything I have got! It is for my daughter, that she may never even CARE about the pictures above and that INSECURITY will not even be in her vocabulary!

  • Dannah, I don’t mean to be too personal, but I’m wondering why you bleach your hair blonde. I think God makes a woman’s hair the color He intends to be best for who she is. Don’t you think so too? The Lord knows just what we need to be the best we can.

  • Not too personal at all, sdub! This IS the color of hair I was born with. And I do think that it’s really cool that God makes a person’s hair the color that it is. However, these days my hair has a lot of gray in it and I like the color God gave me…so I am keeping it that color! Full respect to you if you prefer not to color your hair. I have some dear friends with the same personal preference. But I don’t mind hair color any more than I mind a little lip gloss, some cool jewelry or a lovely dress!

  • Oh, goodness! Your hair is so beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lovelier blonde. I do see that many ladies refer to a woman’s wisdome and maturity being celebrated. I wonder why it’s God’s plan for us to gray as we age. Or is that perhaps a result of the fall of mankind?

  • I agree that there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way–this exists around the world. In other areas of the world, being overweight is considered attractive and girls/women are pushed into gaining weight. In other areas it’s having a certain hair color, eye color, talent, etc. that makes her beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder–I don’t believe anyone should be teased about their looks or pushed into a certain look.

    However, there is also a lot of science supporting that ideal body. The WHR (waist-hip-ratio) measurement is sued on both models and women in fertility clinics–a women with a WHR of .7 has been found to be most fertile and attractive. Just like other species display their fertility and genetic quality through their body, this is an example of how it is displayed in humans. Obesity is rampant in our culture and being even the slightest bit over weight can be harmful to our health. While being stick thin isn’t healthy, some of those fuller bodied women in the paintings may have had some “chub” to lose or could have toned up a bit. Today more girls and women are encouraged to workout and lift weights–back then things were very different and they didn’t live as long and healthful lives.

    I recently had a chest reduction–at a 26 G I started having pain and back/shoulder problems, as well as difficulty breathing while laying down. Now a 26 B I am much healthier and happier. There has been a mysterious trend in breast size–it’s rapidly increasing. There is now a company in Europe that makes bras as large as a 28 K and some customers find this size is too small. The increasing use of plastics (which contain substances that act as hormone disruptors) and hormone use in agriculture may be attributing to both excessive breast growth in men and in women. Some studies have shown that slender, yet larger busted women have a higher risk of breast cancer. I understand seeing the craziness in people getting implants, but don’t go bashing those that selected to have reductions. In fact, many reductions are considered medically necessary procedures due to the damage the excessive breast tissue has/will cause.

  • As an 18 year old girl, myself, I couldn’t agree more with this article. There is so much pressure to fit in, whether you need to lose weight, get breast implants, or spend hundreds of dollars on high end make up. I personally, feel like my body is shaped like Marilyn Monroe’s. Years ago, that was what real beauty was, and today that’s not skinny enough or pretty enough. If this is how things are now while I’m a teenager I can’t even bear to think what it’ll be like for my future children one day when they start growing up. It’s sickening to me.

  • Having met with tween and teen girls for 9 years now to talk about life, it is so sad to me how fast our society is changing for the worse, and how much it has changed in just the last few years. The pressure our girls feel in the area of their bodies and sexiness is so strong, no matter how much they are protected. It is possible to rise and live above it, I’ve seen that, but it is a battle we have to help them fight, one that we have to be engaged in ourselves. We can’t leave them alone in this, it’s too strong, gotta fight for change. I appreciate all the work you do in this!

  • How utterly depressing. This is why too many women have surgical complications and emotional and physical disorders. There is a country that doesn’t allow a certain amount of airbrushing in magazines. We should follow their lead.

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