Girls have Barbie, boys have Batman. Both are equally unattainable body shapes – a Superhero Six-Pack is as hard to achieve as a Barbie waist, as my husband often complains with his paw in the Kettle Chips. But that doesn’t stop my sons aspiring.
With Great Power Comes Great Risk of A&E
Granted, looking like Batman is a lot easier than looking like Barbie. You can wear a mask, for a start. And a full bodysuit with built-in abs. And a cape. No one’s bum looks big in a cape. But kids want to be their idols, don’t they? For Barbie, that means a trip to the nail bar, maybe a little pastry-making, before a pool party at her girlfriend’s house. All unbelievably stereotyped (I nearly exploded with feminism when I Googled what Barbies do – good grief!), but within the realms of possibility. Batman, on the other hand, can fly. Therefore, so can my sons! “Look at me, mummy! I’m at the top of the stairs! I’m Batman!” Before I can say “specially-designed electronic wings”, they are in a heap on the hall floor.
Barnacles – Captain Of All He Misleads
We are huge Octofans in our house. I even used to have a crush on Captain Barnacles till he shattered my illusion with his singing voice on Creature Reports. Think Pierce Brosnan in Mama Mia. But my sons’ delusions of “polar bear strength” are a menace. The other day my four-year-old tried to get the baby (a hefty 20 month-old) up from his cot while standing in it himself – luckily I came in before we had to sound the 999. And both my older boys spend their whole bathtime submerged in the murky depths of probably three different flavours of wee – great for their water confidence, shocking for my heart. You can aspire to a bouncy blonde Barbie ’do but an oxygen tank that shoots over your head at first contact with water? Impossible, my friend. Also like Barnacles, they act as though they’re in charge, know everything and must be obeyed at all times. But they’ve been like that since birth.
If ever there was an example of “don’t judge by appearances”, Yoda is it. This little green creature is the most powerful character in Star Wars. How are my boys supposed to look like him? They haven’t a chance. Now that is an unrealistic body image.
Angry Birds Yoda doesn’t even have a body!
I’m well aware that males are as susceptible to body image issues as females. And that girls play with Octonauts too. As they get older, I know my boys may feel pressure to either be Harry-Styles-skinny or Wolverine-beefy. One day they too will bemoan the inefficacy of stomach crunches while turning steaks on the barbie drinking lager. Until then, I will teach them that they have the perfect bodies to be what they are: themselves.