During a discussion about race and body image, President Barack Obama said appreciation for “curves,” including his wife’s, can be a positive factor for young women.
“When you’re the dad of two daughters, you notice more [ ... ] the enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way,” Obama said during the discussion with ballerina Misty Copeland and Essence magazine.
The president elaborated on how women -- especially black women -- are under pressure to look a certain way. With the media tending to favor a certain look, which is usually “Eurocentric,” according to Essence, that type of thinking influences how young women feel about their own looks. But certain factors can make it easier for women to appreciate their image, including their parents; Obama pointed to himself and First Lady Michelle Obama as an example.
“That pressure I think [has] historically always been harder on African-American women than just about any other women, but it’s part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance,” Obama said.
He added: “Michelle and I are always guarding against that. And you know, the fact that they’ve got a tall, gorgeous mom who has some curves and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful.”
According to a 2012 study on television’s effect on black and white children by Indiana University professors, it was found that exposure to popular media tends to decrease self-esteem among black boys while white boys’ self-esteem became higher. Girls of both races reported a decrease, said Racebending.com. This is likely due to the perpetuation of racial and gender stereotypes, which negatively impact women and people of color, according to the study.
In the Essence interview, Obama also praised the move toward more diversity in terms of who gets represented in the media as a positive factor.
“You see Beyonce, or you see some of these pop stars, and what [ ... ] white, Latino, [and] black children are seeing as representative of beauty is much broader than it was when I was a kid. You just didn’t see that much representation. And that’s healthy and that’s encouraging,” Obama said.