Beauty Is the Beast: Appearance-Impaired Children in America

Beauty Is the Beast: Appearance-Impaired Children in America

Beauty Is the Beast: Appearance-Impaired Children in America

Beauty Is the Beast: Appearance-Impaired Children in America

Synopsis

Examines the stigmatism of children who deviate from acceptable American standards for physical appearance. Beuf analyzes both the effects of this stigmatization on children and the strategies used to cope with it.

Excerpt

Would Eleanor Roosevelt have had to struggle to overcome this tortuous shyness if she had grown up secure in the knowledge that she was a beautiful girl? If she hadn't struggled so earnestly, would she have been so sensitive to the struggles of others? Would a beautiful Eleanor Roosevelt have escaped from the confinements of the mid-Victorian drawing room society in which she was reared? Would a beautiful Eleanor Roosevelt have wanted to escape? Would a beautiful Eleanor Roosevelt have had the same need to be, to do?

HELEN GAHAGAN DOUGLAS The Eleanor Roosevelt We Remember

On Monday, March 1, 1988, an American sixth-grade student walked into his elementary school classroom and shot himself. He did this because his classmates had teased him about being overweight. When I read this child's story, I was deeply saddened but not surprised. Nearly twenty years of working with children who are, in one way or another, socially stigmatized had convinced me that there is a terrible psychological price to pay for having an "unacceptable" physical appearance in our society. Not only do we Americans set narrow standards of beauty and then insult and hurt those who fall outside those standards, but our adult society, because of its ambiguous concept of childhood and children, functions to disempower and discriminate against children, thus giving them a double stigma to bear.

Although, as a medical sociologist, I hope that my colleagues will find some productive thought herein, my major intention is to attract those who deal with appearance-impaired children. Nurses, child psychologists, social workers, child life workers and teachers, as well . . .

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