Encouraging positive body image with guest speaker Melinda Tankard Reist

Bronwyn WilsonLearning, Social issues

Melinda Tankard Reist speaks to St Peters Blackwood Students

Melinda Tankard Reist pictured above at centre, amongst the Year 6 and 7s after her presentation about body image and mutual respect.

Body image and mutual respect was on the agenda at St Peters when author, speaker and advocate Melinda Tankard Reist spoke to Rooms B, 1 and 2 (Years 5, 6 and 7) recently.

The presentation began with a short ‘silent’ movie, Ruby Who? which depicted a young girl who ‘got everything she saw’ and changed herself with layers of material things that weighed her down and (in the end) prevented her from being herself. The message was picked up by the students who shared their thoughts and interpretations freely: “If you try to be everyone else, you can’t be yourself”, “You don’t have to have everything to be happy”, “Your real friends like you just the way you are.”

Ms Tankard Reist then presented images of popular culture and advertising with images that were targeted to the students’ age group. “These images are everywhere and show children (mainly girls) being portrayed and presented far older than they are,” she said. Using the example of pop-stars like Miley Cyrus, she went on to say that “… girls think they need to look a certain way to be valued rather than be valued for their talent alone”.

The message being sent to boys is equally pervasive: girls are there for them to look at and should look and act in certain ways. “Boys, your words have power”, Ms Tankard Reist continued, “what you say and how you treat girls can have a big effect on their self esteem and ultimately their well-being”.

The students then broke into groups and played a board-game that actively encouraged positive reinforcement of the students’ peers.

In summary, Ms Tankard Reist’s message to our students: “We need to value other things; love our minds; love and value our faith; love adventure; use our gifts and talents; and like yourself for YOU. We can be, and do, amazing things”. And finally: “Say NO to the bad messages and YES to enjoying being a child”.

Ms Tankard Riest has a message for us as parents and caregivers too: “… we should take a lead in promoting positive body image. Don’t buy into the commercials and model good behaviour for our children. Be proactive: demand change from advertisers and the media in the way they portray both men and women. And fathers: show and promote healthy relationships with women … lead by example.”

In South Australia on a two-week speaking tour presenting to secondary schools, parent bodies and community groups, Ms Tankard Reist made room in her very busy schedule to visit St Peters in what was, for her, a first: presenting to girls and boys from as young as grade 5. “Thank you for the privilege of talking to your students,” she said, “it’s really important to start this education young. Well done for taking this initiative”.

We thank Melinda Tankard Reist for her time and sharing with our students this important message. You can find out more about Melinda Tankard Reist on her website and follow her work as co-founder of Collective Shout — for a world free of sexploitation.

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