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Mississippi Middle School Under Fire For Offering Shapewear To Girls With 'Body Image' Issues
Ashley Wells Heun/Facebook

At Southaven Middle School in Mississippi, parents are outraged at the offer of shapewear as a solution to "body image" issues.

Ashley Wells Heun, parent to a daughter in 8th grade, posted the letter that was sent home to families with girls attending the middle school on Facebook and Twitter.

The letter was headed:

"Why Do Girls Suffer from Body Image?"

Parents aren't upset the school wanted to address body image issues, but their solution was far from helpful.

The letter started:

"Body image is a perception of one's body, and simultaneously, a measure of one's attractiveness."
"Female body image is a product of personal, social and cultural experiences, and often emerges as a desire to adhere to an 'ideal' bod shape."
"Girls are more likely than boys to have a negative body image."
"This may be because man women in the United States feel pressured to measure up to strict and unrealistic social and cultural beauty ideals, which can lead to negative body image."

It went on to share research has shown girls are more likely to have depression than boys because of this negative self-image.

A recent study showed teenagers' body dissatisfaction lead to depressive episodes. The authors of the study felt that preventing these body image issues could "be an effective strategy to reduce mental health issues.”

At first, their suggestion seemed helpful:

"We, the counselors of Southaven Middle School, would like to have an opportunity to offer some healthy literature to your daughter on maintaining a positive body image."

However, instead of bettering students' body image by unpacking societal standards of beauty, they then suggested conforming to them with shapewear.

"We are also providing girls with shapewear, bras, and other health products if applicable."

Heun said in the caption of the post:

"So you begin this masterpiece detailing how damaging a negative body image is for girls, how the stress of conforming to an impossible perceived image can adversely affect their mental health, and then OFFER TO GIVE THEM SPANX SO THEY CAN BETTER FIT THE PERCEIVED IMAGE?!?"
"What. The. Very. F@
"How, in the hell, are you promoting a positive body image by saying 'here, you’re too fat. You need shapewear to make you look thinner.'"
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"Are you freaking kidding me?"

Other's chimed in with their frustration over the letter.

Jennifer Joann/Facebook

Sheila Darras/Facebook

Madeline Colson Murphy/Facebook

Erin Stewart/Facebook

Joann Schickling Westerfer/Facebook

Megan McNeil/Facebook

Patsey Purcell/Facebook

Chelsey Shults Wells/Facebook


Heun spoke to WMC about what she thought upon reading it:

“I really felt that this letter really missed the mark in so many ways."

Heun has two children at Southaven Middle School:

"I was really surprised."
“I had to read it several times."
"Because I thought there’s no way this is saying what I think that it says.”

The DeSoto County School District shared in a statement they've ended the program:

“District officials have been made aware of the parental permission form sent to parents by Southaven Middle School."
"While school officials have provided insight into their positive intentions, the district also understands how this type of information causes serious concern from parents."
"Southaven Middle School has since discontinued the implementation of the program.”

Melissa Donahue, a mental health expert and director of Concern EAP Services at Baptist Memorial Hospital in DeSoto County, said social media and societal standards cause a a distorted body image.

“It’s very difficult for teenagers that are seeing that and have unrealistic expectations of what they’re supposed to look like as they’re growing into their skin and to be okay with themselves."
“It’s very difficult for teenagers that are seeing that and have unrealistic expectations of what they’re supposed to look like as they’re growing into their skin and to be OK with themselves."

Heun spoke with the principle at Southaven Middle School and they say the shapewear, bras and other products will be donated.

Heun would have appreciated the free bras and health products but not the shapewear:

“There are girls who have a need for maybe bras or some other essential things that may be, for whatever reason, they don’t have access to, and I absolutely love the fact that the school felt that maybe they could help with that."
"But shapewear should have never been in the conversation."

She hopes this encourages parents to have conversations with their children about body image.