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Jun 23 2014

What’s It Like at “No Body Talk” Camp?

By at 4:50 pm

No-Body-Talk-Rule

“NO BODY TALK!”

This is the refrain commonly heard at Eden Village, a Jewish organic farming camp, featured in the New York Times, where boys and girls can talk about anything under the sun except their bodies.

Eden Village joins a growing number of summer camps that discourage any discussion of clothing, nails, hair, or body parts. That means no insecure or negative body comments (“Do I look fat?”), or compliments (“I love your dress”). Even checking out one’s own reflection is discouraged. (A sign on the bathroom reads: “Don’t check your body, check your soul.”)

The strict application of the rule is controversial, and some kids complain that it impedes daily conversation.

“I hate the body talk rule!” said former camper Arielle Moreau, 10, in a phone interview. “It’s ridiculous. You can’t say two kids have the same color hair.”

But is it healthy? On the one hand, as Kveller’s Jordana Horn highlighted in Today, banning “body talk” eliminates many comments that are subtly or overtly hurtful to young girls and their self images. In an era where middle schoolers are waxing, dieting, and pursuing unrealistic body shapes (thigh gap, anyone?), a rule that allows kids to focus on something other than physical appearance is refreshing and may contribute to a healthier body image. 

But some experts, cited in the Times piece, criticize the “body talk” ban arguing that it’s important for children to have the words and freedom to describe the many changes occurring in their still developing bodies. Meanwhile, in Slate, Amanda Marcotte warns that the rule can make girls ashamed of their bodies.

Personally, I’m on the fence about this trend, but I think blanket censorship of specific language–for adults or children–is usually a bad idea. In fact, I think Ms. Moreau put it perfectly, “If you’re not allowed to talk about anything, you can’t make normal conversation.”

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