True story about a friend of mine and her brave, badass mom—shared with permission, of course.
“The reason you’re struggling with the choreography is because your thighs keep touching and getting in the way of your movement.”
That’s what the ballet instructor says to the room full of 13- to 17-year old ballet students. The instructor goes on to demonstrate how the choreography is “supposed” to look—rapidly scissoring her boney legs and then glancing back at the class as if to say, “See? Like that.”
My friend is 14 years old at the time. She’s what you’d call “a good kid”—an Honors student who never skipped class, never did anything naughty, with a deep desire to please and impress the grown-ups around her. She hears the ballet teacher’s criticism, glances at her thighs in the mirror, and decides, “I’ve got to lose some weight.”
One year later, at age 15, she’s touring a hospital with her parents. Reason: she has starved herself down to 92 pounds and her doctor is worried her heart will give out. Recommendation: immediate hospitalization.
“Do you want to die?” her parents ask her. She shakes her head “No.” Not like this.
She quits ballet. She stops hanging out with her ballet school friends—most of whom are dangerously obsessed with their weight. She finds new friends. She gets therapy. She changes the trajectory of her life. (Happy to report: today, she’s mega-awesome.)
Meanwhile, this girl’s mom decides that she can’t just sit back and watch the nightmare of anorexia happen to other girls and their families. She can’t sleep at night knowing that this awful ballet instructor is still there, still working, still spewing ugliness to hundreds of girls every week. She wants to do something about it.
She decides to talk to another mom. Who talks to another mom. Who calls several more moms. Pretty soon, a group of concerned parents forms to discuss the emotional-health crisis that’s happening at the ballet school.
The parents talk to the school’s director and demand immediate changes.
– Stop pressuring our daughters to lose weight.
– Bring a counselor to the school to help girls who need to talk to someone.
– Send out pamphlets to alert other parents about the warning signs of eating disorders.
– Create a better environment for our kids. We demand it.
The school listens to the outcry—and they agree to make some changes.
I wish I could say that “everything changed right away” and there’s a perfect “happy ending” to this story. There’s not. The ballet school has improved a lot—but not enough. They still have a lot of work to do. This story is not over. It’s ongoing.
I think you’ll agree, though:
Some progress is better than no progress at all.
Because one brave mom spoke up and said, “This is not OK,” a revolution got ignited. Other parents got activated. Important conversations got started. Lots of girls have been protected from a dangerous environment. It’s not over yet—but change is underway.
Imagine if this brave mom had decided to say—and do—nothing.
Imagine if she had decided, “I can’t change anything” or “There’s no point speaking up” or “The ballet world has always been like this. It’s the culture. It’s never going to change.”
Instead, she ruffled some feathers. She complained publicly. She aired her very real, very serious grievances. Now: things are happening.
“Complain” is not a dirty word.
“Complaining” can change broken systems and save lives.
What do you need to “complain” or “make a scene” about?
Don’t silence yourself.
Tap into your inner “outraged mom” (whether you have kids or not—she’s in there!), speak up, and start making things right.
Use your voice. Make a scene. Make a difference.
P.S. If you’re ready to use your voice and make a difference, check out my Make a Scene program. Enrollment opened this week and I’d love for you to join us. You can find all the details here.