Three Fun Things

ultra strips down

ultra strips down

Have you heard of the Danish children’s show Ultra Strips Down (NYTimes)? Its goal is to show kids what normal bodies look like — and thus to promote body positivity. “90 percent of the bodies you see on social media are perfect, but that is not how 90 percent of the world looks,” the show’s host, Jannik Schow, told the New York Times. “We have extra fat, or hair, or pimples. We want to show children from an early age that this is fine.”

the invisible alphabet by Joshua David Stein

the invisible alphabet by Joshua David Stein

Over the past 10 years, I’ve plowed through dozens of humdrum alphabet books with the boys, so I was thrilled to see The Invisible Alphabet, a clever, mysterious take on teaching letters. Each letter stands for something unseen — a is for air, b is for bare, c is for clear…v is for vanish! The boys were transfixed by the words (written by my old friend Joshua David Stein) and the illustrations (by Ron Barrett of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs fame). Highly recommend.

Lisa Congdon

This print by Lisa Congdon was just what I needed to see today, our first day of remote learning at school. All the zoom links, email addresses, lost passwords… we’re definitely learning as we go. Hope your day is going well, and if not, be gentle with yourself.

P.S. More favorite children’s books, and talking to kids about sex and consent.

  1. Gemma says...

    I’m an Australian living in Denmark and was so curious after seeing this that I watched an episode. From the description, I could not fathom how this could work but the result is just brilliant. It is hard to convey the combination of body positivity, sensitivity and a complete lack of sensationalism. As others have said, nudity is much less of a big deal here than my experience in Australia/US and not sexualised. For example, at a swimming pool it is completely usual for people to get undressed and walk naked to/from a shower some distance away without wrapping their body in a towel. Children going to swimming lessons are obviously part of this and in that context used to seeing all kinds of bodies (at least in the single-sex change room of the adult they are with). The cultural difference was also so clear to me in the language, it all sounded completely natural in Danish and I cannot imagine a show in English with both children and adults speaking so comfortably and naturally about anything and everything to do with their bodies.

    • Jessica says...

      Hej Gemma….Another COJ Aussie reader in Denmark. Just wanted to say hi :)

  2. Mina says...

    I can’t see any downsides to kids growing up knowing all the different ways a body can look (and still be normal!) and just being comfortable in their own skin.
    We live in Sweden, so nudity is not as connected to sex as it is in North America. And even when it comes to sex, we are so much more open about it here. There is actually a lot of research showing that this openness about sex also results in a later average sexual debut age and fewer teen pregnancies than in societies where sex isn’t talked about as much.

  3. jan says...

    “We have extra fat, or hair, or pimples. We want to show children from an early age that this is fine.”

    I feel like the value of exercise and grooming is being denied. People who suffer self-esteem issues often have aversions to grooming and working out and the reasons we do these things with the same regularity as brushing teeth for example is because they are healthy for self- esteem and mental health JUST as much as for physical health. I blame media distortion but still people: take care of yourselves and self-acceptance of our natural bodies becomes entirely normal. The body is our responsibility and requires regular maintenance. We must show respect for our vehicles and exercise them, groom them. How have adults forgotten this??

    I really feel the media of the previous generations has really messed with societies heads in a lasting way. And we think being data profiled/ad-targeted/etc is going to be an improvement? It is an expansion of the power of advertising power – it will not be “good” for our children and their children I assure you.

    • K says...

      I have to disagree with Jan.
      I don’t see that anyone in this context is denying the value of taking care of your body or “regular maintenance”. (Where did you get that?).
      But I think there is a difference between exercising (a.k.a. moving your body on a regular basis) and working out so your body looks “better”. There is a difference between taking care of your body (like cleaning, nourishing dry skin, eating well etc.) and grooming it to look a certain way. Shaving off a woman’s body hair has nothing to do with “taking care of the body” or maintenance.
      You can have a very healthly lifestyle/body and there will still be extra fat and hair and pimples and saggy breasts and wrinkles and natural wearing. And this is fine.

    • lilli says...

      We don’t “HAVE to groom” anything!

  4. Ceciel says...

    Remote learning with littles is bananas (I have a 6th, 3rd, and K child). I’m sure you’re doing a great job and even if you’re not, we’re all doing the best we can and making the best of it. I scribbled that on a big poster during the second week of online learning and it’s hanging in a prominent place in our house. This is hard and to quote Glennon Doyle, we can do hard things. xoxo

  5. Jenny says...

    I know my mom has struggled with her own body image almost every day of her life. She really wanted to make a different story for us girls, and so took us to the sweat lodge (we’re Native) and the hot springs in a nearby town to soak from a young age. It’s funny because I struggle with my own body all the time, but when I think it’s just like my mom’s, I have so much love for it. She’s so beloved to me and I would never think badly of her– or anyone’s!– shape but my own. I started med school clerkships this week. I keep a paper in my scrub pocket that says I reject a hierarchy of bodies.

    • Ceciel says...

      This is so beautiful and what a reminder of our beauty when we look at it in the ways we love at those we love.

    • K says...

      „ I reject a hierarchy of bodies.“
      That is so good. I want a poster of it :)

    • Sarah says...

      I love that.

  6. Mara says...

    I love the idea of that Danish show! I grew up in a very conservative household and have vague memories of being very little and perhaps seeing my mom changing, but never after the age of say 6. She had very poor body image and through example instilled that in my sister and me. Now at 40, the idea of changing in front of other women or showering around others terrifies me. I went to a world-famous sauna in Finland with one large shower room for women, and my sister and I stuck out like sore thumbs by showering with our bathing suits on, and then changing under our towels! So the show, as well as openness towards all different body shapes and sizes, would have been perfect for me both now and as a child.

  7. Caroline says...

    I haven’t watched the show, but based on the little I know about it it seems like slippery-slope territory. We talk to our children about consent and that their private parts are for them, their doctor, and mom and dad to see only. We talk about how those rules change as they get older. But we impress upon them that no one is allowed to see their private parts –anything covered by their swimsuit– without express permission. A person displaying their body on a tv show can’t give consent to every person watching the show because they don’t know who is watching the show. As more children get smartphones and many send each other inappropriate photos (it’s an epidemic), I have to think that this show waters down the message that when you put your body on some type of digital media, you can’t control who sees it and consent is lost once the image/video is spread past the intended recipient, and it so often is.

    I have seen many beautifully illustrated children’s books that depict all different types of bodies in positive ways. I wonder if that would be a better choice for our children. Always enjoy reading the differing opinions expressed in respectful ways here, so I had to throw mine into the ring!

    • Jessica says...

      Hi Caroline

      I live in Denmark so I thought I’d reply to your comment :) Danes are typically much more relaxed around nudity than some other western countires. Nudity is much more seperated from sex here (in my experience. I’m Australian) and this type of approach to teaching kids about the human body, and fighting against the stereotypes that flood social media doesn’t seem strange to me after living here for nearly six years :)

      I know that doesn’t address your comments about consent. In this case, I would say that even though the show has a child audience, all the participants are consenting adults and they have given their consent to show their naked bodies for educational purposes, knowing the possibility that their photos could get sent all around the internet. That seems pretty different to me than sending a nude or a video that was intended for one person, which is also illegal and classed as child pornography here if the senders and receivers of nudes are under a certain age. That is probably the approach I will take when I chat to my daughter about the show (She watches Ultra Nyt, the station it is broadcast on). Thank you! I wouldn’t have even thought of that perpective if it wasn’t for your comment.

      Jessica

    • Cecilia says...

      Hi Caroline,

      I would assume that anyone going on a TV show is consenting to the possibility of being seen by anyone and everyone in the world, similar to how an actor doing a nude scene would. I’d also assume that they sign a waiver/consent with the show… though I’m not a lawyer or from Denmark :)

      I think there’s value in real people showing their bodies (as opposed to just anatomical drawings or illustrations) – There are things ranging from the imperfections in their skin to even just their willingness and openness in showing their bodies that are beneficial for kids to see and that can’t be replaced by a drawing.

      Interesting discussion either way – Thanks for sharing!

  8. Andrea says...

    I haven’t seen the TV show, but I imagine in addition to body diversity it’s great to present nudity/bodies in a non-sexual way. I think sexuality is certainly a (good, healthy) aspect of our bodies, but there’s more to us and our bodies than just sexuality and I think that gets skewed in media representation, especially for Americans.

  9. Laura says...

    I love that poster! And the reminder to be gentle with ourselves is so important. It reminds me of something I often tell my patients, who are facing changing abilities and their own mortality due to serious illness- just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Don’t misunderstand your ongoing struggle as a symptom of failure. Yes, taking care of yourself and eating right and meditating can all help give strength, but at the end of the day there’s no magic formula that turns loss and struggle into something easy.

  10. Tabby says...

    About 10 years ago I moved to Japan, and after a few months of building up courage I finally went to the local onsen (hot spring spa). They are split by gender but you have to be entirely naked to enter. You strip in the locker room, walk through to the shower area where you clean yourself first and then walk through to the actual baths to soak. Whole families will go together, groups of friends enjoy a relax in the onsen, and old ladies LOVE being there.

    As a 26yr old I had never seen that range of bodies in my life, it was amazing to see how the female body changes over the years and helped me move away from what a body ‘should’ look like to what a body ‘does’ look like. To be honest I had never seen such long breasts ever before, but from what I saw, they are a very common part of owning a very aged body! I wish we had onsens (and a more lax view of nudity) here in the UK also.

    Japan has it’s own issues on body image, yes, but there has to be something really positive about growing up knowing what a 20/40/60/80 yr old real body looks like in the flesh!

  11. Sarah says...

    I’m probably cynical, but I wouldn’t bother watching the Danish naked bodies show unless they had actually had any measured evidence to show it made any difference to kids perception of body image.
    We live at the beach so see different bodies every day of the week ‘in the flesh’ but social media is a totally different beast.

  12. Ami Ocampo says...

    Can you please clearly label all links that connect to the NY Times? The link to the tv show links to the NY Times.

    • Katie says...

      Yes please! I wouldn’t have connected that it’s the same link to the linked “New York Times” words (if it is, I didnt click on it).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      updated, thank you!

  13. Meghan says...

    I love the Danish TV show! Growing up my mother was a bit of a nudist – she was completely comfortable walking around our upstairs when she was getting ready. Even until my brother was in his teens. I remember questioning her at some point about whether it was appropriate. She told me that a boy needs to understand what a woman actually looks like, especially one who’s had two C-sections.

    Years later, when I became a teacher I told this story to one of our counselors. She told me that she often councils boys about sex and has to teach them about pubic hair because they’ve only ever seen pornography. They’re completely grossed out at the thought of a girl having hair down there. So, as she always told me, my mum was right.

    • Agnès says...

      “a boy needs to understand what a woman actually looks like, especially one who’s had two C-sections.” Love love love that.

    • Mina says...

      I am a 42 year old mum of three – two boys, one girl, all born via C-section – and this is exactly what I am trying to do for my children. I am not thrilled with the state of my body, but I think it is so important for my children to see what women actually look like, so I try to be as un-phased about my own nudity as I can be. I also want my kids to have ample opportunities to ask and talk about menstruation, puberty etc.

  14. Not just remote learning! I definitely need that for every time the conference line password changes and I’m the last one to the meeting, my phone won’t unmute, my dog starts barking at my boss via video screen… That one was super awkward…has anyone had anything like that? My dog was just chilling, listening in on my meeting (she loves a screen, quarantine is teaching me). My boss started talking and she barked at my boss and left the room. Not sure what happened. Guess she doesn’t like my boss’s voice?? My boss awkwardly made some comment about really liking dogs, which made things worse because this dog did NOT like something about her.

  15. Elle says...

    Distance-learning Kindergarten teacher, here. day 5.
    two groups of 26 students…
    OMG.
    insert laughing-crying emoji to match my face.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Omg bravo. Xoxoxo

    • Jill says...

      So brave, Elle. I have a Kindergartener- if I think about it too much I would sob at the loss of magic he is missing in a kindergarten classroom. But I am so in awe of my kid’s teacher. The energy and patience she brings everyday is incredible.

    • Tara Y. says...

      Sending ALL the good vibes to you, Elle!! You’re a superhero!!

    • K says...

      Anon, thank you for the link.
      The video is great.
      And isn’t it disgusting how the rating of women’s bodies has been going on forever?

  16. Jaia says...

    I’m a mom of two elementary aged boys and I would definitely let them watch The Naked Show if it aired where we live. I like the idea of separating nudity from sex and/or shame and pairing it with science and understanding instead.

    • Rae says...

      Same here Jaia. Netflix, if you are reading this, there is an audience for this! But maybe just the Danish version with subtitles or dubbing. I fear an American production would mess it up.

    • Anon says...

      Haha! Rae, you are so right. It would have to be the Danish version!

  17. Anon says...

    Hmmm… I am a bit confused as to why some people seem so taken aback by the Danish show. I am wondering if they have seen any American music videos recently? Or heard the lyrics of some recent hits? Sorry to say that kids are seeing plenty of skin in North America. But it is not healthy. All the women have to have a certain type of figure (current style: “thick”), all the men have to have a certain type of figure, not a wrinkle in sight, and there is a huge pressure to be utterly promiscuous (I’m all for being comfortable with one’s sexuality, but pressure to be promiscuous is no
    Better than pressure to be repressed). I could go on and on and write a whole essay on this. So, I’ll get to my point: nudity is real, and it seems that this Danish show treats it as a healthy, happy, human thing. I’ll take that over the images we are bombarded with any day of the week.

    • Lisa Z says...

      Well said and so true! I almost cried reading that NYTimes article a few days ago. I realized that at age 50, I dearly need to watch a show like that. Seeing all types of bodies and the audience able to ask questions and talk about them is just so refreshing and positive, it might have undone years of the brainwashing I have been subjected to as an American woman. Not all of it, by any means, but maybe some of the years’ worth. The only place I’ve seen a variety of women’s bodies IRL is in the women’s locker room at the Y when the elderly ladies get out of swim aerobics class to shower, and I always have secretly thought their bodies were so beautiful and blessed. Danish children are lucky to experience this show and a home culture that is so free and equal with bodies.

  18. Emma says...

    I’m apparently so accustomed to FOUR fun things I read through the whole post several times internally screaming WHERE’S THE FOURTH?! i have officially lost.the.plot.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hahaha, I love you, Emma.

    • Mary Barnett says...

      Emma! Me, too!

  19. Even animals keep their private parts covered, so what’s our excuse? Yes, promoting body positivity is excellent, but not by exposing ourselves in public! This is pure nudity, and is giving our children the wrong message.

    This is not promoting body positivity as much as promoting nudity.

    • El says...

      Hahaha Farhana, you should meet my dog and cat. They are decidedly nudists, and don’t keep anything covered. :D

    • Elizabeth says...

      Promoting nudity doesn’t seem so bad to me when you consider the fact that without it, the only bodies children tend to see are those in advertising. People in ads tend to be young and traditionally beautiful, on top of which they are often photoshopped into forms that aren’t even humanly possible. As a result, we have a tremendous problem with self-hatred, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and feelings of alienation. This burden falls particularly on young women, who then spend our lives feeling perpetually inadequate. We spend obscene quantities of money on products and services designed to fix “flaws”. We have expensive, invasive elective surgeries performed. Sometimes we don’t want to go swimming or have sex with our partners or be seen at all, we are so convinced of our own ugliness and unworthiness. I’ll take nudity over that any day of the week. Bring on the wrinkly old butts.

    • Meg says...

      Please explain to me how “animals keep their private parts covered”? I saw my cat’s butthole 10 times just yesterday.

    • Kylee says...

      I’m not sure what is wrong with nudity (apart from getting cold!) – it is just skin.
      Animals are pretty public with their sex lives, despite ‘keeping their private parts covered’.
      But you do you! Inside our house we are happily naked if we want to be :)

    • marie says...

      even if it were promoting nudity, what would be so bad about that?

    • Ellie says...

      ….what animals keep their private parts covered?

    • Krista says...

      Veterinarian here.
      What the what?
      Animals don’t strive to cover their genitalia. They feel zero shame or modesty. You can trust me on this one.

    • Agnès says...

      Promoting nudity would be encouraging people to walk around naked, it is not the aim of the show; I think it is very healthy to show that we can watch people nude, desexualized and it’s no big deal; it is actually very moving and make me feel a total love for humanity.

  20. Joy says...

    I’m super modest and come from a really modest household, but I love the idea of that Danish show. Americans are so much more concerned about nudity than a lot of other cultures…I lived in Norway for a bit and I remember changing in a locker room or showering in a communal setting was just not something people even batted an eye about! I remember reading “My Year of Living Danishly” and the author talked about going to the community pool and being shocked that the changing room was unisex–everyone just stripped down, from kids to adults to the elderly, to change into swimsuits and shower before hitting the pool. So I don’t think this show is quite as shocking to its intended audience as it is to us!

    • Colleen S says...

      Our Puritan and Christian backgrounds have made it unseemly to be naked. Foreigners constantly talk about how Americans have such a puritanical perspective on nudity. A lot of European countries have no problem seeing a female nipple or vulva or male genitalia. Some of these comments highlight that.

    • K says...

      Yes, the changing room thing is very real and just normal to us (German here). You see the women and girls again in the shower.
      And the idea of wearing anything but your skin inside the sauna is just … nope.

  21. Nancy says...

    LOVE the Danish TV show. I definitely could have used this growing up in the ’80s and know so many kids today who could really benefit from this body positive message!

  22. Mairsy Doates says...

    We just got a new Alphabet book my kids really love – it’s the Icky Bug Alphabet Book. Each page has a beautiful illustration and description of a different bug, starting with a different letter of the alphabet. It comes across more as a bug book but it also has the alphabet element too. The author, Jerry Pallotta, has written several of these with different subjects – sea life, birds, etc. My boys, ages 6 and 8, love it.

  23. Roxana says...

    Not sure that I’m on-board with the Ultra Strips Down show. Part of me loves a good ‘ole naked butt ;), and I appreciate the lesson it’s seeking to teach. I just don’t think it’s a lesson that should or can be taught well on TV, or in a big group setting. I mean, social pressure seems like an obvious issue; it’s hard to imagine a 12 year old raising their hand and being “the one kid” who asks to go sit with the teacher because they’re uncomfortable (even if their parent gave them permission to participate in the program). These are lessons that should be taught at home, not in public.

    Private parts are private for a reason. For multiple reasons, we should be careful not to minimize that. I wonder if the show isn’t implicitly minimizing the importance of protecting certain elements of your body. For context, we’re really comfortable with nudity in our family. Our kids see me and my husband going in and out of the shower, changing our clothes, etc. all the time.

    Anyway, I think this show misses the mark, but at least it’s a reminder to parents to encourage body acceptance, and to teach kids that we’re all lovable no matter how we look!

    • Elizabeth says...

      It’s a TV show, not a stage show or a class. Kids would therefore be likeliest to see it in their own homes.

    • Agnès says...

      I didn’t know that in english you called genitals “private parts”; that is fascinating. I wonder what it truly means and where it comes from. (reader from France).

    • mariela says...

      Umm “private parts are private for a reason”… you know that “private parts” is a phrase and practice that humans created right? Private isn’t the “natural state” of these parts, nor is it even the proper name for them…
      The issue is how taboo and sexualized we have made all nudity. It is very good for kids to see that bodies are not ALWAYS sexual in a context like this (which would actually most likely be viewed in their home, not in a “big group setting” like you said). If people would just take a minute to critically think before rushing to the knee-jerk reaction they learned from their parents and/or religion.
      To be honest, I think its a terrible/weird message for kids to get from the trusted adults in their life that their bodies are always sexual/dangerous/something to be ashamed of.

  24. Rue says...

    I’m a college professor and our schedule changed 4 weeks into the semester. I am still working through how all kinds of things work in the new format, even though I’ve been doing school for a month, and I am RUNNING the darn thing.

    So, if this is your first day of remote learning, and you’re not even in charge of the remote technology, this is my official permission slip from me to you, that you can get it wrong as many times as you need to.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, rue xo

  25. Deana says...

    So not a fan of the naked show, and not sure it’s appropriate for kids, but I suppose times change. I remember when TV ads for underwear could not show any live models!

  26. A says...

    Good luck to your family with distance learning. Grace upon grace upon grace – to all parents and students and teachers. We’re all trying our best, and that’s all we can do. Xo

  27. Lisa says...

    All the best to all the parents who are still having to home school! My children went to school and nursery for the first time in six months, and it’s been a relief for all of us; they can be normal children, playing with their friends and learning, and for us parents we don’t have to try and balance home schooling + work.

    I can’t imagine the strength it takes to continue home schooling, so all the best and I really hope that soon things can return to some semblance of reality.

  28. Abby says...

    I did not expect to see naked butts when I went to this website today.

    Hahahah.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      You’re welcome ;)

    • Carla says...

      Me too! ?

  29. Marina says...

    Being Danish I feel so proud now :) I absolutely love this tv show. I think that it’s excellent. The kids are open-minded and curious and ask wonderful questions. Similarly, the adults participating answer honestly, with warmth and humour. In one of the programmes (about butts), one of adults accidently farted :D

    Regarding body imaging, there is also the book Bare numser (word play as the title can both mean bare butts and just butts), which is both so funny and so educating, https://www.carlsen.dk/bare-numser

    • Carolin says...

      Stocking up on books just in case we need to go back into quarantine during rainy autumn weather with an almost 5 and 7 years old – and I just bought this book too and like it a lot: it’s called “Überall Popos” in German which translates to “Bums everywhere”. ( I just hoped it would have more male bums for my boy to see, though.)

  30. Anni says...

    Thank you for that tiger today!!!
    Seeing my 6yo have his first day of school today and enduring all his fears and concerns and supporting him best – seems like it still is not really enough…
    But I will be gentle with myself ?
    Thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Sending love and solidarity!

  31. Lisa says...

    I applaud the Danish program. I remember finding a website about 10-12 years ago where women upload images of their breasts (and maybe other body parts) so that other women / girls could see the wide variety of development, shape, etc. It was eye opening for me, even as an adult, and really was a balm for my own body insecurities as I saw reflected in others things that on my own body felt abnormal. As a mother to a 9 year old and 7 year old, I work so hard to make sure that they see our bodies in non-sexual ways and to not feel shame about how bodies develop.

    • Penny says...

      I recall seeing that website, as well, and it was refreshing!

    • fgb says...

      Lisa- do you remember the name of the website? Love that idea!

    • Katie says...

      I still think about those Dove commercials that started showing women with different shaped bodies and when they first aired, I didn’t notice that I noticed! When you finally start seeing different bodies than what you’ve always seen, it sticks with you. I love the idea that kids will see all diff bodies throughout childhood.

  32. Lesley says...

    I have been searching for new kids books! Thanks for the recommendation.

  33. Tammy Sutherland says...

    That alphabet book looks so great!

    We play an alphabet game with our girls where we have to name things we can see around us as we move through the alphabet. Perfect for waiting in long lines, distracting them during forced family walks, passing time during car rides. It’s been such a great way to teach them new words and inspire them to pay more attention to their surroundings – no smartphones required!

  34. Michaela says...

    Lisa congdon is amazing! I’d love to see a home tour and a week of outfits.

    • Agnès says...

      oh yes! I love her drawings! would love to see how she works :-)