Pretty

I was inspired recently when I read this article by Lisa Bloom, entitled “How to Talk to Little Girls.”

A few quick quotes: “This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat.”

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. “

“As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.”

Let me begin by saying it’s okay to tell little girls they’re beautiful. We all need to hear that from time to time.

But should it be the first thing you say to a little girl when you see them? Should it be the primary thing you compliment them on?

Don’t you look pretty in that gorgeous dress?

Your hair is so beautiful; I wish mine would curl like that!

I agree with the article: this sets girls up to think that being beautiful is the most important thing. The media says so. That pink aisle at the grocery store full of flawless, perfectly formed dolls says so. And we confirm beauty’s importance with our words when we make that the sole criteria for compliments to little girls.

Kids listen to us, by the way. Scary, I know.

Adult women, you know what I’m talking about. We flat iron, makeup, compare ourselves to other women, and beat our brains out trying to be pretty. It’s stupid, and we know that. I’ve done it.

But regardless of how long we primped and preened in front of the mirror that morning, when we see a mirror in the afternoon or evening, how many of us greet that image with a disgusted face and an “UGH”?

I’ve done it. I’ve witnessed others doing it. And it isn’t pretty.

So what can we do about this?

It’s in the article. With the little kiddos, try to actively engage them in conversations that don’t involve clothes, hair, or being pretty. Likes, dislikes, that sort of thing.

And with the adult women in your life (this goes for ladies and gents, here), compliment their intelligence, their insights, their kindness, their ingenuity, their talents.

And sure, tell them they’re beautiful. It’s not like it’s WRONG to do that. Like I said, it’s a nice thing to hear.

But not the most important. Not by a long shot.

ADDENDUM:

I felt compelled to add this short video where Dustin Hoffman discusses some revelations he had while preparing for his cross-dressing role in “Tootsie.” He discusses the ridiculous standards of beauty that women feel they must live up to, and how he feels he was “brainwashed” by society into having unhealthy standards for female beauty. It serves as a pretty brilliant reminder that we must be very careful about the messages we send to the women, young and older, in all our lives. A lot of you have seen this on Facebook already, but if you haven’t, I urge you to give it a watch.

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