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Here's to changing the world, one little girl at a time.

(26 Posts)
HopeForTheBest Tue 28-Jun-11 19:21:27

Apologies if this has already been posted and discussed.

Interesting article, "How to Talk to Little Girls" by Lisa Bloom here.

It was brought to my attention by a friend who is discussing it with another friend of hers on FB. Both have daughters and noted that even they themselves commented on their dds appearance somewhat too often.

I don't know of the author, haven't heard of the book she has written either, but just the premise of the article was, I thought, quite interesting.

hazeybabes Tue 28-Jun-11 21:16:28

Natasha Walter, a British author, has recently written a fantastic book ('living dolls') which deals with these issues really well - check out the reviews on amazon. Unfortunately, my copy's out on loan so I can't remember the name of the woman involved but Walker refers to a case study of someone who tried to raise her child without sexism but couldn't protect her from it in the outside world (e.g. others commenting upon her daughter as wearing a pretty dress etc. etc.) At a time when the media wants to get our daughters obsessed with image (so they can sell them stuff), I think that it is really important that we try not to feed into that. Having said that, I have 3 boys and I think that it is equally important that they don't get force fed the big strong hero ideal as well.

PrinceHumperdink Tue 28-Jun-11 22:43:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SharonGless Tue 28-Jun-11 22:56:06

I was horrified when DD who is 3 was choosing her clothes the other morning and she asked me if everyone would think she looked "bootiful" in the dress she had chosen. Every part of me was screaming "You are intelligent little girl please don't buy into this" Her favourite colour is blue and we certainly have no intentional gender bias but she is fond of makeup and dressing up (in a variety of outfits not princesses!)

Loved the article and will be reading more around this. Got to dash but will check back

VforViennetta Tue 28-Jun-11 23:49:50

Nice article, I don't think I do this, not consciously anyway, I call all of my children beautiful, boys as well as girls, well they are.

Probably helped by the fact that my dd is a total non girly girl, doesn't come from me, I did buy her dolls and whatnot when she was small, she turned her nose up. She couldn't care less what she wears as long as it isn't the dreaded denim (she likes to be comfy).

Maybe it's kind of a feedback thing, after the first few months I dressed my dd in practical yet nice clothes, nothing frou frou, I get dressed in the morning, as long as I feel comfy, I don't really give a crap about trendiness.

MillyR Tue 28-Jun-11 23:50:22

I'm uncomfortable with this idea but I'm not sure I can articulate why.

Part of loving or liking somebody is not just admiring their mind; we are not just our minds. I agree that it is important that girls are more than just their appearance, but I think having a mind/body split shouldn't be reinforced. Girls trying to identify as just their minds and divorce themselves from their bodies is a major part of eating disorders.

Her mind ideas were a bit intellectual as well - what about humour and imagination? I know I'm being overly critical, and lots of kids love to have a sophisticated adult friend who will engage them in intellectual conversations, and it is great if she can be that person, but it isn't really a way to bring children up if you are the parent.

VforViennetta Tue 28-Jun-11 23:54:36

I wouldn't worry too much SharonGless my ds1 asks if he looks bootiful once he is actually finally dressed<sigh>. Probably because I do a spot inspection before leaving the house, beautiful is quite a gender neutral word to me, so it's all bootiful bootiful bootiful, before it's al go go go.

VforViennetta Wed 29-Jun-11 00:00:50

I'm not sure what you are trying to say MillyR, a mind/body split? doesn't really make sense in the context.

It's saying that girls should not just be congratulated on how good they look, but engaged on other levels

I'm not understanding your point on eating disorders tbh.

MillyR Wed 29-Jun-11 00:08:03

As I said, I can't really articulate it well.

It seems so forced. The women was holding herself back from saying how cute the girl was. But children are cute - they have evolved to have features that bring out nurturing desires in adults. It is completely natural to find a child gorgeous and want to tell them so and give them a hug. Perhaps the issue is more that we don't do this enough to boys, because we want them to grow up to be masculine, and that is problematic.

BrawToken Wed 29-Jun-11 00:09:47

I have rarely worn a scrap of make-up, never had a tan, never plucked, rarely shaved (think an average of annually for weddings), work in a mixed sex environment in a challenging job and have done since daughter was small - single parent for her first 7/8 years. My daughter #1 is 13, a dancer and obsessed with her appearance. She never had a princess book/barbie, never did dance until she got a dance place at a specialist school completely driven by her with my support) previously gymnastics/horse riding/tennis/football/athletics. What do you do with that? Move to the outer Hebrides? I wasn't actively being a feminist parent - just a blokey lass who grew up on a farm (I am a feminist and have a degree in politics and economics). Chill. They are who they are... I hope she has taken some of what I have to teach her on board.

NotADudeExactly Wed 29-Jun-11 00:30:00

I may be able to contribute from the receiving perspective somewhat.

Background: I was raised by a radical feminist mum, who used to pretty much take this approach. We (my sister and I) were praised for all our achievements and any talents we had were commented on/bragged about loudly. Neither my mum nor any of her friends ever used to say anything about the way we look, though.

I guess on the plus side it definitely has helped us develop an awareness of and pride in our intellectual abilities and our talents and personalities. I am definitely confident in myself in all these respects.

On the downside, though: Society being what it is, we obviously still did get the message that we were girls and that our looks mattered more than anything else. And I believe that both of us girls to at least some extent took on board the feedback we got from other places, above all peers.

Here's where the whole thing gets interesting: DSis and I look very similar indeed - facially as well as in terms of body shape etc. DSis was one of the popular kids and was constantly told she was pretty. Her self-confidence about her looks lasts until today.

I was an outsider. Other kids used to call me ugly (though I was also considered brilliant intellectually - of course girls can't be both brainy and beautiful). I admittedly have body image issues and I'm quite convinced that this is at least somewhat connected to the only comments about my looks I ever heard growing up was that I "looked shit".

Lovecat Wed 29-Jun-11 06:44:36

Notadude I had a very similar experience, although my Dsis and I are very unalike in looks - she is extremely pretty, I am... okayish. I too was 'the clever one' and I never received any compliments about the way I looked, it was all about my brain. The only time my mum commented on my appearance it was when someone said how alike we looked: "I know, the poor thing..."

Coupled with my father's attitude that looks were everything for a girl and 'all you're good for is books' (in a very derogatory manner), I grew up with zero self-esteem and very little confidence. And yes, this is ridiculous, I know (on one level) that I'm intelligent, artistic, a nice person (generally), a good mum and a loyal friend, I'm not even that bad looking (although I still feel like a fraud saying that, even on an internet board!), but it has led me to compliment my daughter on both her looks and her brains/acheivements as she grows.

It's difficult; I don't want her thinking that her looks are all that matter, but I don't want her growing up as miserable as I was because I thought I was ugly - we live in a society that values looks and while it ought not to matter, it does. I try and provide positive messages whatever the subject. As it happens, like Brawtoken, I was a very tomboyish, tree-climbing kind of child and I'm not a particularly 'feminine' (in the grooming sense) woman, whereas DD is the epitome of the pink princess who loves dolls - not through any nurture I've given her, I don't know where to begin with dolls and I hate pink!

PonceyMcPonce Wed 29-Jun-11 07:05:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NotADudeExactly Wed 29-Jun-11 08:59:14


I'm not even that bad looking (although I still feel like a fraud saying that, even on an internet board!)

I could have written this exactly. The ridiculous thing is that I actually feel angry on your behalf while reading it - it still doesn't stop me from feeling the same way. sad

WRT "pretty" vs "clever" sisters (I guess by extension "girls"): It has to be said that DSis has got pretty much the opposite problem from mine: Yes, she has confidence in her looks - but not in her intellect at all. She gave up her first degree because she was convinced she was (and I quote) "too stupid" for it. She went on to become a primary school teacher instead.

When DSis received her mark for her dissertation, she commented that "she [the professor] gave me an A". I noticed that at the time because I would have said - and actually did say "I got an A, of course". She also remains convinced that I must be some kind of a gnius because I write software (which, with some basic training, is really something any idiot can accomplish).

This is in spite of the fact that DM told her she was clever as much as me.

One more observation I found interesting was that DSis is very conventional in style in comparison to me. When we were growing up, this meant that she was the typical crop topped miniskirted "pretty" teen and I wore jeans and t-shirts.

As we grew older, both of us got into radical politics. Since then DSis has adopted "anarchist uniform" i.e. black in black with dreads or other alternative hair styles. To an outsider, she will look exotic. However, in her peer group, she corresponds to the accepted norm really closely. On the other hand I've led a direct action training session wearing a red 1940s dress, heels and sporting a retro style updo. It wouldn't occur to me that my expertise is in any way diminished by my lipstick - DSis calls me "brave" for doing this.

Writing this down I am somehow getting the rather depressing impression that our lovely mother's efforts to instil confidence in us girls were almost completely drowned by a wave of "pretty girl / clever girl" propaganda from the rest of the world.

NotADudeExactly Wed 29-Jun-11 09:00:42

And you know I can't actually be a genius because I can't even spell it, ...

TrilllianAstra Wed 29-Jun-11 09:03:59

I think e point of the article is not that we shouldn't compliment girls/women on their looks, but that it shouldn't be the default thing that we talk about, it shouldn't always be the first words out of our mouths, especially if it means that we are treating girls very differently to boys and teaching them that how they look is the most important thing about them.

As evidenced here, even if parents never talk about looks society will drum it into girls that they will be judged on how they look.

BertieBotts Wed 29-Jun-11 09:07:37

I don't think it's supposed to be about how we speak to our daughters, though, but other girls, perhaps mainly those who we don't know very well.

SheCutOffTheirTails Wed 29-Jun-11 09:18:06

Good thread.

I have 2 (very little - 3 & 1) girls.

My mother was also a feminist, and I think would have hoped that by the time I was raising children this would not be such an issue for me. In fact, it is worse, I think.

In contrast to my mother's approach I will tell my girls how beautiful they are along with other things. I think never alluding to it gives it more power because then you are entirely at the mercy of the outside world to tell you how you are perceived physically.

DD1 is a very pretty child, and it impacts on how people treat her. I can pretend that's not true, or ignore it, but I'm not sure that's the best approach.

Watching with interest.

AliceWhirledSupportsTheStrike Wed 29-Jun-11 09:36:34

I think it's a good link. I also read it as being about talking to other little girls.

I am pretty conscious of my language, and I still find I have to stop my self from just commenting on girl's looks. I think it is important to recognise the flip side though, and I do also now comment on boys looks.

I see what I'm doing as countering what they hear elsewhere. If I was the sole person to speak to them, I would make sure I had a balance, but I can be pretty sure they will be getting stereotyping comments from others so I try and provide a tiny bit of balance by going the other way.

Lancelottie Wed 29-Jun-11 09:51:04

Hmm, not sure. My younger boy is stunning (or was before he developed a pre-teen glower) to the point that strangers would comment on his looks while ignoring his sister, so I guess we and our friends tended to praise her appearance ourselves to compensate a little.


Lancelottie Wed 29-Jun-11 09:51:24

Not sure who or what T was meant to be there

msbuggywinkle Wed 29-Jun-11 10:24:42

From the point of view of other adults talking to my DDs, yes I agree with the article.

My DD1 is tiny for her age and very articulate. The comments she has made to her by people we meet are always along the lines of 'oooo, you're like a little doll', or 'hasn't she got beautiful eyes' (she has, they're DP's colour!) but people don't often bother to really talk to her. If they did they'd find out she is also a really interesting, funny person.

The doll comment (which we must get weekly) really pisses me off. She is not a bloody doll, or anything like one, she is a human being who happens to be smaller than average. It is a horrible thing to say to someone!

hazeybabes Wed 29-Jun-11 13:19:09

I agree that we should boost our own children's self-esteem in all areas including body-image, intellectual ability, sporting achievements, creativity. However, I think it is tremendously important that, as females, we cease to define each other in terms of looks, dress sense and image and this starts with comments made to little girls in pretty dresses. Check out this ace poem on not being merely pretty . . .

HopeForTheBest Wed 29-Jun-11 17:18:25

Oooh, lots of responses! smile

I read the article as basically being a reminder to not automatically comment on little girls "pretty" appearance as the default, rather than not at all, and in particular compared to what you might say when you meet a small boy.

I think that looks are important, whether we want them to be or not, and perhaps it doesn't have to be a beautiful/ugly divide, there is more to looks than that.
My ds is rather particular about his hair, and is happy if you notice that he is wearing his specifically-choosen racing car t-shirt. I want him to take pride in how he looks and what he is wearing. I see these as something positive.

But I don't necessarily need him to be "handsome"; his appearance can be smart, cool, funky, I might comment that it is appropriate for whatever he's going to be doing (playing in sandpit, "working" in the garden, going biking, helping cooking etc).
And funnily enough, all of those are just as appropriate looks-related comments for girls too, yet most of us would default to beautiful/pretty etc.

PrinceHumperdink Wed 29-Jun-11 18:33:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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