Friday, July 1, 2011

You Smart, Gorgeous Thing You!

Bringing you a different kind of post today, so bear with me. Caitlin recently linked to a really interesting article in the Huffington Post. "How to Talk to Little Girls" touched on the often-overlooked notion that when speaking to young girls, many people break the ice with a compliment about her looks. From the article:

Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, "Maya, you're so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!" But I didn't. I squelched myself.

Little Vanessa. I've got the frills to pay the bills.
Author Lisa Bloom goes on to say that today's society values a woman's beauty much more than her brains or personality. While this isn't news, I never really thought of how this mindset affected the way people (including myself) address little girls. The first thing I say upon meeting/seeing a girl under the age of ten is often "I love your dress/shirt/hair/etc. How gorgeous!" or "Look at you, with those sparkly brown/green/blue eyes!" I often point these things out because I don't know what else to say. I hate small talk more than your average introvert, so I rely on these generic exclamations to get me through an introduction. But now I won't. Here's why:

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. 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.

Never thought it about that way. Does this mean I won't ever compliment a little one on her outward appearance? No. I think girls and women need an all-encompassing sort of confidence. As someone mentioned in the article comments, avoiding "superficial" compliments altogether is the other extreme, and can be detrimental in its own way. While I think gender roles are connected to this story, I won't go into detail (at least for now) about my thoughts on the male vs. female brain, but I will say that the article comments are definitely worth reading. 

What are your thoughts on the article?

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how I never thought of this before! It is SO true. That is the first thing that people comment on, and I am convinced that eventually this would affect girls/women. This definitely made me think!