sugar and spice and everything nice

by humanmama on July 6, 2011

My friend Julie just sent me a GREAT article from the Huffington Post about relating to little girls. The author of the article, Lisa Bloom, is also the author of the book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. Bloom writes that when she was greeting a little girl recently, she had to fight the urge to talk about appearance and clothes.

Think about it: it’s true.

When you greet a little boy, what do you do? I say “Hey buddy! Gimme five! Ooh, those are strong muscles, let me see those! Woah, yep, really strong.” So what do boys take away from that? Nothing bad, right? Just that strength is good, something to be proud of.

When greeting a little girl, what do you do? Do you, as is my first urge, say “Hello! You’re looking gorgeous today!” Do you say “What a beautiful dress!” Or something about her shoes, her hair, her accessories? I know that I usually have to really try hard to stop myself from showering little girls with complements.

“What’s wrong with that?” Bloom writes. “It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem?” Why not, indeed? What little girl wouldn’t want to hear that they are beautiful? Well, think about this:

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.

Hmm.

I’m going to admit here, this is really hard for me. I do start many of my little girl conversations with “Hey gorgeous!” or “Hi, Beautiful!” But I’m not sure that’s what Bloom is saying. I think she’s saying when you first meet a little girl, don’t forget to teach her, through your words and actions, that you don’t expect her to be pretty. To be “a good girl.” Maybe try to communicate that you’re really interested in what she’s interested in. And then talk about it. Instead of saying “pretty dress!”

So, the next time we meet a little girl, let’s really listen to what we say. Let’s try to pick their brains. See what they’re into. Talk about what makes them tick. What’s the worst that could happen if you don’t begin with “Honey, you’re SO PRETTY?”

What would your life be like if “pretty” was just not as important as “smart” and “funny” and “talented?”

This world would sure be different, I bet. And I’m willing to say, In a good way.

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Holly July 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm

This is excellent. I am never talking to a little girl the same way ever again. After all, we need more female CEOs in this world. And they don’t get there by having nice shoes.

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