Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Little girls

Yeah, that title makes this post sound creepy...
Pretty little girls vs smart little girls

At what age did you have your first memory?  Like clear memory.  Was it of something awesome like riding your electric jeep to your great aunt's house?  Is your memory of the event different that your parent's recollection?  

Assuming you're a female, do you ever remember anyone telling you how pretty you were?  How pretty your dress is, your cute little shoes, your hair, your nail polish?  Did you hear the males get complimented on their ability to hit the ball way into the outfield or shoot from the 3 point line or how fast they were?  Did you get those same compliments?  

Teh BFF's sister had a baby girl and I got to meet her when I went home for Teh Sister's bootcamp send off weekend.  The grandmothers and aunts were all gathered around saying how beautiful she was, how cute her little nose was, how pretty her eyes were.  They kept waking her up to hold her and tell her these things instead of letting her sleep in her carrier.  

Finally, they decided that she needed a break and put her back in the carrier.  Having no competition I squatted beside the carrier and told her how smart she was and how many pages she was going to be able to read one day and how far she was going to be able to go because of how strong she is and how she will be able to do anything she wants because she wasn't just a pretty face.

All the women that were around had been chatting with each other stopped and started to listen to me.  I was surprised, honestly.  I let the baby hold my fingers and swing my hands.  Finally, one of the grandma's said, "That was such a nice thing to say."

I responded, "She's always going to be told by someone how pretty or not pretty she is, but there might not be anyone there when she needs to be told how fast she is, how strong she is, and that it doesn't matter what she looks likes."

Hopefully, I was able to teach those women something that day.  I'm not sure how long the lesson will last, but hopefully I will have done at least a small part in making that baby girl a woman one day..  even if it's through other people.

I know women now that are ashamed of what they see when someone takes a photo of them or when they look in the mirror because of all the ways they are told they aren't "pretty" enough.  I know women who are ashamed of how "nerdy" they were because they didn't wear makeup when they were growing up/in school and they focused on their studies instead of boys and parties.

Who made these expectations and how have we not realized they are absolutely ludacris? 

Growing up, I never realized that my clothes didn't match, because that didn't matter to me.  I started wearing makeup in middle school and quickly became too lazy to keep up that routine (and now I barely even wear makeup on special occasions)!  I do remember being the last one picked when it came to athletic teams but still trying my hardest to be as good as "one of the boys".  I remember how bad my feelings were hurt when the team that had to have me on their team started making comments...  but I remember the feeling of victory over the naysayers the first time I scored a point.  They were all shocked.  Eventually, I wasn't the last one picked anymore.  I still felt bad for those who were.

I was never the fastest or the strongest or the smartest or the prettiest.  But I remember being encouraged that I could do whatever I wanted. 

**Although, I didn't make the cheerleading team in middle school and I was pretty crushed about that for a long time (and I think Teh Mom was relieved because of how much money it would have costed my parents for me to be on the cheerleading team).

I remember being the kid in the 1st grade who read 400 books.  I remember running around outside in the summer with my cousins till it got dark outside and coming in with an obscene number of mosquito bites on my legs.  I remember the disappointment of not making the cheerleading team.  I remember the first time that I realized I had a killer underhand serve in volleyball.  I remember not being the best on the swim team.  I remember my first swim meet where I brought my team from 7th to 2nd place with my backstroke.  I remember my college acceptance letter arriving.  I remember the last band concert I participated in. 

None of these things were accomplished by being told how pretty I was.  ALL of these things were accomplished by being told how smart and determined (and even stubborn) I was.

So the next time you're talking to a child, don't tell them how cute or pretty they are.  Ask them what their favorite book is and WHY.  Ask them what their favorite game is.  Ask them what they love about school or why they are looking forward to going to school.  Ask them why their favorite subject is their favorite subject.  Stimulate them.  Challenge them to be more than a cute face.

Even at a young age, I was confused by fashion.. and cleaning.


  1. Oh my gosh, that was fantastic. I about wanted to cry reading what you said to that baby girl. It is SO WEIRD to me that with little girls it's all about being "pretty." Maybe because pretty is just really NOT a big deal in my life. It's nice when it happens, but that's usually because my mood/hapiness level rather than because I actively tried.

    I wish more people told girls...and hell, WOMEN, the kind of things you told her. I wish that pretty wasn't as important as beautiful spirits & actions. God Bless you, Teh Megan! If I am blessed with a baby girl, I hope we are still bloggy friends & you can somehow tell her these things too!

  2. This is a good one. I have to say that I can thank my parents for telling me I'm pretty and encouraging me to be smart too. I got a lot of recognition for scholastic skills from them as well as how cute I was with my whitish-strawberry blond pigtails.

  3. I love this post and agree with you 10000000% {Ok, so Maths was never my strength} Girls are always complimented about their looks and clothes but rarely ever their intelligence, their physical strength, or sporting abilities. I will admit I got praised for doing well academically but I do remember getting more compliments about looking a certain way and later, brickbats for not conforming to feminine stereotypes and choosing to run around and get dirty in shorts. All this from older women. Funny that. Not.

    Have you read Tara Moss' 'The Fictional Woman'? It's a memoir interspersed with a lot of research and social commentary on women and girls' treatment in society. She talks about this issue too.


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