I know she is, she’s absolutely gorgeous and I’m thankful that she’s received the best of both worlds. As the child of an Indian mother and an Italian father she could have come out looking like cousin Itt but, instead, she’s the perfect balance of east meets west. She just doesn’t need to hear it all the time.
Unfortunately, I regularly bear witness to shallow remarks that my daughter receives. Comments like “OMG, you’re so beautiful” or “what a pretty face you have”. Yes, at 2 and a half years old my baby might not care what the lady towering over her thinks about her looks but sooner than later these loaded messages will have an impact. They will teach our currently clueless daughters who are happy reading books, rolling around in the dirt and playing ball with the boys that physical appearance gets considerably more acknowledgement and appreciation than inner beauty and strength. Unfortunately, this lesson is already quite prominent in the outside world so we need to be doing our ultimate best to counter its impact at home. It’s mind blowing how quickly kids learn and pick up on nuances and it’s equally mind blowing how desensitized we’ve become to the issue. Am I the only one who thinks that 3 year olds don’t need to be playing with make-up, even if it is from Toys r Us?
I remember when my daughter was a mere 4 months old. People were more preoccupied with when I was going to get her ears pierced and less concerned with the lack of sleep I was experiencing. I was on the verge of a complete meltdown and was forced to think about whether ornamenting my infant was a priority. I quickly concluded that it was not (she can decide if she wants to wear earrings when the time is right). While there may never be ill-intent behind the words we use or remarks we make there are, most definitely, consequences to them.
Did you know:
- Between the ages of 9 and 13, the confidence level of girls declines significantly and they experience higher rates of depression stemming from “low self-esteem, negative body image, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and stress?
- According to the American Psychological Association (APA), their decline in mental health is attributable to the widespread sexualisation of girls and women in our society.
- Almost half a million girls have posted YouTube videos of themselves asking “Am I pretty, or am I ugly?”
- And get this….
There’s obviously no lack of evidence to support the notion that girls are being programmed to obsess about their physical appearance and this preoccupation is limiting in so many ways. It affects their focus and concentration and their ability to perform their best both from an academic and sports standpoint. Research shows that when girls believe that sexual attractiveness is an important part of their identity, they get lower grades than their peers. And, negative body image makes them less likely to be physically active, preventing them from making good life choices and simply being happy. We need to build their confidence in ways that make them resilient to superficial criticism and expectations, not more vulnerable to them.
I’m not a staunch feminist but after having a daughter it’s become vibrantly clear that there will be challenges down the road. There’s only so much I can control and as much as I’m trying to lay the foundation for a strong mind, outside influence is inevitable. I’m already answering questions about why I don’t do her hair or put her in more dresses. There are times when I, myself, succumb to these gender stereotypes like choosing to purchase the Frozen sippy cup over the Spiderman version because she’s stated clearly “mummy, I’m a princess”!
Major brands like Dove, Kellogg’s and Playtex can run all the ads they want about female empowerment and self-confidence but as long as we continue to talk to our little girls the way we do, nothing will change and it’s only a matter of time before this:
turns in to this: