You may have already read Lisa Bloom's article "How to Talk to Little Girls" that ran in the Huffington Post last June. But if you haven't, maybe you should. It's very interesting food for thought on the subject of how incessantly complimenting girls on their appearance only emphasizes to them (over the course of some fairly impressionable years) that physical beauty is of utmost importance. The article is just as applicable for non-parents as people with children, since one could argue that the author's point is directed more towards how we generally speak to strangers or acquaintances as opposed to our own kids.
Anyway, in addition to Bloom's piece, I've read others that suggest that not discussing looks at all may be the best way to make your daughter feel comfortable about hers. So I try (and frequently fail) not to overdo it with the appearance praise, and have been known to get on Joe's case for calling Georgia and June "beautiful", oh, about 1,000 times per day.
My conclusion: perhaps I've been trying too hard. And also, my four year old is too clever for her own good. To wit, I share with you the following conversation that took place as I clicked on the TV looking for Dora and was instead momentarily greeted by the scene of a female guest on the Ellen Degeneres talk show, wearing a gigantic red bra and stepping into a flying cash booth to see how much money she could capture in her lingerie.
Georgia: "She's really pretty!"
Me: "Yes, you're right. But do you think she is smart or kind, too? Because don't you think it's really more important that she be smart and kind than pretty?"
Georgia (after thinking it over for a moment): "Yes, I think she is smart because she knows the right things to wear to look beautiful."
Touché, my dear.
(For an interesting counterargument to Bloom's piece, check out Rebecca Woolf's post here. I think she makes a lot of valid points about there being plenty of room to compliment shoes as well as brains, and to have just as much fun playing princess as doctor. One of my favorite lines from her post: "Complimenting little girls on their clothes isn't the gateway drug to implants." My only criticism of Woolf's take is that it fails to address the fact that we all reflexively seem to comment on little girls' appearance about a billion times more often than boys', and it is that disparity that is the crux of the issue, in my humble opinion.)
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