For when men, by entering into society and civil government, have excluded force, and introduced laws for the preservation of property, peace, and unity amongst themselves, those who set up force again in opposition to the laws, do rebellare- that is, bring back again the state of war, and are properly rebels, which they who are in power, by the pretence they have to authority, the temptation of force they have in their hands, and the flattery of those about them being likeliest to do, the proper way to prevent the evil is to show them the danger and injustice of it who are under the greatest temptation to run into it.227.
It isn’t that she’s over concerned with appearance, she is secure within herself. Because she is secure, she tries new things, (she’s an intermediate fencer) gets up in front of people with no stage fright, knows her own mind but respects others, is compassionate, loving and beautiful inside and out. She’s smart, (her favorite subject is science), artistic, energetic and I think she will find her calling in life as a movie director, circus ringmaster or CEO of the world! I am so thankful for the gift she is and the privilege I have in being her Mom. I have the opportunity to model to her that true beauty is about the whole person and making friends with who you are.
The fact is, I am very attractive, and my family did their best never to recognize that fact. The message then came across that good looks were worrisome, in need of avoidance, something never to be spoken about. My sister was in graduate school (for Chemical Engineering) before she decided to do anything towards her appearance… soon after, she called me, crying and said “I always scripted you as the pretty, dumb one of us, and myself as the ugly smart one. Now I realize that I am pretty, too, and you are smart! I’m so sorry for not wanting anything to do with you!”
As someone raised in a household following your suggested standard, I am still extremely uncomfortable with anyone discussing my looks. It has become a social problem for me, since I can accept praises of my intelligence (I am a veterinarian with an IQ around 150), my contributions, my children and their awesome good behaviour, my husband’s contributions, or just about anything else. The moment someone tries to tell me I look nice, I get flustered and have to leave the conversation. I mean physically leave the room.
I know this post is a thousand years old and I can’t even remember how or why I found it but you’re right. Letting little girls believe that how they look is the first and foremost thing we notice about them is very dangerous. And so also dangerous is the converse for the sister of the girl who is passed over for praise in the face of the sister with long eyelashes and prettier hair. Girls are a delicate balance. To never tell them they’re pretty can damage them just as much as overtelling them.
Lynn, I think this is a good point. We shouldn’t overemphasize appearance with young girls, but appearance IS a component of how you influence other people. We shouldn’t teach anyone that their value is solely in their appearance, but I think we definitely should equip them with the tools they need to use appearance to its best advantage. So when my hypothetical future daughter goes out on the field to beat the opposing team, I can tell her that a determined face and stance are good visual weapons to convey dominance. When she goes for a job interview, I can advise her that studies have shown that women wearing a certain amount of makeup are perceived as more competent, and we can shop for sharp, professional working clothes together. And when she’s going out on dates, or places where she might meet single people she’s interested in, I can teach her about how to show off her good looks to pique a potential partner’s interest, so she can then reel him/her in with the rest of her attractive traits (her personality, her brain, her values, etc.). But in all those cases, appearance should be treated as just one more tool that you use in order to achieve your goals, not something that defines you.
A few thoughts–I appreciate the message of this essay. However, as now-grown child who was never once told she was pretty by her mother (a small flaw among a million blessings), I take every opportunity to tell my daughters how beautiful they are. I wasn’t told I was pretty – although I was – because it wasn’t valued in my family, and I still suffered every last body image pitfall you list above. I think telling girls they are lovely predates the current pop culture fixation on image. That’s not to say that we don’t have a lot of work to do in making our daughters and other young girls build self-esteem, because of course, we do.
For no man or society of men having a power to deliver up their preservation, or consequently the means of it, to the absolute will and arbitrary dominion of another, whenever any one shall go about to bring them into such a slavish condition, they will always have a right to preserve what they have not a power to part with, and to rid themselves of those who invade this fundamental, sacred, and unalterable law of self-preservation for which they entered into society.
This is a wonderful article on an issue that I honestly haven’t thought much about. It is very difficult not to compliment little girls on how adorable they are but you are absolutely right. I work with elementary school children and I’m going to make an effort to speak to the girls differently now that my attention has been drawn to the issue. I must admit, I do see the effects of cultural expectations of women even with the kindergarten girls. They are highly concerned with clothes, jewelry and even high-heels (yikes!). All of the girls I take care of are bright and surprisingly thoughtful so I’m sure they will respond well to more academic conversation. Thank you for your insight and I will be looking for your book!
So if you want to change the world, one little girl at a time, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Rather than making such a big deal about intelligence (which happens to be something you personally value, but who is to say that it is any more important than integrity, which you didn’t mention?) how about you tell the little girls that it’s *their* life, and that starting now they get to be whoever they want to be. Tell them that the world is a treasure trove of fun and valuable attributes that they can have as many as they want of, all they have to do is decide what they desire and go get it.
This. Is. AWESOME. I am the eldest of four children and my 8 year old sister loves nothing more than to devour a book. She has a better vocabulary than half of the people in my college classes, and really couldn’t give less of a hoot about what other people think. I wrote my college application essay about how her gallantry through her celiac disease inspires me, but she has shown me so much more than that. Elli represents the person I wish I could have been 12 years ago. My life would have been so much different if I had her confidence and bravery at her age. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to help foster her sense of self-worth, and I could not be more proud of her. Thank you Latina, for reminding us that every interaction with a child matters, no matter how short.
Did you ever notice how the children of immigrants that grow up in America don’t speak with the same accent that their parents do, even if they grew up speaking another language in the home? The reason is that we spend more time with our peer group than our parents. Culture, values, self image, etc all tend to veer toward the peer group we grow up with more than what our parents taught us. I think that it is important to acknowledge that all of the dichotomies are false. It is not that the media did it to the girls, nor is it that the parents did it to them. It’s not the culture, and it’s not the educational system either. There is an underlying theme in the narrative that women are victims. At some point we have to concede that women do it to themselves. Might they have received some bad advice along the way? Certainly. We all do. But every individual is responsible for their own choices in forming their identity, and the most important thing about accepting responsibility is that with it comes the authority to make changes.