How do you talk to little girls? What is the first thing you say to a little girl when you meet her at a party, when your friend’s daughter comes over to play, when you see her at church or at a restaurant? Is it something about her appearance?
For me, it usually is. “You look so pretty in that dress!” …”What a nice bow you are wearing in your hair!” That just comes naturally to us when we greet anyone, little girls included. Our eyes talk first.
What is the harm in this? Bottom line: it teaches girls that we judge them on their appearance above all, that we value them based on this judgment. We may do the same thing with little boys, but girls in our culture, with their genetic tendency to want to please, are naturally more susceptible to being influenced in a negative way by this focus. And in a society where eating disorders, depression, and anxiety are on the rise in girls, we surely don’t want to unknowingly perpetuate the problem.
The challenge is to be intentional about our comments and observations with girls—to talk with our brains and our hearts first, to re-frame the context in which we are judging them, to practice “noticing” more intrinsic qualities rather than judging at all, to strive with our authentic messages of love and connection to insulate them against the overwhelming message they will receive from the media culture: that what matters is how they look.
I recently read an article about re-thinking how we as a society and as individuals talk to little girls. Here’s an excerpt from Lisa Bloom’s article…
“This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.”
She goes on to make a very practical suggestion about how to talk to little girls: ask them about their favorite book! This will cut straight to something that matters to them, and open the door to a meaningful and intelligent conversation. Tell them about how you love to read books, and what book you liked as a girl, or what you are reading now. Change the world, one little girl at a time! (By the way, if you are modeling this in front of your little boy, you are also re-shaping his brain regarding the value of women—more “Mommy Power” to ya’!)