How to Talk Around Little Girls

Many of you may have already seen the article in the Huffington Post, “How to Talk to Little Girls” by Lisa Bloom who also wrote the book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World.

You can either take my word on the article or go read it at the link above first, but the gist is how we as a society should talk to little girls less about how pretty and sweet they look and more about intellectually stimulating topics like politics and social disparities.

This is why I said to read the link first as I may have taken some liberties there.

Lisa Bloom includes in her book this statistic:

“I reveal that fifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly…”

And goes to mention in the article,

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23.”

While I don’t know where her stats are coming from, I’m sure that on the whole and in regards to the US population it’s likely true to a large extent. However, I can’t help but play Devil’s Advocate and dispute that why these stats are even in existence is the belief that because we tell little girls how cute they are in their pretty dress or how sweet they look with their hair in curls. People have been participating in the stereotypical “oohing” and “aaahing” of baby girls long before the 21st Century, but it wasn’t until this single past generation (maybe two) that girls were found to be struggling with eating and body dysmorphic issues on the grand scale we see today.

Without risking turning this into another of my long, rambling posts that don’t have a point, I’m going to go against what may be the popular opinion and say that it’s not the way we talk to our little girls that makes them think they are not good enough physically; it’s the way we talk to each other – AND ABOUT each other – as adults. Just look at our newly crowned Miss USA.

THIS is the image we present to our children that can make a self-conscious girl think she’s not good enough, whether physically or intellectually. I can’t believe that by telling my daughter she looks pretty in the her tutu and a glitter-covered crown that I am setting her up for a low self-esteem. I also make sure to temper the compliments with equal opportunities with how funny and clever she is. My son is not left out either. I acknowledge when he looks nice dressed for church, especially now that he chooses what he wants to wear. When I compliment him on how nice his hair looks it would be silly for me to worry that he may be hit the Rogaine at 16.

Lisa Bloom’s advice seems sound at first, but it misses the mark as to why our children are obsessing over looks at younger and younger ages.While we always need to be aware of what we say to our children, we need to be much more conscious of what we say around them when we talk about our own peers, family and especially the strangers walking by.

6 thoughts on “How to Talk Around Little Girls”

  1. Oh, you are right on this one. I did not read the article, but I agree 100% about it’s how they see us react to ourselves. The other day my 2 yo son was getting ready to take a bath and grabbed the scale from underneath the sink. Why? Because that’s my shower routine. I even had the thought that I was glad I don’t have any girls to ruin with my own negative body image.

    I wrote an article recently about a trip to a resort. There were women who weighed more than 150lbs more than me in two-piece bathing suits, and my first thought was not of disdain, but envy. I wanted whatever confidence they had.

    Thanks for the good words and keep up the good work. I’ll do my best to raise up boys that know how to treat girls properly.

    p.s. If I ever get to writing a book, my first one will be entitled “Men are Pigs and Women are Stupid: Why This keeps the World Spinning”. I will be sure to dedicate one chapter to the hegemonic activity of women.

  2. I agree that the HuffPo article takes the “let’s not tell little girls they’re pretty” injunction a bit far, and think your response to it is dead on. It articulated something I hadn’t quite figures out on my own — that it’s not how we talk to little girls that’s the problem; it’s how we talk to and about one another.

    Like Aitch, K is a beautiful little girl, and people tell her so all the time. My nickname for her is “pretty girl.” But she’s so much more than that, and everyone gets around to noticing her other attributes soon enough.

    I’m not sure how to handle body image as she gets older. I, personally, struggle with my weight, but couch it in the language of eating healthy and doing things that are good for our bodies. I have never called anyone (or myself) “fat” in her presence.

    In the end, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having an interest in physical appearances. K sees me put on make-up every day, and I think there’s nothing at all shameful about that. I like being a woman, and dressing / looking like one, and hope she will too. The point is not to give her a distorted imagine of what “woman” represents — like that very telling picture you posted of the anorexic-looking beauty queen!

  3. That poor skinny girl in the picture…

    My girl is almost five and seems to have pretty much no awareness of looks/fatness as a negative issue. Probably this is partly because I never comment disparagingly on my own body. When anybody around here says anything about how we look, it’s to compliment each other. The other day she told me I “look cute with [my] big [pregnant] tummy” and I totally agreed with her. I totally do! Of course who knows what she’ll start hearing from other people as she gets older.

    She’s actually a super-conventionally-pretty girl with long, curly blonde hair, but here in Sweden that’s not so unique (she still get the very rare comment on her looks from strangers, usually other immigrants, though, but nothing like back in the US). It’s kind of nice her looks are less a topic of conversation here.

  4. I think Lisa Bloom has some good ideas but I agree with you, it is more than what we say to girls that makes them (and really all women) critical of their bodies. We see so many women on TV who is a size 0, or trying to be a size 0, with D cups. The combination of which rarely, if ever, happens naturally. I think we can talk all we want to little girls about how their worth is based more than on their physical beauty but the barrage of images they see on TV, in magazines, etc all give a different message.

  5. I’m currently torn right now, because my daughter loves to talk about my fat butt and fat belly like they are the best things ever! I want her to know that people may find that offensive, but how do I do that when I love her chubby little belly? Fortunately, our discussion today was curtailed by her need to make butt prints in the water collecting on the shower door…which was really the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.

    It’s a difficult line to walk – especially since she seems to have my body shape. She’ll never meet the societal expectations, yet she will have cousins who do. I hope I can help her navigate these troubled waters.

    Off to read the article…

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