I read another parenting blog recently. It’s smart and interesting and earnest. Mom-blogger’s post (we’ll call her Mom-blogger to protect the innocent) was about her 8-year old daughter asking one afternoon, “Mom? Am I pretty?”
Am I pretty? Am. I. Pretty.
Insert hearty sigh here.
How do you answer such a loaded question? On the surface, it seems innocuous. Every child is pretty to their mother (when they’re sleeping! Most other times they’re sticking, smelly, noisy, nose-pickers…..Oh! Alright, I’ll admit it! Every child is gorgeous, nose-picker or not.) But what’s bubbling and seething beneath the surface of this question terrifies me to the bone–and it terrified Mom-blogger too.
We’re so awash in these pervasive images of physical perfection that our sense of beauty is skewed. Hell, our sense of “normal” is skewed.
So, with her daughter’s weighty question dangling guillotine-like, Mom-blogger asked: how can we make sure our girls feel pretty? How can I make sure my daughter feels pretty?
Her answer froze me to the marrow.
Okay. Quick disclaimer (Alright!! maybe not so quick…I’m writing after all!): I am not, do not purport to be, and have singularly given up trying to be a perfect woman, wife, person, or parent. Hell! Most days I’d settle for mediocre woman, wife, person or parent (so would my therapy-bound kids and increasingly twitch-developing husband)! So I am in no position to judge Mom-blogger. Instead I’m going to judge and shout and rant and rail against a culture that objectifies us all, but worst of all our little girls.
I know Mom-blogger means well. She cares enough to blog about it for cryin’ in a bucket. But how can we expect to create a world where girls and women are judged by the weight of our intelligence instead of the weight in our bras? Judged by the width of our compassion instead of the width of our ass? Judged by the fullness of our independence rather than the fullness of our lips?
I think Mom-blogger misses by epochs when she worries and laments her daughter’s doubts about her attractiveness. After all she’s asked her precious daughter all these years, “Who’s the prettiest girl in school? You are!”
My heart hurt a little when I read that.
We: mothers, women, people, have to do better. We have to do better by our children!
I mean, how can we expect our girls, our daughters, to see themselves as more than a collection of features when we, their mothers, define them that way? How can we expect our daughters to ask us instead, “Mom? Am I smart?” when we, their role-models, allow their highest ideal to be tiara-wearing Prince-Charming chasing? How can we expect our girls to define themselves by what they can do rather than what plastic surgery could do for them?
There are all kinds of people, and all kinds of marketing campaigns, trying to answer this question (and pocketing a fair amount of money in the process!), but it won’t do to wait for someone else or something else to provide the answer.
It just won’t do!
I have to provide the answer to my daughters. I have to define them and myself by our intelligence and humanity. I have to ask them, on the first day of school, “Who’s the smartest, bravest, kindest, funniest kid in class?” And answer, “You are darlin’, you are….but that little girl over there looks pretty smart and brave too. Why don’t we go introduce ourselves and find out.”