girls will be…women?

I took two third-grade girls to the mall today, and got an ugly vision of my future. The Bee and I had to go buy some pants for spring, and one of her friends tagged along for the ride. One thing I wasn’t expecting was the playing-at-being-big-girls that happened.

And that said playing would involve telling each other how skinny they looked in various outfits.

I’m not sure where the girls picked up the idea that the best compliment that one woman can give another is to tell her she looks skinny. I don’t like the idea that my daughter has embarked on a journey that can end in body-obsessiveness and feeling bad about herself.

I was watching the Bee at softball practice the other day, and she struck me as such a tomboy, wearing the same dark blue hoodie that she wears every day, with some jeans and her cleats. She and the other girls on her softball team were running around in that way that only tweener girls can–part gazelle, part ballerina, sometimes both at once. She looked so strong and graceful, with her braided hair and her her long legs.

I hope that she can always look at her body in the mirror and see that graceful girl, but I can see that she already knows that society wants her to look a certain kind of way. I just wish I could keep her away from the idea that anything less than perfection is no good at all.


April 11, 2008. thoughtful parenting.


  1. Jody replied:

    gah. I have these same concerns myself.

    I always did loathe the mall, and now that I’m a grown-up, I have a clearer vision of why. The messages girls flaunt in those places: gah.

  2. thordora replied:

    oh sigh. I’m not looking forward to that at all. Despite my loathing for my own lumpy body at times, I keep it quiet, voicing only my pleasures with it-it’s strength, it’s successes. I’m hoping that will suffice to protect them.

  3. granolasusan replied:

    Wow. I think about this a lot–but it’s all so insidious, isn’t it?

  4. Andy replied:

    I worry about the same thing and my daughter is only three. It’s such a delicate balance – teaching them how to respect and care for our body without getting too wrapped up in the apperance aspect.

  5. Jeff replied:

    Oh my…

    Society’s claws are so insidious that even girls that have little to no exposure (or so we think) to these kind of messages are impacted in some way. It’s hell. Parenting has never been more difficult…that is if you care about such things which unfortunately many, many adults who have children (I won’t even call them parents) do not.

  6. sarah replied:

    It is even worse here in Korea.

  7. Library Lady replied:

    Well at my house the WORST thing you can call JR is skinny. She is so petite that you can see all her ribs and her pants all have to have adjustable waists. And she bristles at being called “bony” or “skinny”.

    I did have my older one once ask me did I think she needed to be on a diet. One of her friends apparently said something about being on one. I told her she WAS on a diet–that diet meant what you eat and that hers meant eating healthy food, not too much junk stuff and getting exercise!

    But it is all around us. Makes me wonder what Bee’s classmates are watching on TV, or what their moms are saying in their hearing…

  8. jo(e) replied:

    It’s so difficult to raise a daughter in this culture. So many of the cultural messages teach girls to hate their bodies.

  9. MommyWithAttitude replied:

    I can’t believe how young girls are now when these things are sinking in. As a parent I just can’t even imagine what can be done to protect them from it either.

  10. Comfort Addict replied:

    Amen, LM. This idea that women have to be thin and beautiful to be worthy is toxic. I have seen it destroy and nearly destroy people at close range.

    Advertising is largely to blame for this problem. In that sense, we could mobilize a community of conscience to object to and monetarily punish (i.e. withhold our purchases from) campaigns that push girls toward these unhealthy ideals. In the short run, though, we need to combat the problem one girl at a time. I fervently believe that men and women will never reach their true potential until the beauty myth for women and the success myth for men crumble into the dust of history.

  11. the end of motherhood replied:

    Argh. I think keeping girls in sports – especially ones that don’t involve self-starvation – is a really great way to keep them focused on health and the positive uses of their bodies.

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