How to Talk...

I went to a dinner party at a friend’s home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.

Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, “Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!”

But I didn’t. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

What’s wrong with that? It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.

Hold that thought for just a moment.

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 fifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and twenty-five 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.

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. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

For the full article, click here.

A great read.

As much as I am overjoyed to hear “here’s to changing the world, one little girl at a time,” we can’t deny the fact that girls, or rather females, are only 50% of the world we live in. So I’m sitting here wondering, “what about little boys?” They deserve to be talked to so that they aim for “a live of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for [their] thoughts and accomplishments” too, no?

Some of you might argue that they already have all of those things. Sure, they’re for the most part not told “how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are,” but take a look around and listen to what we say to little boys and you’ll see similar patterns emerging. We ask them about how strong they are, we call them “prince” and “knight,” and we say “boys don’t cry.”

Where has that gotten us? V-Day can tell you.

Our bodies (or other people’s bodies) bare the grunt of our negative thoughts when the problem is deeply rooted in our own life insecurities. This happens when our ideas and creativity are not respected, when we’re told that we’re not allowed to do certain things because of our gender (I was told by my parents that I couldn’t climb trees topless as a child because I am a girl), and eventually we stop taking ourselves seriously, boy or girl. 

We can change that, and we can start by changing the way we talk. To everyone. Especially to children. Easy as that.

- Lisa

Lisa Lee