Hint: don’t rely on standard compliments about their appearance.
We’re all guilty of it: when being introduced to a perfectly coiffed little girl wearing some absurdly frilly dress it’s almost impossible to restrain from commenting. It is what we have been culturally conditioned to do.
But these seemingly innocent off-hand comments build our appearance-obsessed culture, which has an effect on these girls, as anyone who’s seen Toddlers and Tiaras is surely familiar. In Bloom’s recent book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, she recounts 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.”
So what does she suggest talking about instead? Bloom encourages “generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain.” Little kids tend to love books, so asking about their most recent reading accomplishments will usually ignite a passionate discussion and maybe even open the door to some reading aloud. Ask older girls the same, or broaden the conversation by asking for their opinions on current events. After you try it, send Lisa Bloom a tweet with the girl’s response here. A pretty recent adolescent myself, I will also plead you to not pester teenage girls about their love life—girls are worth a lot more than their relationship status.
We don’t just do this for children; I daily participate in and witness countless women breaking the ice with a quick, easy compliment on another woman’s physical appearance. While seemingly harmless, it’s a method of bonding that I rarely engage in with men. I’m challenging myself to be more conscious about how many compliments I give to women based on their mind or accomplishments versus their appearance, and I challenge you to do the same. Let us all “model what a thinking woman says and does" for future generations. We deserve it as much as they do.
[Image of Eden from Toddlers and Tiaras]
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.
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