By Emily Heist Moss
The Good Men Project Magazine
If you’re trying to be a good dad (and you’re reading this site, so I think you are), you know that your children are sponges. We soak up everything we hear you say, everything we see you do, and many of the things you thought we didn’t notice.
I still remember the names of two girls my father identified as “pretty” in a fifth-grade class picture. My dad taught me a lot of things: how to find the North Star, how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, how to drive in a New England winter. He taught me to value diversity of opinion and honesty of expression, to choose good, smart people to be in my life, to believe that I can do and be anything I want. But from the comment on the class picture 13 years ago? From that, I learned beauty matters.
Although boys must also navigate the tricky waters of body image and beauty, I will stick to daughters for two reasons. First, I can’t apply any particular expertise to the father-son relationship (being a daughter and all), and second, the consequences for girls when health and beauty get distorted tend to be much more severe (10 times as many women battle eating disorders than men).
No matter how old your daughter is she is receiving messages from every angle that tell her that her primary path to success is being beautiful. Be it Bratz dolls, princess paraphernalia, Miley Cyrus, Gossip Girl, E! Red Carpet specials, Miss America pageants, Sarah Palin, or Lindsay Vonn in Sports Illustrated, women are judged and rated based on their looks. Our intellectual, athletic, artistic, or social successes are inevitably predicated on and qualified by our appearance. Even CBS correspondent Lara Logan, victim of assault while covering the situation in Egypt, is discussed as a “Warzone ‘It Girl’ ” and a “gutsy stunner”—rather than simply “reporter.”