I think this is an interesting question taken on by Lisa Bloom in her article How to Talk to Little Girls on
the Huffington Post
Personally I take the same stance as Bloom, there is a part of me that always refrains from calling little girls “adorable” or “cute” even if I think they are. When I see little boys very rarely do I crouch down and tell them how handsome or cute they are right off the bat. With girls I always feel as though if a comment about their appearance is the first thing that I say to them it will send the wrong message about who they are and what is important. Not that being beautiful is a bad thing (hellllo) but the way they look is not who they are, nor is it the totality of their complex being. I think that it perpetuates that sexist stereotype that little girls are made of “Sugar and spice and everything nice” that they are doll-like things to be dressed up, stand quietly, bat their eyelashes and smile demurely when told that they are lovely. I’m not saying that little girls should not be complimented on their appearance, but perhaps it should not be the first thing out of our mouths when addressing them, not only because it says that looks are the most important thing, but also – what happens when someone doesn’t say that they are cute? Children are highly aware of things like that. I know that I was.
From a young age I was a gatherer of adjectives, one’s assigned to me and I was even more acutely aware of the adjectives assigned to others . I was the proud owner of a “cute” or two in my youth, they were short lives years as I grew quickly and my adjectives began more to describe what it did (dance) then what I looked like, (tall, strong) in the dance world my physical attributes were also categorized and assigned, I was Theresa with the “legs and feet”. My adjectives may have been accurate, and even positive, I was “crazy, funny, and smart” but I was painfully aware that I was not “beautiful”, “cute”, or “pretty” and those are the only words that I wanted to attached to me.
I think this is a topic, and a way of being that we need to think about, and address because it is a very real and important issue that has long term, lasting effects.
How to Talk to Little Girls
By Lisa Bloom Author of ‘Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World’
Hosted by The Huffington Post
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 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 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.