Thinking About Talking to Girls

August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

In June, ABC News reported that almost half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. That’s right, you read that correctly,  pre-schoolers and kindergartners are worried about being fat- not worried about being healthy, not about what they can do with their bodies or what their bodies can do for them, but about being fat.

Author Lisa Bloom writes, “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.”Umm, what? No, seriously, that’s what the research shows. What this means is that girls and women start thinking about their bodies as potential beauty capital at a very young age and carry these thoughts with them throughout their adult lives.

These sociological constructions around beauty and our bodies are what keep us going back to the drug store for more cold cream to fight off wrinkles and mascara to make our eyelashes seem longer and plumper. They are also the same beauty constructions that make plastic surgery a multi-billion dollar industry each year. These are the constructions that tell women they will never be good enough, that they can always be better, that perfection is expected but that it can never be fully reached.

We are teaching them to little girls. We are teaching them to our daughters, to our nieces, to little girls sitting next to us on the bus or at gatherings with family and friends. You’re probably thinking, “Not me. I don’t do that. I don’t support beauty myths.” But inadvertently, you might. It might come in the form of a compliment about their shoes or how pretty their eyes are or telling them how nice they look when they are all dressed up. It seems familiar and really innocent doesn’t it?  You’re just breaking the ice, right?

Wrong. According to Bloom, “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.” Yikes. Scary isn’t it?

So how do you break the ice with a little girl if you don’t tell her you really like her super cool skirt? For that matter how might you break the ice with another woman if you don’t say the same or similar thing to her upon your first meeting?

Bloom suggests asking, “What’s your favorite book?” or “Do you like to read?” Another blogger, writing in response to Bloom’s suggestions, likes to ask, “Have you been swimming this summer?” “Do you like animals?” “Do you know any jokes?”  Of an adult woman, I might ask, “Do you like to travel?” “Do play sports?”  “Do you like music?”

The possibilities are endless. Let’s not limit ourselves to communicating with women about beauty. Let’s find out who they are under their appearance, let’s challenge ourselves to a deeper connection. In the spirit of this, what are some of the questions you ask/would like to be asked when you first meet someone?

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