I hate to alarm you, but something terrible is happening. And it’s our own damn fault.
We seem to have, collectively, decided that the definition of what it means to be a Girl must be rewritten. This is not the terrible thing. This is actually a good and important and necessary thing. Girls today will grow up having been exposed to images and language depicting their sisters and themselves as Brave. Strong. Smart. Independent. And it’s about time for that.
The terrible thing that is happening is a bit of collateral damage, I’m afraid.
Somewhere along the way of shaping this new “Like a Girl” definition, the word “Beautiful” seems to have become a bad word.
I have read more than a few blog posts and articles over the past several months which all seem to suggest, not that girls are more than “just pretty faces,” with which I think we could all agree, but that by calling a girl “beautiful,” you might as well be insulting her. I read an “open letter,” a cease and desist, really, from a mother asking the compliment-givers in her neighborhood to stop commenting on the beauty of her daughter’s hair. Then, another mother wrote that she does not call her daughter Beautiful. She’ll give her little girl a million words of praise a day, but not one will be a comment on her physical appearance, lest her daughter grow to become an arrogant, or conversely insecure, image-obsessed teenager.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jo Swinson, Women’s Minister in the UK, urged parents to stop calling their daughters beautiful because to do so is to send the message that looks are the most important thing in life. And even a supermodel weighed in on the issue: Doutzen Kroes, a Victoria’s Secret model, joined the campaign against Beautiful, stating that she’d rather her daughter be called “smart” than “beautiful” so that she will aspire to do something in her life other than modeling. Kroes thinks we should “teach girls that they can be presidents.”
Um. Okay, sure. Of course I want my daughter to grow up knowing that she can pursue any career she’s willing to work hard for… including the presidency. But…what’s wrong with being smart and beautiful?
People of the Internet: We have taken this Girl Power thing too far. Well, by “we” I mean “you” because I call my daughter Beautiful no less than thousands of times per day (more or less).
My daughter is beautiful. As I’m sure the daughters of the mothers mentioned above are, too. And because I want my beautiful girl to always believe that she is, I tell her. Often. And I’ll keep telling her until my words become her own and she recognizes the pure and natural beauty that has always been and will always be Her. Not all of her. She is, after all, more than just a pretty face. But that face? It’s beautiful.
I also tell, and will continue to tell, my daughter that she is kind. And talented. Generous and a clever problem-solver. Bright and sensitive with a killer sense of humor (even at two! She slays her brothers with mere mention of poop and toots). She is compassionate. Loving…..Brave. Strong. Smart. Independent. I will continue to extol her many and various virtues on a daily basis so that she knows that the best parts of her (on the inside and the outside) don’t go unnoticed in the busy and the hectic and the Oh My God, you guys, just put on your shoes!
I call my daughter beautiful because, when I’m commenting on her beauty, I’m pointing out her natural beauty. I don’t put make-up on my 2-year old and then comment on the length of her lashes or the shape of her cheekbones. I don’t highlight my baby’s hair and then swoon over her gorgeous cornsilk curls. I don’t show her an Instagrammed close-up of her denim-blue eyes and then tell her how they melt me. When I say she’s beautiful, I mean that She is beautiful…all crusty-nosed and bed-headed and pouty-faced and mis-matched and dirt-covered. Because she truly is…as any mother could say of her child.
In fact, shouldn’t childhood be precisely the time we are telling girls and boys, loudly and repeatedly for the world to hear, how beautiful theyare? Before they have a chance to compare their image to those on the covers of the magazines in the grocery store check-out line? Before they have a chance to hear from their friends in third period about eyelash curlers and push-up bras? Before they have a chance to hear a negative comment made to them by an insecure peer? Before they have a chance to want thousands of Likes on a photo-shopped selfie?
Now is the time. I will call my daughter beautiful. I will smile adoringly at her as the sweet grandfather at the Post Office calls her a “Pretty Little Lady.” I will voice my agreement as the store clerk gushes, “Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?!” And I will remind her every day that all of her — her mind, her heart, her spirit, and her body — is beautiful… Just the way she is… and however she chooses to present herself.
Calling my daughter beautiful will not limit her in any way, and I’m not going to let the internet convince me otherwise.
Related post: 10 Promises I’ve Made to my Daughter