Sunday, May 06, 2012

Will I be pretty?

I discovered this video of poetry slammer Katie Makkai reciting her poem “Pretty” over on Bella of One Sister's Rant's website. Watch it – I guarantee you’re definition of the word “pretty” will never be the same:

In Bella's post Who's ready to stop the insanity?, Bella encourages us to join forces and together redefine what comprises beauty. She writes:
Let us laugh, giggle, and support each other in our grief, pain, and triumphs.

Let us go back to the time when being best friends meant sharing secrets, helping one another, and splitting a stick of gum.

Let us encourage each other so that we can all come to believe we are beautiful; that we are worthy.

The only way we can stop the insanity is by coming together to say, enough.

Let us demonstrate that the sisterhood still exists and it’s on a mission; a mission to stop the insanity.

What say you, ladies?
Are you in?
I was the first one to respond I was in.  Stopping the insanity has long been one of the goals of this blog and my Making Women Count project. One of my biggest life regrets is spending too much time and mental energy in my teens and twenties trying to attain society’s ideal of “pretty.”  

For all of you, who are joining forces with Bella and me, be advised we have our work cut out for us.  My 10-year old niece is a gifted athlete, but receives many more messages from family, her peers and the media that she should work on being more “girlie” rather than on her soccer game or pitching arm.  At a recent Father-Daughter dance at her school, some of her fourth grade classmates showed up in makeup and with their hair professionally styled.  These are nine and ten year olds.

Then there is the latest addition to our family.  A baby girl born on Valentine’s Day:

Just days old and there have already been comments about her appearance.  Here is a picture of the baby's parents and brothers:

Have you spotted the baby's flaw?

You got it.

The baby's hair is not blonde.

It is not the baby's mother who is concerned about this (she knows her baby is perfect), but another family member.  A bleached blonde who gasped when I pointed out that the natural hair color of all the adult members of our family is actually brown.

I spend many family get-togethers kicking this particular family member under the table or jabbing her with my elbow while she is talking to the ten-year old.   I don't want today's girls growing up believing the message society continues to force upon girls:  we need to be "pretty."  Instead why can't we instill the message from my favorite line of Kattie Makkai's poem:

“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely 'pretty'.” 

What can we do to stop the insanity? How can we change the conversation?
Lisa Bloom in How to talk to little girls provides an excellent example of how to talk to little girls.  Instead of telling a little girl she had met how gorgeous she was and asking her to model her pretty dress, she asked her about her favorite book.  What a novel idea; asking her about her mind. Bloom goes on to say:

Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she's reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You're just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does.
Be cognizant of opportunities to change the conversation:
Recently ahead of me in the checkout-line at the grocery store, an eleven-year old girl and her mother were admiring the models on magazine covers. The girl was pointing at them talking about how pretty and skinny they were. I butted in on their conversation and said, "They don't really look like that you know. Those photos are photo shopped." Her mother took my cue and agreed with me.  She began telling her daughter how perfect she was and that she didn't need to wear makeup.

Are you ready to change the conversation and to stop the insanity? If so head over to Bella's blog and let her know you too are in.

Here are links from a few fellow bloggers who've committed to changing the conversation:
Virginia Sole Smith's Brave Books for Girls (not Princesses) provides a list of her favorite books from childhood featuring brave (non-princess-y) girls as the main characters and none of them never so much as mentions their weight.

Elizabeth at Yo Mama praises Ashley Judd for slapping media in the face for speculation over her 'puffy' face appearance in  Making Ashley Judd's Moment Last.

Lori at The Ole Master Plan writes about weight and her own experience with prednisone in Worth Doesn't Equal a Size 4.

If you have written a blog post or know of one that belongs on the above list, let me know I will be happy to add it. Let's work together and say enough.


  1. Lady, this post is over the top fantastic! Thanks for the shout out! I think that in keeping the conversation going, writing blog posts just like the one you've written, posting messages on the social networking sites, all of these serve to create awareness to this insanity. Little girls who are nine and ten with make up and professionally styled hair? It's crazy! Whatever happened to letting children be children? We have a responsibility and it's up to us to redefine society's definition of beauty. And while it may take a while, I think we can do it! Thanks for joining us! :)

  2. Anonymous8:47 PM

    Great post! Love that you quoted Lisa Bloom (have you read "Think"? Great read...she also just released Swagger...looking forward to reading that one, too).

  3. Savvy -- I applaud you changing the conversation in the grocery line. It all starts with how WE think about ourselves and what we decide our priorities will be. We change OUR minds, we can change everyone's mind!

    And thank you for the shout-out!

  4. Bella,
    Thanks so much for the encouraging words they mean so much to me. I agree keeping the conversation going is the first step – eventually someone is bound to listen. Totally agree about the 9 and 10 year olds. I have to wonder what the parents were thinking.

  5. Wosushi,
    Yes I have read Think. I wrote about it here: and am looking forward to reading Swagger. Her book is one of those that I appreciated more as time goes on - I think about it often. Plus, I’ve read some of her book recommendations and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I also recommend following her on twitter @LisaBloom where she links to interesting articles and tweets – that encourage us to “think”

  6. Great post, Savvy! You and Bella are doing important work, calling out all those who enable girls to be treated a certain way, and not for their intelligence. I'm going to mull this over and see if I can come up with an angle. I raised my daughter to focus on her smarts and always encouraged her knack for math. Today she's a junior at a prestigious university and studying economics. She's very studious and I'm very proud of her.

  7. Girl Parker,
    Yes, I changed my mindset several years ago. I’m not sure what prompted this change – I will have to think about it. And I will continue to look for opportunities to change the conversation.

  8. Eden,
    I agree many teens are way more than diets and beauty routines. Let’s keep encouraging them. I just cringe every time my 10-year old niece says she hates math. Too which the family member from above tells her, “Yes math is hard.”

  9. Monica,
    I am looking forward to your angle on this. I will definitely add a link. I have never been a parent and am unsure what kind of parent I would have been; though I do know for sure they would always have had an enormous stack of books to read. It has to be hard to raise a girl with a positive self-image with all the media and peer pressure they are surrounded with.

  10. I've written about this topic many times on my blog. I was going to recommend Bloom's article to you but you already found it. Have you ever seen Dove's short film called Evolution or their short film called Beauty Pressure? They are just minutes long and worth your time. I try hard to complement my girls on things other than looks but it is amazing how those "You look cute" comments just pour out.
    Stopping by from SITS.

  11. Laura,
    Thanks for stopping in. I checked out your blog, "Pruning Princesses," you are definitely changing the conversation in your daughter's lives. I will watch for posts to link to in the future. Thanks for recommending the Dove films. I haven't seen them and will be checking out.

  12. I just found your blog via SITS. I totally agree - and I think everyone has a responsibility in this. By the way, here's one I'd add to the book list:
    It *does* have princesses, but they're very proactive!

  13. Love this!

    Stopping by from SITS.

  14. Rachel:
    Thanks for stopping in. I think what I will do is write another post of links to "keep the conversation going" in a month or two. I will include your book review. Thanks again.

  15. Rachel:
    Thanks for stopping in. I think what I will do is write another post of links to "keep the conversation going" in a month or two. I will include your book review. Thanks again.

  16. Miss Robin,
    Thanks for stopping in. I am glad you like the post.

  17. I so triple pink puffy heart this post it is not even funny!! Came over from SITS, and I am so glad I did. GREAT job!!! :):)
    As the mother of two daughters, it is my life's mission to teach them this.

  18. This is an awesome post!! So many little girls are told nothing but that they are pretty. Came over from SITS!

  19. This is the perfect post for Mother's Day weekend. Bravo!

  20. This is a great post. We must be a village and teach our girls that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; not what the magazine shows them what's pretty. Stopping by from SITS. I recently posted: It's Not Just A Name:

  21. Great post! I agree that it is an uphill battle. I applaud the recent increase in exposes showcasing what Hollywood stars and models look like before they are photoshopped to death. I hope this is a trend that is going to stick and generate tons of discussions among future generations about "beauty".

  22. Michelle,
    I agree. We all need to write and talk about stars that come forward showcasing their real selves. Let’s keep the conversation going.

    Thanks for stopping in.

  23. Count me in! Wish I'd had access to this PRETTY AWESOME lesson when I was back in school. Might have made all the difference. But oh well... Maybe I wouldn't be as receptive to the message now, had I already known it back then. I'm all growed up & ready to pass this on, help others fight the ugly mean-ness of others, & let everybody know --- "YOU ARE PRETTY TERRIFIC!" Thanks.

  24. Andi-Roo,
    I agree with you I am sure I wouldn’t have been receptive to this message when I was in high school either. I do think I would have filed it away for future reference though. Also, one message isn't going to change our inner self critical voices. We have to receive tons of messages. Repetition is the key. Glad you are joining us.

  25. Andi,
    To keep the conversation going I plan on writing a post every month or so highlighting bloggers who are doing just that. If you write a post please let me know so I can include the link.

    Also all of you who ask if you can write a guest post - "Keeping the conversation going" is a topic I will consider.

  26. What a great post!I have 2 girls, a 4 yr old and a 23 mth old and already there's so much focus on their looks. They are both beautiful young ladies but I've always felt in life, that looks will only get you so far. I support them in their educational needs, developmental skills and creative skills as that's what will help in shaping them into great resourceful individuals.

    Fitnessbuster Supporting you in getting your fitness and nutrition back on track

  27. I like the video. I like what she said about not being merely pretty. I do think appearance is important but no where near as important as we and society think. We should work to be pretty smart, pretty confident, pretty capable, pretty honest, pretty kind, pretty loving, and every other pretty. But not just pretty.

  28. Gillian,
    I so agree, being pretty will only get you so far. It may get you the interview or the job, but if you can't do the work you won't go very far.

    I have to admit though I wrote this post a year ago and I still catch myself telling your girls they are pretty or how cute they look. Comments on appearance is so engrained in my psych I can't stop it.

  29. Chasing Joy,
    This is one of my favorite videos too. I also think people are much harder on their appearance than they need to be. Have you seen the latest Dove commercial?