message-to-girls-too-much-focus-on-beautyA little girl walked into the studio one day and I started to talk about her hairstyle and her cute dress, and then I remembered the article I read, How to Talk to Little Girls, by Latina Fatale in her blog Girls in Real Life. According to Fatale:

“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.”

Watch any of the inane “reality” TV shows and see what is important in the “real” world of Housewives, Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms and so many other shows. Girls and women are objects to be dressed up and displayed. Even the dance girls, with all their talent, are displayed in skimpy costumes and taught to dance seductively, instead of just showcasing their talent as the little girls that they are.

Commenting only on a girl’s appearance reinforces our society’s norm that looks are  more important than anything. So as I racked my brain for something else to discuss with this little girl, I began with “How is school this year?” She told me about her teacher, what she liked best about school (recess) and her favorite subject (math). Turns out it was a much more satisfying conversation for both of us than if we had discussed her hair or dress. She often sits with me while her mother dances and we have had many interesting discussions.

It is no wonder that eating disorders and dieting for young girls as young as five are on the rise. The message is, look good or you don’t count. Why do we as women stand for this? Have we so completely bought into this stereotype that we don’t even realize what we are doing? I often look at men and think how lucky they are that all they have to be is clean to be presentable, whereas if a woman is not polished, coiffed and styled, she is invisible. And women are sometimes the worst; we are very critical of ourselves and other women and let men define who is and who is not desirable.

In this video, Dustin Hoffman explains why his role in Tootsie was not a comedy to him. When he asked the make-up artists to make him believable as a woman, he had a epiphany when they finished, this was the best he could be, but he was not going to be an attractive woman. At that moment, he realized that there are too many interesting women who are passed over because they do not meet the definition of beauty in our society. He realized that because of the way he looked as a woman, he would never have been noticed and therefore ignored. He said that he felt sad, and actually teared up, thinking about the interesting women he missed out meeting because of their looks.