Awhile back my sister-in-law posted on Facebook an article by Lisa Bloom’s from Huff Post.  I had a reaction I didn’t expect to have.  I agree with her points wholeheartedly, except, I don’t.  In general I agree that girls need to hear that they are smart.  I agree that they need to be recognized for something other than what they look like.  I also think that they need to hear that they are beautiful.  Just the way that they are.  Every single damn day.

When I read Lisa’s article it nearly made me sick to my stomach with the reaction that I had.  All I could think was, “No! They need to hear that they are beautiful, dammit!” I knew this wasn’t the appropriate feminist reaction and I thought long and hard about where it came from.  At the same time I was trying to figure this out, we were planning for my mom to come visit, so that she could meet H and see M.  I am unwilling to forgive my mom for what she did to me, the confidences that she broke.  What she did continues to have a negative effect on me daily.  However H & M are too young to know what she did, and so I have chosen to continue to let her see them.  The distance that I have put between us has helped me find some perspective.  Perspective that the article also helped me realize.

I don’t know if it was because of her own mother, her 70’s feminist ideas about raising children, or something else, but I don’t remember my mother telling me I was beautiful growing up.  I was raised to be gender neutral, from my boy’s name to not having any pink in my life.  I think it was my mom’s generations way to bridge the gender gap.  That the only way to not suffer at the hands of sexism was to be one of the boys. I was raised to be one of the boys.

In some ways I’ve lived up to what I think my mother was going for with me.  I work in a male dominated field.  Before I became a parent I used to drink and smoke and hang with them.  I am also insecure and unsure of my own femininity.  I question my beauty.  I want something different for my girls.

I want them to be strong women.  Not strong Pats.  I want them to know that they are beautiful.

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  1. Posted August 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with you and don’t think it’s an inappropriate feminist reaction. I think that one of the biggest dangers in 1970s-ish 2nd wave feminism is that it demonizes the feminine to the point of making it bad to like pink, want to draw or nurture others, etc., when those qualities are awesome! In my world, the point is that everyone should get to do everything, and that no one should be told that they aren’t allowed to like something because that’s for x gender and you’re y gender.

    As for the beautiful stuff, I want Kiernan to think that she is beautiful, always. I also want her to know that beautiful doesn’t mean magazine-thin or photoshopped, that it’s not predicated on her weight, and that there are lots of different components to being beautiful, including kindness and generosity. I think that a lot of people (including probably Lisa Bloom) are conflating telling girls they’re beautiful to buying into the harmful stereotypes about what constitutes beautiful, and I’d rather fight those than not allow creative expression, play, and compliments in the name of fighting a much smaller battle.

  2. Posted August 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you, too. I think that there is immense value in girls knowing their beauty. What I took from that article is that looks shouldn’t be the first thing we talk about with girls.

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