Please tell your daughter she’s pretty.

Powerful Ad Shows What a Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty” runs the headline on the Huffington Post, describing a new ad by Verizon.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0[/youtube]

Before we even watch the video or form an opinion, let’s remember one thing. The real, true, deep down message of this ad is that you, the viewer, should like Verizon. Whatever societal goals it may have, it’s an ad. It is trying to sell something, and so it’s a given that the message it’s sending is calculated to stroke the egos of the viewer. So there’s that.

Now for the actual message. The Huffiington Post sums it up like this:

The video depicts one girl’s development from toddler to teenager. She wanders curiously through nature, examines the plants and animals around her, creates an astronomy project, and builds a rocket with her older brother. But all along the way, she hears many all-too-common refrains from her parents: “Who’s my pretty girl?” “Don’t get your dress dirty,” “You don’t want to mess with that,” and “Be careful with that. Why don’t you hand that to your brother?” These statements are subtle, but the ad suggests that they can ultimately discourage girls from pursuing traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects in school.

Sure. If someone followed me around telling me “Knock it off!” every time I got interested in math or science, I would probably stop pursuing math and science. It’s a bad idea to thwart kids (boys and girls) and to discourage their curiosity and intelligence; and it’s especially absurd to tell girls, overtly or by omission, that their main job is to be pretty. I’m fairly sure Thomas More, Edith Stein, and Gianna Molla already knew that, without any help from Verizon.

But the ad ends this way: “Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant, too?”*

Is that what we’re doing when we do say, “You’re so pretty”? When girls hear, “You’re pretty,” does that automatically mean they can’t hear anything else we say? Not that I’ve noticed. Here is what I have noticed:

  • When girls never hear their parents — especially their fathers — say that they are pretty, many of them will go find someone who will say it to them. And sometimes that turns out to be someone who wants to hurt or use them, and uses “pretty” as a hook.
  • When girls get no attention for dressing prettily and looking nice, they find other ways of getting attention with the way they look. A lot of those girls whose entire style is super sexy sexy sex all the time? They’re just trying to be pretty, and no one has taught them to recognize any other form of appeal besides sexiness.
  • If they want to be admired by men, but have been taught that that this desire is a sign of pettiness and lack of character, then many women will become so twisted inside that even marital sex is pure anxiety and guilt.

Why? Because women were made beautiful. They were designed that way. No, not every woman; no, not all the time; and no, not beauty above all other things. But the world is a machine, and one of its driving forces is the attraction between the sexes, where men delight in women and women delight in showing their beauty to men. This is not oppression; this is not sexism; this is not some manipulative societal construct — or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s a gift from God that girls and women can cultivate and delight in beauty — the beauty around them, and the beauty in themselves. Yes, even their physical beauty. Yes, even from a very young age.

 

 

 

So no, don’t tell your daughters that they must be pretty because they can’t be anything else. But don’t make them think that beauty is petty, either. Beauty is one of the transcendentals, which means that beauty it is one of the paths to God. Even when that beauty resides in a little girl.

And one more thing: it is good for us, the beholders, to praise beauty when we see it. It is a good thing to see something beautiful and to let ourselves murmur, “Oh, how lovely you are!” We are made to receive it and to enjoy it. We are not made to quash and rein in everything that brings us delight. There is not much beautiful in the world. Why deny yourself what little there is? Parents, let yourself tell your girls they’re beautiful. She needs it, and so do you.

 

 

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*Actually, recent studies show that kids do worse when you praise them for being smart. If you want them to do well in school, praise them for working hard, for starting over when they fail, for pushing themselves, for being diligent and responsible. Being smart is not especially useful if you're a lazy, vain, and addicted to praise (ask me how I know!).
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  • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

    I have mixed feelings about this. I disliked it intensely when men called me pretty as a young woman, because it was a lie. I wasn’t stupid. I knew perfectly well that I wasn’t pretty. I won’t deny I longed to be pretty, but I wasn’t. And the moment I decided to marry my husband was when I asked him point blank, about a week into dating, whether he thought I was pretty. I watched him stumble and hmm and haw over the question and finally come up with that he “thought I was cute.” And it stung, because I wanted to be pretty. But I also thought “here is a man who won’t lie to me, not even to spare me pain. You would be stupid to be mad and drive him away because he’s honest.”
    Women do want to be pretty. But I’m not sure telling them what they want to hear is a good way to protect them from people who will manipulate them by telling them what what they want to hear.

    • http://robertfking.wordpress.com/ Roki

      I think “pretty” and “beautiful” are two different things. (Leah Libresco had an interesting discussion on her blog the other day.)

      To my ear, at least, “pretty” means the physical beauty appropriate to girls or young women. I would never call an adult woman “pretty,” because it has a diminutive ring in my ear. It’s entirely possible that others use the word very differently, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone use “pretty” as referring to anything other than physical beauty.

      “Cute” is similar, though, to my mind, it can refer to character or behavior as well as physical beauty.

      “Sexy” is a very specific kind of physical beauty: erotic attractiveness. This is both incredibly culturally conditioned and also extraordinarily dependent on the individual and the nature of the relationship. I would guess that “sexy” probably changes most over time and as relationships develop.

      But “beautiful” is, as Simcha says, a transcendental. If someone does not find you – or any other person, or anything in creation for that matter – beautiful, it is because they aren’t looking at it the right way. Beauty is the manifestation of goodness, which is a reflection and refulgence of God’s glory. This is what people like Pope Francis or Bl. Teresa of Calcutta see in the poor, sick, and even physically deformed. They see the beauty of a child of God.

      May we all develop eyes to see such beauty!

      • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

        I have never viewed pretty as exclusive to girls and young women. It’s merely praise for physical attractiveness. If it sounds odd, perhaps it is because sexiness has supplanted it as praise for mature women. I don’t think it is especially diminutive.
        However beauty can’t really enter into a discussion that is only about physical attractiveness, because beauty is much, much wider than physical attractiveness. And that is all telling someone they are pretty is about.

        So I stand by my statement. I don’t see how telling girls what they want to hear will help protect them as women from people who seek to manipulate them by telling them what they want to hear.

    • Eileen

      I don’t see how you could think you’re not pretty. I just see that tiny little picture of your face but to me your features are perfectly lovely.

      • Sara McD

        Eileen, I wanted to say the same thing but was afraid I’d not be believed. It’s true, though.

      • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

        :-) I’ve improved with age. Also I’m at maximum pregnancy glow in that picture. I should put up a picture of the owl eyed little creature I was between 6 and 12. I’m too vain to put up a teen years photo at all.

        I am one (good) paragraph into a blog post on the intersection between beauty and women and physical appearance, but the baby keeps getting me.

        • tt

          Most of us have those awkward teen or pre-teen photos, GeekLady. It doesn’t mean we weren’t pretty or did not have the potential to be–it is just an awkward stage for many people of both genders. Stand in the hall at any middle school anywhere and you will see this.

          • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

            Much of my point is there’s no shame in being plain.

          • tt

            I’ve always thought there is no such thing as a “plain” looking person. I don’t even know what that means. All people have unique features that make them interesting whether or not those features are what the culture considers conventionally “pretty” or “attractive”. “Plain” is an adjective best left to yogurt and such.

          • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

            Definitions in a debate are always crucial. So allow me to define prettiness, and then proceed with my point.

            1. Prettiness is solely a measure of the attractiveness of one’s physical appearance. It is based on symmetry of and harmony between form and feature. It involves only the physical attributes of the human body and not the human person as a whole.

            2. Prettiness and beauty are commonly, but inappropriately, used synonymously. Beauty is infinitely broader and deeper than mere prettiness.

            3. Because physical attractiveness is a referendum on only the human form and not the human person, there is neither virtue in prettiness nor shame in plainness.

            4. Because women desire to be beautiful, and because beauty and prettiness are inappropriately used interchangeably, it is easy to mistake, or even seek out, praise for one’s body AS praise for one’s person. Thus praise for one’s body can be used to manipulate a woman.

            5. Therefore I don’t see how offering her the exact same praise that can be used to manipulate her will protect her from that praise used as manipulation.

          • Sara McD

            But our physical bodies are part (though only part) of our whole selves. We are not only souls or spirits or minds – our matter matters too.

            I think too that if prettiness is just a matter of being born that way, then so is intelligence and natural aptitude – there is no virtue in any of them. So, why should it be OK to praise one and not another?

          • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

            1. When did I say our matter didn’t matter? I just said we shouldn’t praise the matter out of the context of the whole person.

            2. When did I say it was OK to praise intelligence or natural aptitude? That’s actually one of my pet peeves. I’m not agreeing with the commercial that we should tell girls they’re smart instead of pretty. I’m disagreeing that telling girls they’re pretty will protect them from people who try to manipulate them by telling them they’re pretty.

          • Sara McD

            Ah. I see.

          • Eileen

            Hmm. Well, I disagree that physical attractiveness is a referendum only on the human form. My form instantly belies things about me (like that I like bread just a little too much 😉 ) And furthermore, what I’ve chosen to do with my body says even more. How I style my hair and whether or not I pluck my eyebrows or wax my lip or work out intensely, etc. all say things about me.

            And while there may be no virtue in prettiness, there’s no virtue in plainness either. And some women wear plainness like a badge of honor – look at me, I’m serious, I’m deep, I’m smart, I don’t care about this world. I’m proving it by doing nothing with the body God gave me. I wish I could think of a well known example of this, but I can only think of people I know in real life. Many of them are homeschoolers or extreme political activists who eschew lots of social norms. Maybe Jeneane Garafolo, who could be absolutely breathtaking if she just stopped dressing in army fatigues. But even she in recent years has begun to do something with the looks God has given her.

            And the reason we raise our children to believe that we find them physically attractive is because their optimal emotional and spiritual health requires them believing that – inside and out – they are made in the image and likeness of God. God has given each of us wonderful material with which to work.

            p.s. I went to your blog and you really do have perfectly lovely features. You need to stop believing you’re that awkward high school girl. You’re not. You’re pretty. Embrace it. Believe it.

          • tt

            In a summer graduate English Lit class once upon a time in my life, at a university where I was a visiting student, the class was placed in groups of three to discuss some specific topic about the novel of the day. I was placed in a group with two women who had refused to speak to me previously. Women who were regular students there who were of the sort who took no time to cultivate anything about their appearance, clearly as the badge of honor you speak of. I have always been a girly girl to the core. I attended classes in put together outfits, hair styled and nails done. That is just me and always has been. I also have had a decent amount of success academically in my chosen fields and instructors have always considered me very smart. So I circled up the desks with these women and they were none to happy. They made their points, first. I then disagreed with one, citing that a different critical view could be taken entirely. They stared at me, mouths open. I am not kidding you. Then one said, “oh my god, you’re smart”. I said, “pardon?” And it was explained to me that because I am thin, attractive and put together, they assumed that I was not smart and probably should not be in the class. The attitude that we should never compliment a woman or girl for her appearance and only focus on intelligence and skills is the same attitude that led these women to snub me and dismiss any possibility that I had an intellect because, in their eyes, I appeared too attractive. There is no virtue in that attitude. Only complete and utter smugness.

          • Eileen

            I reread what I wrote and I see how harsh and judge-y it sounds. And I know all too well that plainness is often a battle scar much more than a badge of honor – sometimes physical appearance is the very last thing on a person’s mind. And most moms have been there at one time or another. Heck – I’ve had years where appearance was pretty low on the priority list and certainly there were days where I just didn’t need one.more.thing. If somebody on one of those dark days had suggested I change out of the yoga pants and pony tail, it would have sent me over the edge. I certainly would’ve cried. As I’ve aged and my life is in an easier flow, there can be no doubt that I look more attractive with makeup and a nice pair of jeans. And while my appearance these days generally gets some thought and attention, I’m still not in the regular habit of getting dressed up simply to head to the grocery store. So, maybe I’m a bit of a two face in this area.

            Also, just a little something I’ve noticed in my own children. Our bio kids have no trouble accepting their attractiveness. Meanwhile, our adopted kids (who are a different race from us) have at all one time or another said, “I’m not handsome. I’m ugly.” One child had a particularly difficult time accepting his handsomeness. Obviously, there are complex issues here, including attachment, racism, and not looking anything like the people who love them most, but at its core, feeling ugly is a problem of brokenness. A child deserves to feel physically attractive. It is an important part of his emotional health.

      • anna lisa

        AND everyone knows that geeks rule, regardless. All of my kids are cute geeks, and I’m proud.

    • Sheila C.

      It’s funny, my mother says one of the reasons she married my dad is because he said she was beautiful, and all the other men she knew said she was “cute.” Now she was absolutely adorable because she is pretty anyway and was very very young-looking at the time. But it was very important to her to be considered beautiful, in an adult way.

      But when my future husband called me “cute” the first time I was thrilled …. because it meant he was into me. No other reason. I didn’t have to *be* cute or pretty, I just wanted him to think so because that was a sign he liked me.

      Maybe we should save ourselves the trouble of telling girls they’re pretty and just say “I like you.” Because maybe that’s what we all really want to hear?

  • wineinthewater

    As the father of a daughter. Right on.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Timing, timing, timing, timing, timing… When she dresses up, puts flowers from the garden in her hair, when she’s on her way to church, first dance, first date… yes tell her she’s pretty. When she’s playing legos. when she’s singing you a song she wrote, when she’s trying to express frustration or tell you about her day, in those situations there is probably a better compliment than pretty that would do a whole lot more to validate who it is she’s trying to become. Plus there’s always a need for balance. Less “classically” pretty girls may need to hear that complement more often for all the reasons you list above. I’ve also known girls who may hear it too much and get sick of everyone seeing them in that very limiting (albeit flattering) way. The HuffPo summary is blerggghhh. But the commercial itself seems like it is attempting to show a girl who is not just merely told she’s pretty occasionally, but who is told she is pretty in the face of all the other things she’s trying to be. Sometimes, we want to just NOT have to think about how other people think we look (good or bad). Sometimes it can be more enjoyable to just BE. My best moments have always been those out-of-body ones, where I completely lose sense of myself and just become part of what I’m doing. The phrase “you’re pretty” even though it can be nice to hear is always going to ruin those moments.

  • Brett Salkeld

    One qualm: I think there is much that is beautiful in the world. But we can train ourselves not to see it, and denying that it is in little girls (i say this as a father of two of them) is a sure way to block one’s sensors for the rest of reality.

    (Though perhaps what you meant was that there is much that is not pretty in the world. That, I agree, is undeniable.)

  • Blobee

    If you think a girl doesn’t notice the positive reaction on peoples’ faces when a truly pretty girl or woman enters a room, and then compares whether she ever sees that look when she comes in, well, you’d be wrong. You can tell a girl she’s pretty all the live long day, and if she is not, she is only going to be hurt by your patronizing lie.

    I have very masculine features, and naturally curly hair that is wild. My hands are big, like a boy’s. I am tall with not very many curves. No one ever mistook me for pretty. To have told me I was pretty even as I watched my father’s and brothers’ and uncles’ faces at parties and weddings when an attractive woman came in, and all heads turned, or the bright eyes and smiles that greeted the pretty girls, and were never doled out to me, well, telling me I was pretty would have been insulting to my intelligence. And hurt me more.

    What would have helped though, is someone noting out loud some special characteristic of mine that was real, and fawning over that. Whatever it was, it would have been nice to know someone held something about me in high esteem.
    If she’s not pretty, tell a girl she has: beautiful eyes, a winning laugh, gorgeous hair, lovely skin, unusual kindness, gentleness of spirit. Tell her how some trait she already has is a wonderful asset. And give her the knowledge that you think your life is better because she’s in it. Make your eyes light up when she comes into the room.

    • $1028912

      You know, I don’t agree — I would have appreciated the effort of what you call the “patronizing lie,” when I was little, and asked my mother if I was pretty, and she always said NO.
      Because of this, I’ve told my own daughter she was pretty from the time she could understand words. I thought, soon enough, she’ll figure out how the world sees her, which all of us do in time — but when she was a preschooler, I let her be “pretty” in our home.
      And come to think of it, it’s not a “patronizing lie” — I do think she is pretty, even if no boys make excited faces when she walks into a room.

      • Blobee

        Well, it would have bothered me (to be told I was pretty) because my experiences belied that. I hope pretty girls are told they are pretty, but I would guess most of them figure it out by the 4th grade anyway, when all the boys have crushes on them.

        I didn’t write so I could throw a pity party for myself. What can I honestly do about it anyhow? Hopefully I have overcome a need for that kind of attention, and hopefully my lack of physical attractiveness has made me develop other parts of myself that helped me build good self esteem based on other things.

        But I do speak from some somewhat sad and potentially bitter experiences, that are facts of my life. I think I have overcome some of the negative effects, and just accept the reality of not being pretty in a world where beauty is very important. Yet, just like racism, you can never really get away from someone, somewhere, negatively reacting to you based on looks. It stings, but well, so what? (Ever go on a blind date where the guy doesn’t even bother to hide he is repulsed? Not too fun.)

        With regards to telling girls they are pretty, do whatever you think is best. But I don’t think self esteem really comes from someone telling you that you have attributes you can clearly see you do not have. I think it comes from a sense of accomplishment and feelings of competency.

        • Sara McD

          You have written very kindly and thoughtfully in your response. I enjoyed (wrong word maybe) reading your point of view.

        • $1028912

          Well, I don’t mean fourth grade — I mean early childhood, when I was still a preschooler. I probably wasn’t objectively pretty — my mother kept my hair very short to make it easier for her to take care of it, and I was sometimes mistaken for a boy. But I think my grandmother gave me the best answer of all, when I asked her if I was pretty. She would say, “Well, I think you are — you’re pretty to me.”

          I think of this whenever I see people get professional portraits taken of children with severe physical disabilities (such as this one: http://loudgator.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/juliana_wetmore_03.jpg ). It makes me think those kids are loved, and pretty in their own way, in the eyes of their loving parents.

          Pretty is just a small part of the overall picture, as you say.

    • wineinthewater

      Is the problem that they lied saying that you were pretty, or that society has consistently lied to everyone saying that you aren’t?

      But I whole-heatedly agree with your third paragraph. It’s important for us to tell our daughters (in a collective sense) that they are pretty. But it is just as important to laud their other attributes.

      • Laura Paxton

        They didn’t lie. Every woman is pretty. I think that’s what Blobee is trying to say. The lie she is referring to (and correct me if I’m wrong, Blobee) is that only certain standards of beauty should be applied.

    • Laura Paxton

      I was told that it was “shallow” to worry about such things. (My parents were college profs.) But, it’s like turning a blind eye to the obvious to do such things. Blobee has a point. We should seek out and affirm the beauty in others and not just the obviously beautiful others. We all have beauty and our unique beauty should be pointed out. I agree with Simcha that we do need to hear we’re pretty. I didn’t know I was until my mid-twenties, for some reason. I was always after attention from guys to try to validate being okay. Beauty is a part of being a woman. Even women who don’t fit the “cultural” sense of what that means, such as Blobee, are beautiful and need to hear that.

    • ThereseZ

      Truer words were never spoken. I am tall, tend to be bulky, with big hands and feet. My looks tend toward the earnest Germanic type. My mother’s family is tiny and brunette and darling. I was told I was unlucky to “inherit the wrong side’s looks.” I was never told I was pretty – mostly I felt like I scraped through to acceptability by the skin of my teeth.
      Over time, I have a few features that are invariably commented on and take comfort in those, but it would have been so easy for the overly strict harsh peoples of my family to compliment me on my taste, if not my looks.
      I can remember a few times when a man looked at me “that way” in a crowd, and I wish I knew what it was that made me stand out as attractive. Happiness and confidence, probably.
      I have a friend who is most definitely not attractive if you sort out her physical features individually, but all our lives, men have stopped on the sidewalk and looked at her and talked to her. Again, probably confidence.

  • Anna

    Amen, Simcha! I keep seeing things about parents being afraid to tell their daughters they are pretty since they don’t want them to think that’s all that’s important – but it’s ridiculous to be so gun-shy about *any* mention that your daughter is beautiful. It seems that several of the comments here think this means we should all go around telling all females they are pretty, but as far as I can tell, this was directed at parents, not single young men. And I completely agree with Brett Salkeld here that if you can’t see anything beautiful in a child, especially your own daughter, your sense of beauty is severely stunted. That’s not saying that everyone will grow up to be beautiful in the physical sense of the word, but every girl should be seen as beautiful, by her parents at least, and told so (with the caveats added by Kristin inDallas about timing).

  • NurseTammy

    When I was little…if someone told me that I was pretty, my mother said “yea, she is pretty ugly and pretty apt to stay that way”. I don’t do the same to my daughter.

    • $1028912

      Hmmm, this makes me wonder if my own mother had another secret family somewhere else, and if you’re my long-lost half-sister.

      • NurseTammy

        long lost half sister…kind of like that !

        • $1028912

          It’s a great concept, isn’t it? But you might like it as much if you ever met me. 😉

    • Sara McD

      Misplaced guard against vanity?

      • NurseTammy

        Probably. I have a friend who is a very successful author who has struggled with eating disorders after harsh taunts from her mom. Her mom is now very old and ailing and said to her daughter “You were so smart, I had to put you down in some way”. : (

        There is a whole world that is well placed to put us all down, we need the few allies were given in life to bolster us up. When we cant even count on our parents to help us see the good its a harder fight.

  • Sadie

    I dunno, my father never ever told me I was pretty, or indeed commented on my appearance at all other than to say, “You look nice!” when I was all dressed up for holidays. It wasn’t in a neurotic way, like he was avoiding the subject– I just think it really didn’t occur to him to assess my appearance positively OR negatively (and he was a very involved, supportive dad in other respects).

    I only realized as an adult how awesome it was to have a home where I was not being judged on my looks *at all*– especially as a teenager, when I assuredly did not feel pretty and would not have believed statements to the contrary. Not being told I was pretty (OR ugly) was, for me, at least, kind of like that commercial seems to suggest– refreshing in its capacity to relieve me of self-consciousness about appearance and open up a space to focus on *doing* stuff, not just *looking* a certain way. Horrifying as it is to say it, I’m with Verizon on this one.

    • Fallulah

      And you didn’t turn into a slutty slut like this blogger suggests? Shocking.

  • http://www.culturewitness.com/ Lea Z. Singh

    Children and youth get their main messages about their appearance from their peers, not from parents. The “rating” they get from their peer group is such a huge deciding factor here that I’m not really sure that parents can make much difference in their children’s self-esteem by pumping them up as “pretty”.

    As some of the comments mentioned, children already have a very good idea of their own attractiveness before parents utter a word about this matter. What’s more, while children do expect their parents to think of them as attractive, they won’t see their parents’ words as convincing about the truth of the matter. Real self-esteem regarding their appearance only comes from appreciation by the members of the opposite sex who are not part of the nuclear family.

    • $1028912

      This is definitely true for older kids, but not for preschoolers. I started asking my mother if she thought I was “pretty” before I had any friends outside the family, let alone boyfriends.

  • Eileen

    Let me first say that I hate any commercial that presumes to tell me how to parent my own children. Second, if anybody thinks huge numbers of girls aren’t going into STEM subjects today simply and specifically because their parents told them they were pretty or otherwise kept them down, that’s just silly. Aaaah – I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. :)

    One of the weirdest things my daughter has ever done is gotten involved in the truly bizarre world of Irish Dance. It’s uncomfortably close to toddlers in tiaras. However, the plus side is that our daughter is poised, used to performing in public, and really just all around physically lovely. Although I’m not a girly girl, our daughter is very used to doing her hair and makeup when she needs or simply wants to look good. We’re heading off to Nationals next week and we’ve already got the spray tan scheduled. The flip side is the kid is very bright and a top notch student. We’re expecting National Merit, AP Scholar, the whole nine yards. She also won a college book award for science at this year’s awards assembly. Take that Verizon and stick it where your false dichotomy don’t shine!

    Finally, in our looks obsessed world, I think it’s cruel not to acknowledge a child as handsome or pretty. Both my husband and I are as inclined to greet our sons with a “Hey, Handsome!” as we are our daughter with a “Hey, Pretty Girl!” I find some of these posts quite sad. I don’t think I’ve ever met a child who was ugly. Sometimes I think they might need their teeth fixed or their skin cleared up, but not pretty at all? Hog wash! Tall, big bones, no curves? Julia Roberts!

  • Sheila C.

    Is there any proof that little girls so crave to be told they’re pretty that they will turn into skanks just to get compliments? Or do they just take the compliments they’re given and feel happy? ( My own parents said it sometimes, not super often, I never particularly believed it, I never really tried to get told I was pretty. My own husband doesn’t care very much how I look, and it’s one of the things I like about him because I know I won’t always look like this. It’s just kind of a non-issue for me; I don’t remember ever craving to be told I was pretty.)

    We do know that kids try very, very hard to give us more of the things they get compliments for, and you can watch them do it. Tell a kid he’s a fast runner and watch him suddenly start running everywhere. Tell them they work hard and they’ll work harder. The trouble with being told you’re pretty is you can’t help it. You don’t know how to keep being pretty or be more pretty. But you do get the impression that that’s the most important thing about you, if that’s all anyone ever says about you.

    At any rate, it’s a moot point because it is absolutely impossible for a little girl NOT to be told she’s pretty all the time. Even if you, her parents, don’t, everyone who meets her will. I’m not a believer in saying it all the time, but when I see an adorable little girl it just pops out, because, well, they are so adorable!

    But I think it’s a good point to remember not to ONLY compliment girls for being pretty. Give them compliments as well for things they can actually work on — virtues, talents, skills. Make sure they know they are valued for things they can do as well.

    • MarLee

      Very important points!! Beauty can disappear in seconds in an accident or a fire, or in war, etc. If their ‘worth’ is in how they look, what happens to them when those ‘looks’ are suddenly gone forever? Beauty on the inside can NEVER be taken away…. far more important for all of us to realize that looks are only skin deep….

      • Eileen

        Yes, external beauty can disappear in seconds, but so can intelligence, and the ability to play the piano, and any other attribute, even the ability to be nice if certain sections of the brain are damaged. It’s best to try to raise well rounded children and part of that is definitely telling them that they’re physically attractive.

        • MarLee

          If you noticed my first statement, which originally was separated from the rest, you will note that I did not disagree with the article … and yes, accidents can also cause brain damage that can disrupt an entire life. That is a given.
          Beauty on the inside IS a well rounded human being. Nothing in my statement above implies that we never tell our children that they are attractive’handsome/pretty/good looking, whether a daughter or a son. =)

  • Sara McD

    My friends and I joke that if we had an ugly child we’d never know it. Isn’t that what love does? Maybe other people don’t see what I see, but to me my three boys are so good to look at – big eyes, long lashes, shiny hair, strong arms and legs, quick smiles. If a child doesn’t grow up to be pretty in a worldly sense, it should be internalized that love makes things lovely.

    Similarly, I am an average-looking person – I have my share of pretty but not an over-abundance – but my husband prefers me to all others, desires me above all others. That is the most lovely feeling. He tells me I’m beautiful and it doesn’t feel like a lie even though I think I’m a pretty accurate judge of my appearance.

    • Eileen

      I feel this same way. I never fail to double over with laughter when my husband will look deep into my eyes and say, “You are so beautiful”, pause, and then give the Joe Cocker, “to me”.

      Here’s an interesting article. A woman sent a picture of herself to photoshoppers in different countries and asked them to make her beautiful. Unfortunately, some of them are a reflection (or lack thereof) of the photoshopper’s skill, but the experiment highlights just how much beauty is in the eye of the beholder. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-19-different-countries-define-beauty-2014-6?op=1

      I can’t help but think if a little girl’s daddy doesn’t think she’s beautiful, who will?

  • Stephanie

    Do I remember reading in St. Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography that she was so noticeable as a child that her parents (Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin) would not allow comments to be made about her appearance (that she could hear)? Am I remembering that correctly? If not, someone please correct, and if so, does that add anything to this discussion?

  • Noah_Vaile

    I would never tell my daughter (or my granddaughters) that they are just “pretty.” “Pretty” would be a part of a sentence that included “smart”, “good”, “responsible”, “loving” or some other positive attribute descriptive, and always included “I love you” as well.

    Because my little girls are and were all these things and so much more.

    When it came to clothes/outfits – “pretty” would cover it; but I also added something about her good taste in clothes if/when appropriate.
    Quite often little girls dress-up “interesting.”

  • Arbustin

    Nothing in this commercial said not to tell your daughter she’s pretty. It just warns not to tell her that beauty is the only value and that she could be “pretty” in other ways too.

  • Molly

    Thank you,thank you, thank you! Of course, girls should be complimented for their intelligence and similar qualities, but there’s nothing wrong with telling them that they’re pretty too. Women bring beauty to the world, and it starts with their very appearance.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    I must admit, I’ve been taught that expressing noticing beauty is sexism when it comes from a man- and gets one suspected of the worst possible motives.

  • Fallulah

    I think you entirely missed the point of the commercial and you are way off base on your assessment of what a little girl would do if she wasn’t constantly being called pretty all the time. I think putting the emphasis on her worth being tied to her looks is what makes women look for misguided sexual attention from men. (They think it is all they have to offer)
    Also, they aren’t saying little girls can’t strive to take care of themselves and embrace their sexuality and their looks, they are making the point that that shouldn’t be the whole of what girls consider their value in this world. Being a well-rounded person, appreciated for more than just looks….I don’t see how this could possibly translate to feelings of “guilt” or “anxiety”. I would think being upheld solely as an object of lust would translate into those feelings but knowing your partner appreciates you for more than your looks…that’s empowering.

  • anna lisa

    Funny, I don’t remember my parents saying much about my/our looks, unless I was despairing about something. They would suddenly go from zip to everything, but I felt highly suspicious of their bias. My Mom’s friends would lavish praise–but same story. Maybe I just don’t remember because my Dad is so doting on his granddaughters in particular. I went through a really awkward stage that even my husband remembers , and sniggers about(skinny braceface with a wannabe Farrah Fawcett do). That changed. I never gloried in any feminine power though. I honestly wanted to get married soon so I would feel protected. The attention of men made me feel like prey. I started praying for my future husband when I was 16. That should merit me a dunce cap from feminists everywhere. My mother would tell me that I could be anything I wanted, but that puzzled me because, while I could relate to being a missionary or something like that, I thought *her* job–queen of the household–was pretty good. What woman wouldn’t want to be the queen?
    We tease her a tiny bit, but she is revered by every last one of us. My eighteen year old once told me that I had NO RIGHT to aspire to being that kind of housewife. “You were born too late for that” he said.
    My husband? He’s putty in my daughters’ hands. He tears up and thanks me for them. He thinks they are the most beautiful girls on earth. It’s sweet.

    • Blobee

      I like this comment, because it seems real; like this is really how (some) people are viewing the world. Kids DO have a radar that tries to screen out “parental bias” or “friends of parents bias.”

      (And a little off topic) I too was always puzzled by the “you can be anything you want” statements. Sorry, I was never going to be able to be an astronaut (glasses, too tall, not athletic), a neurosurgeon (fat fingers, bad fine motor control, can’t understand chemistry), or a ballet dancer (clumsy as heck). But hey Mom and Dad, tell me what you think I might be able to be successful at based on your knowledge of the world and what you observe about my natural talents. Suggest careers that use that talent, and tell me what the path is to get there.

      So is this commercial to tell your girls they’re pretty promoting the same kind of dumb idea like the one to give all the kids trophies at the end of a season on the idea that a trophy will bolster their self esteem, (but instead it either made kids feel entitled or devalued trophies altogether)?

      Just love your kids. Do what seems best for them.

      • anna lisa

        Blobee. you are so right about the worthiness of that instinct which is to “just love your kids”. What this means is a recipe for each one. I’ve been doing this parenting thing for so long, but have never felt so humbled by it. I find myself sending out more S.O.S s to God because the more I know, the more I know that I don’t know. The only thing that is true, the one thing, the ONE BIG thing is –(as you instinctively stated): be as open to love as you can possibly be–so you can pass it on. Some need one thing and the other needs another–guidance in this direction, brakes on that direction. Without love it would be so tempting to apply a cookie cutter. Love would be exhausting if we were left to our own devices, but since God IS love, it brings us new life and energy to learn the language of each human being that has been entrusted to us.
        (and I trust that God will make whole, every decision I ever made that was based in fear, rather than open-ness to *love*)…

  • MarLee

    The statement with the * is hidden…
    *Actually, recent studies show that kids do worse when you praise them for being smart. If you want them to do well in school, praise them for working hard, for starting over when they fail, for pushing themselves, for being diligent and responsible. Being smart is not especially useful if you’re a lazy, vain, and addicted to praise (ask me how I know!).

  • donttouchme

    Girls and women all like to be treated diminuitively and called cute or pretty IF they are attracted to and/or look up to him. It makes them feel gooey inside. If they aren’t attracted and/or look up to him it can feel anywhere from repulsive to offensive to degrees of awkward depending on who he is. Probably some women who never got treated that way as kids don’t understand it if it happens as an adult so they’re skeptical or angry at the idea of it, or men might not hit the right notes and elicit a repulsed or awkward response or possibly get branded as “sexist,” which is probably less likely than getting branded as a “creeper,” but in this context usually means “issued a compliment while not being attractive enough.” “Sexist” means unattractive but with power, complimenting a woman. “Creeper” means unattractive and no power, complimenting a woman. I doubt any of it has anything at all to with whether or not daughters achieve. That’s just talking around the issue.

  • Joseph Hayden

    the girl in the video is adorable, from infant to science fair. who would say she’s not pretty? father/brothers/uncles see you as family, the unfamiliar (literally) gets noticed, but the familiar is loved. all girls are pretty. it’s their nature.

  • bill b

    Hooray.

  • http://www.NewFeminismRising.com Theresa Martin