I can't get this recent column by Lisa Bloom out of my head.
In the piece, Ms. Bloom asks us to question our habit (It is my habit. Is it yours, too? I fear it's our collective, societal habit.) of always complimenting little girls on what they're wearing or how they look when greeting them.
Before reading this article, I never questioned this behavior, in myself or others. I mean, I don't tell our neighbor's 6 year old she looks like a beautiful shiny princess! or tell the 9 year old down the street she looks so slim in those new pants! But I often remark on how colorful their shoes are or how fancy their dress is or how much I like their pigtails. Because I do! I love those things!
And I like to give and receive compliments as much as the next woman. Compliments are one of the biggest social cues we females use to grease the wheels of social interaction. To tell someone I like you! or I'm friendly! we resort to complimenting their clothing, shoes, physique.
Since reading this article I am shocked to notice just how hard it is for me to say something, ANYTHING else to a girl when first greeting her.
I love your dress! comes rolling off my tongue before I can stop it.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with complimenting a girl on her dress, especially if she's particularly excited about it. But when we always focus our attention on how girls look, I have to believe it feeds into a deep cultural pressure to value looks above all. And if this is the prevailing message everyone, EVEN US FEMINISTS, are sending to the little girls in our world, isn't that sad? And harmful?
I'm going to work on finding other ways to greet the little girls in my world. Will you do the same or do you think this is a load of hooey?