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How do you talk to little girls?

August 6, 2011

Simone de Beauvoir argued, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” contrary to what muddled arguments confusing sex and gender tell us.  Gender roles are imposed on many of us from day one, and often times, these roles are subconscious. Sometimes they’re blatant.

Growing up in a Latino home with a conservative grandmother, sexist statements ran rampant. My brother never had to wash dishes after dinner. Why doesn’t Carlos have to wash dishes but we do, my sister and I would ask bitterly. Porque el es hombre. He’s a man. (He was only a boy). But nevertheless, this was the response and you weren’t supposed to argue. I suppose we somehow learned to take these types of instances with a grain of salt, because luckily neither my sister or I have grown up subscribing to these roles or “responsibilities.” I think I always knew it was a bit of an injustice, but I also knew where my grandmother came from, so it was forgivable on some level. But what happens with statements that are especially subconscious – statements that seem innocent and mostly complimentary?

In her article, “How to Talk to Little Girls,” Lisa Bloom explains, “Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything.” Complimenting cute dresses, cute hair braids, polite manners, etc., is putting the emphasis on the wrong thing. Yes, it’s not as extreme as imposing the roles of a 1950s housewife on a kid, but it can prove to be damaging to a girl’s self-image and expectations. Lisa Bloom explains how we can instead get in the habit of empowering little girls through simply asking them questions about what might interest them. “So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling.”

Read the article here. And see how one blogger, Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo, puts Bloom’s idea to the test.

above photo via here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Christina Grey permalink
    August 10, 2011 5:40 pm

    I loved that article when I read it and I am glad you mentioned it. The gender issues of today are much more subtle than in the past, but that just makes them harder to detect. It’s important for us to think critically and be aware of our actions and our feelings if we want to effect progress.

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