On Talking to Little Girls
I came across this article a few weeks ago, and although not written by an educator, Lisa Bloom has some interesting thoughts as to how we talk to little girls, particularly the impulse to give a compliment on outer-appearance as an icebreaker to start a conversation. It’s socially accepted, and even polite in some cases, to greet people this way, especially women and girls, but maybe we should bite our tongues and think a little more critically before haphazardly greeting little girls with compliments about their clothing or appearance. Bloom writes,
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything…. 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.
I’ve been wondering about just how often I do this, and it’s made me realize that, although I like to think that I generally don’t discriminate on account of gender, there’s always room for improvement. So how can we shift conversations with girls away from beauty, and toward valuing the female brain? Bloom makes a relatively simple suggestion: books!
Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she’s reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does.
Will this change the way women are treated and create more equity between the sexes? Probably not, but it is one nudge toward showing a little girl that, above all else, we value her thoughts and ideas.
Read the whole article here.