Saturday 10 August 2013

Valuing female brains

I'm not big on 'celebrating' Women's Day (9 August in South Africa; public holiday); although I do appreciate the day off... This public holiday commemorates a march by 50,000 women (1956) who protested against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act - protesting against the laws that forced black people to carry passes and have curfews (restricted movement).

It is now a day about women's rights. A day where workplace inequalities are highlighted. A day where violence against and the abuse of women is again brought to public attention.

And then there are the companies with their commercial offerings of make-up, perfume, lingerie, slimming aids, jewelry and kitchen goodies - specials for women on Women's Day.

And then there's all the internet waddle with pink and frilly images telling women how wonderful / special / amazing they are. Oh, and pretty and beautiful.

I do not approve of propagated hogwash like this; regardless of who is quoted. 
Last week a friend shared a link on FB for a piece written by a blogger on the topic of 'How to talk to little girls'. If you have a little girl or if you interact with a friend's daughter/s, please read it - I hope it changes your conversational perspective. I'm glad that this article was passed on to me because it will very much guide my interactions with my niece ('adopted' as I don't have any siblings) in years to come.

Five weeks old and snoozing on my shoulder - my favouriteness.
In short, some of the first comments said by people to little girls is "You are so pretty", "That's a lovely dress", "You look beautiful"...  All these do is to confirm, affirm and teach that looks are more important than anything else.

Sure, there is a place for appearance-related compliments but it is definitely a good idea to stay away from them as a conversation starter. And, to highlight the child's other interests and activities as important. Valuable qualities too - like being kind, considerate, interesting, honest, responsible...

This theme ties in with a conversation I had with a newly-made friend in Argentina. She's a similar age to me and was telling me about this guy and that guy that she's dating. So I asked how she manages to get to go on all of these dates, often dating more than one at a time. She meets them mostly through sports and friends and she finds that playing 'stupid' is the key. The less capable she appears, the more success she has.

Giving an example she says, "Say I've met a guy at a running race, I'll ask him about his shoes and advice for my next purchase". She laughs. She'll ask about training or races - generally acting uninformed and not very clued up. And it works, very successfully.

"So that's my problem," I reply. "In South Africa I'm asked about shoes, training and races!"

Something that stood out for me in Argentina was that a majority (and a seriously large majority) of women wear their hair long and, mostly, straight with a middle parting or a fringe. There's not much variety in hairstyles, colour (dark brown) and very few women with short hair - despite the abundance of hair salons. This same friend has long, curly hair. I asked her about the hair thing. "Men like long hair" was her response.

In years to come I hope to read, talk and play with this little girl as she grows from baby to toddler to child and into her teens. You can be sure that I'll value her mind and demonstrate this to her through our conversations and interactions.


adventurelisa said...

A friend made an excellent comment: "Do you not think, perhaps, that Audrey Hepburn was actually right in saying that what makes someone pretty is their happiness and how that exudes beauty in itself? I'm totally down with that, because bitches will never be pretty; they'll just be bitches!"

She's quite right. Yet the image used, of this little girl all made up, isn't about beauty on the inside shining out, it's about dresses and accessories and make-up and fancy hair that make someone pretty and happy.

I think Audrey meant something quite different to how her comment is being visually portrayed.

Lobby said...

Interesting blog L, Stella can't wait for ur next visit!!