How to talk to little girls, huh? It's gotta be simple, right? Just put them in a cute outfit and tell them they're pretty. Easy enough, right?
I thought the link (above) is an interesting read (written by Lisa Bloom, Attorney and Best selling author) about some of the habits and traditions we incorporate in our actions and in our speech; and how these things simply happen without even thinking about them (telling our female children and grandchildren how pretty and cute they are). But when you think about the reasoning/traditions behind just the simple "you look so pretty" to a little girl, you start to realize that we've all been conditioned by society, by marketing, by consumerism, and by ideologies generations old. Well done, America. Well done. But we're onto you now!
With each new generation, young men and women are becoming more aware and more educated. Lauren and I were taught at Berkeley (shout-out to our parents for encouraging us to go there!) to look at life through a different lens, one that challenges our perceptions of society, and how gathering as much information as possible before making decisions can provide us with the best foundation for those decisions (one easy example is our decision to use in-home preschool platforms for our girls' education; and what if we followed the norm and went with your standard traditional preschool? Well, by thinking outside the box, we've afforded Ashby the opportunity to be practically 2 years ahead of pace from what those traditional systems offer). Simply put, doing what everyone else is doing is easy. Being traditional is easy. Blending in is easy. Yet, thinking outside of the box can sometimes be challenging, yet more rewarding.
The above link is about the simple way we speak to the young girls in our world (and for Lauren and myself, how we speak to Ashby and Reese): telling them they're pretty, or adorable, or cute, or beautiful, or anything having to do with their looks. It doesn't seem harmful, right? After all, we all think they're cute, right? But as we begin to understand why we speak to young girls this way, we begin to realize that we've all been conditioned to believe that for little girls, physical beauty has value; or that it's IMPORTANT at all. After all, they're our own personal human dolls to dress up and show-off, right? There's nothing wrong with being proud. We all are! But for us (and for many who agree with the article), it's how much emphasis is placed on their looks that can become a long-term issue for our beautiful (on the inside) girls. That physical-appearance value is then absorbed into their psyches and becomes what they see as valuable. After all, telling them they're pretty shows them that the adults in their world value it. So they should too.
But as we start to think outside the box, we'll begin to realize that telling little girls they're pretty is not doing much for them; if anything, it can be detrimental to how they perceive themselves. De-valuing physical appearance, even at this young age, will give them the self-confidence necessary to ignore and de-value what society, consumer-America, and what both the boys & girls in their lives are going to throw at them as they grow up; and it will help us all gain a new perspective on what's been ingrained in all of us since American mass media/marketing techniques became a mainstay of consumer culture since the post second-world-war era.
Wow, did I really just tie American History and commercialization with telling a little girl she's pretty? Yep. Like I said, before: well done, America. Your little subconscious mission for us to condition our girls to love pink so you can create the pink toy section at every store in America and make us buy more "things" is beginning to deteriorate. At least with the Raher family! And don't get me started on the Disney princess phenomena! Talk about consumerism at its finest. What value does a "princess" have in the real world: nothing. Do we live in England? And even if we did, if you're not born into royal heritage, growing up to be a princess is a worthless concept. But it sells tickets, and toys, and clothes, and concepts to little girls. Well, they're not selling those concepts to the Raher girls. The only good thing for Ashby about the hit song "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen is she's singing her little lungs out everyday, and that I can support!
Of course our Raher girls own pink clothes, and they receive pink gifts; but they also get to press the hand-drill when I'm doing a project, and they get to help "pop" spiders when their mom runs away from them; and they get to play in the mud and get dirty; and they are always encouraged to paint, draw, scribble, sing, dance, read, run, scream and use their minds whenever possible.
Here's a neat Verizon commercial about the domino effect of keeping girls "girls":
And finally: a special shout out to my brother, Brendan, and his wife, Elise who are some of the best people we know at thinking outside the box! Hell, within 3 months, they just left San Francisco and bought a house in Portland! Talk about not doing things the traditional way! But they've established what they value in life, and they make that the focal point of their energies and efforts. And when it comes to interacting with our family, Brendan and Elise have always been great with Ashby, asking her what's on her mind, encouraging her to move and run and dance and sing and laugh. And then joining in with her. Our Raher ways/mindset can be attributed entirely to one of the greatest think-outside-the-box people ever: Grandma Kooky! Thanks Grandma Kooky for making even my mind explode with all your "kooky" ideas! You're a think-outside-the-box pioneer. If they gave gold medals for thinking outside the box, Grandma Kooky would not only hold the olympic record, she'd be the national team coach.
To our extended family: thanks for taking the time to just understand, and reflect, and help us encourage our little girls to think outside the box too!