"Mum, do I look pretty"? I can't stand the question but to make matters worse my five-year-old daughter doesn't buy my response. Fair enough, my answer is long winded. I explain that pretty is your soul, it is who you are inside - your passions and how you treat others. Problem is; she just looks at me like I am a fool and says "no it isn't, pretty is what you look like".
I fully appreciate the kind gesture and the thoughtful meaning behind the appearance comments, but we shouldn't be so naive as to the impact it is having on our girls and boys. The message girls are receiving is that we value what they look like, more than what they do. The message boys are receiving is not dissimilar, that girls are an object of beauty.
We have actually discussed this issue before, in another post called Stop Calling Our Girls Cute, but I wanted to raise it again, because I am being asked the "am I pretty" on a daily basis, and it is starting to concern me.
Did you know a staggering 85 percent of ten-year-old girls in the USA have actively dieted? Since I am Australian, I wondered if the statistics there were as alarming, only to read that 70 percent of adolescent girls have body dissatisfaction. But, then I remember back to my teenage years and university life, and I am surprised the statistic isn't higher. At my university college, we had the First XV, selected by the boys, of course. No, I am not talking about the girls who were picked for the rugby team, I am talking about the "hottest 15 girls at college". Discussed and decided in great detail, and documented on the noticeboard by a group of young men, many of whom have daughters of their own now. I often wonder how they would feel if their daughter were subjected to this game? I wonder if they are fully aware of the damage discussions of this nature can have on girls. I wonder if the girls in college today would stand up against this behaviour, or be as intimidated as we were 20 years ago?
So at the moment, I dread the "am I pretty?" question, but it is nothing on how much I am worried about where this could go if we don't change the situation. In short, we need to stop emphasising the importance of appearance.
For that reason, I beg you, the next time you see a girl, of any age, please do not comment on her appearance. Look her in the eye and talk to her about music, sport, school, books, anything but how she looks. They are listening to everything, and the greatest compliment we can give is to take a genuine interest in who they are, not what they look like.