Dear Pretty Dresses and Photographers


Dear Pretty Dresses and Photographers,

Okay so I had a silly bit of angst yesterday and it was caused by pondering this comment on Dear Makeup from my friend Etellerandet:

….Everyone praises her for being beautiful. Now, I’m not saying everyone should call her ugly to toughen her up but she’s not getting any other praise “that was kind, that was brave, that was clever, that was hard work, that was funny, that was friendly, that was good sharing” it’s all “pretty/beautiful”. So, her only feedback is “good work for putting on a dress today” I constantly tell her she’s “strong” and so she thinks that is a feminine and admirable quality. ….

…..For what happens the first day at school when someone calls her ugly, or fat, or spotty, or gangly, or something. Her entire self esteem is based on needing her appearance praised. It’s going to be extra horrible. More horrible than for a, say, a boy who’s only ever been praised for being good at active things. (with the occasional “handsome!” thrown in)

Yesterday was photo day at playgroup.  I put the girls into really pretty dresses and did Oddler’s hair in bunches (I am no hairdresser- had to redo it several times and it still looked shit).  I know I wanted my girls to look smart for the photos but there were a few issues I was pondering overthinking firstly my girls virtually never wear dresses, Omble is always in babygro’s and Oddler is in whatever is to hand but usually stretchy trousers and comfy tops, so I was sort of pondering why I was recording them for posterity in not their usual garb but then it is nice to have “dressed up smart” pics to look back on too.

The other issue I was pondering is Oddler already is saying lots of “pretty dresses, I like pretty dresses” and twirling about whenever in a dress.  Yesterday she went one step further and was admiring herself constantly in the mirror and saying “I look pretty today mummy”.  Now it’s true she did look completely adorable dressed up, and she got so much feedback from all the other mums (and me) at playgroup about how pretty she looked that I could see her swelling with pride (before doing her usual of trying to take all her clothes off and run around naked again!).

So yesterday I could really see how self esteem about appearance starts at such a  young age especially in the girls.  The boys at playgroup were told they looked cute or smart but not really and not coo-ed over in the same way the girls were.   Don’t get me wrong I am not about to stop telling my daughter she is beautiful to try and avoid angst around her appearance as that won’t work at all as all there are other influences also making her feel appearance is so heavily valued, and an absence of that validation from her own mum could really mess her up, but what I am saying is as a mum I do need to be aware of my balance of praise towards Oddler- so that it is much more about what she does than how she looks.

Or am I worrying too much again?

Love LadyMotherOfDaughtersCurd

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5 responses to “Dear Pretty Dresses and Photographers

  1. The other day my youngest (who has a rather ample tum) stood up in the bath, stroked his tummy and said, rather proudly, “this would make a great photo”. All in all, I was rather pleased with his attitude (if a little worried at what future career beckons… )
    We do tell youngest he’s pretty – because he is. We also tell ourselves his “theme tune” is “Fit (but you know it)” by The Streets. I get the impression you can have more fun with this if you have a boy (or maybe we’re just always flippant parents).

  2. I worry about this too. I have two very girly girls who love wearing dresses to ‘look pretty’. They also love tottering around in my high heels, wearing (trashing) my make-up & swooshing around in my scarves. Do they get this from me? I don’t know, probably. They love watching me put on make-up & getting ready to go out, they are fascinated by the whole ritual. I guess the best we can do as mums is try to build their self esteem in other ways that don’t just revolve around appearance but at the same time I want my girls to feel happy in their own skins regardless of what others think. I’m constantly wondering (over thinking) if I’m doing the right thing!

    • When I’m putting on makeup my sons always say “what’s mummy doing?” and my partner always gives this “making herself even more beautiful” response. It always really pisses me off! I can’t help feeling there’s an element of “silly woman, can’t think why she’s doing this” without him acknowledging the social pressures we women are under. I don’t know, I probably read too much into it. But I don’t want my sons to grow up simultaneously expecting women to wear make-up but also thinking they’re silly and vain because they do! (I also want my sons to know they can wear make-up too!)

  3. I think it’s probably ok to say a girl looks good in a dress, you just need to balance it out with praise for other things like bravery, strength and leadership?

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