Boys & Beauty

People often debate the nature versus nurture argument when it comes to the differences in boys and girls. Personally, while there are some natural differences, I think most of the personality differences we see between boys and girls are nurtured, especially those related to hobbies and interests. But even if you do not agree with me on that, you can’t deny that our society inundates little girls with propaganda that makes them prioritize beauty, boys, marriage, and motherhood. I was in Barnes and Noble the other day glancing through some children’s books and had to stop and gasp every two minutes at what books are out there for young girls. Here is a small sampling…

Photo courtesy of wickenden

Beauty Day — I can’t deny that I like wearing nice clothes and dressing up a bit, but I don’t need to learn that when I’m 8 years old. At 8, girls shouldn’t be blow drying their doll’s hair or playing with fake make-up (although these days I think girls are even wearing real make-up at 8), and learning that they need to have their full hair and make-up done before leaving the house. And if there’s no need in teaching boys about beauty, I don’t see why it’s necessary to teach girls about it. Teaching girls to focus on their beauty likely warps their sense of worth. They learn from a very young age that their looks are what are most valuable to them and this conditioning further perpetuates the patriarchy in our society.

Photo courtesy of "MyNameIsHarsha"

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Boys — Apparently “boys” is “the number one topic of conversation for girls 8 to 12 (gag), so this book gives tips such as “sit behind him on the bus” and “put your towel next to him at the pool.” Really, I don’t need my 8 year old (if I had one) using her swimsuit body to lure a boy. We’ll get enough of that when she’s 16.

Why do we teach girls to be obsessed with boys? Don’t we have better things to occupy their time with? School maybe? Reading? Girlfriends? Is it really necessary to encourage girls to have crushes, and then to act on them? Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with a crush — but placing importance on such things at a young age doesn’t help set the right priorities for girls. Our society conditions them to believe that life will be incomplete without a guy at their side.

Scratch and Sketch Wedding — I’ll concede that this one may not be so bad. There’s nothing wrong with using drawing skills to “design a wedding.” What is wrong, though, is that such a book would never be made for boys; boys are not asked to express themselves artistically by drawing wedding tuxedos or gazebos. This is just another example of society pushing girls to dream up their big future wedding when they are as little as three years old. We set girls up at such a young age to look forward to something that will happen (if ever) so far into the future. And we make it a life goal for them to get there. Boys, on the other hand, have no such pressure to start thinking about how they must find the perfect girl for themselves at the age of three. Instead, boys are taught to focus on success and to have “fun” with girls on the side. Why do you think so often women just can’t wait to get married, while men are uninterested?

Our society needs to move away from the stereotypical roles for girls and boys. When societal propaganda seeps into kids at such a young age, they are being set up to follow traditional gender roles and desires. I know I wouldn’t want to raise my daughter to believe her wedding day was the number one most important thing to look forward to, long before she even fully understood what that means. More importantly, I would not want to raise her to believe that her physical beauty is what’s important about her.

Pop culture is so saturated with messages of gender stereotypes that they become impossible to ignore. It’s imperative to take a more active role in keeping such products and messages away from children, as companies are definitely not doing a good job of it.

Many of you may have seen this already, but this is a little girl we can look to as an example and inspiration!