By ALANA SCHETZER
When my niece was born earlier this year, it was a joyous occasions. And getting to know her and watch her grow and change into a little person has been equally joyous.
She’s just five months old but she’s already a giggling, happy, cuddly bub with a sharp mind. And yes, with big checks, a peaches-and-cream complexion and deep blue eyes, she’s also pretty.
But I’ll never tell her that.
‘‘Look at you, you’re so pretty!’’
‘‘What a nice dress you’re wearing.’’
‘‘Who did your hair? That look suits you.’’
I don’t have a problem with girls getting compliments on their looks per se. It’s when it becomes the overwhelming factor that is said to them — at the exclusion of what they think and what they can do — that it becomes cause for concern.
And that’s exactly what’s happening to my niece and it makes me feel…uncomfortable.
By contrast, when my nephew was born five years ago we all told him and each other how cute he was, but family and friends also quickly about his precocious intelligence and how strong he looked.
Simply put, boys get comments on what they do; girls get comments on how they look.
I want my niece to grow up thinking about what she can do and what she can achieve. I don’t want her to judge herself or expect to be treated differently by how she looks.
I’m not suggesting that girls who are told they’re pretty grow up to become vacuous beauty-obsessed women. But far too often, still, comments about women’s looks are used as a means to reassure us of our worth as people. If we’re deemed beautiful, it’s okay and we’re okay. The message that’s sent is that if a women isn’t pretty — look out for the diplomatic alternatives: ‘striking’, ‘interesting’ and shudder, ‘handsome’ — it’s only then that we’re allowed to have our personalities, intelligence and achievements take centre stage.
It’s not easy to stop doing, as I’m trying to. Whenever my mum and I talk on the phone, not a conversation goes by when we both fail to mention how gosh darn cute the littlest member of our family she. And she is. But she’s also inquisitive, affectionate and seems to be increasingly impatient to start crawling. She’s sharp and by all means looks like she’s going to be a fast developer.