Lauca really couldn’t give a fuck. She likes pretty dresses, she likes new clothes, but that’s about it. She doesn’t care how she looks, she doesn’t care if her clothes don’t fit, her skirt is falling apart, and her hair is unbrushed and full of food. She’s not yet seven years old so I shouldn’t care either, but I do. Because I am not like her, I give plenty of fucks when we’re out in public.
Even if I can put my own issues aside I seem to be worrying about Lauca’s social life. Lauca’s best friend has developed a precocious interest in ‘teenage girl culture’. Her friendship with this best friend is increasingly under strain. The best friend has the neatest hair in the world. This friendship of theirs, which has been for almost half their life might not be forever and that’s ok, but I wonder if it is a vision into my daughter’s near future. I am torn between celebrating Lauca’s innocence and apparent immunity to the more suffocating features of ‘girl culture’, and worrying about her being rejected soon by school friends for not being sufficiently aware of ‘girl culture’. Mostly I’m all up in the celebration stuff but I won’t lie, there is a bit of me disturbed by all that ‘couldn’t give a fuck-ness’, too.
So, you can file all of this under Not Terribly Brave Or Feminist Parenting.
Aaaanyway, the excerpt below is from an excellent piece about ‘girl culture’ and the incredible emphasis on appearance that we teach girls, from here in the Huffington Post:
By interacting in these ways, girls are being nice to one another. They’re complimenting each other. They are telling each other something important about the world and their place in it. By the time girls are on Facebook they’d have to be living in the outer reaches of upper Mongolia not to know how important it is to be beautiful in our culture. They want their friends to be happy and succeed in that endeavor. What are the roots of self esteem in this equation? Primarily the way they look. And that’s because it’s what our culture tells them…
.. Early adolescence is particularly stressful on adolescent girls’ friendships and peer relations, and often means a marked increase in indirect relational aggression. (Mean girls… ) Relational aggression is both more common in girls and more distressful to them. It includes behaviors such as spreading rumors or threatening withdrawal of friendship. It starts happening as girls negotiate power relations and, this is really important, affirm or resist conventional constructions of femininity. That when photographs and their comments come in to play and have more weight than might otherwise be ascribed to them. The photos and comments have power to define girls. Even girls who do not fit the mold of “traditionally” popular, beautiful and thin girl, if they are well-liked, are supported in this way – through compliments that focus almost entirely on looks, with smatterings of “You’re so sweet!” and “You’re so nice!” The opposite is also true. That’s why cyberbullying can so quickly escalate to cause real harm.
And then there’s this one, too, on the horror of seeing body image issues emerge in your young daughter, from here on Rachel Simmons.
The sun has set and we’re putting another day to rest. In the confusion of this typical weeknight, I glance up from the floor at my seven year old daughter, standing on the step stool, completely undressed, brushing her teeth. I don’t like the way she is looking at herself in the mirror. I don’t like the way she pokes at her belly and frowns at her profile. I watch her for another minute and step in.
“What’s up, girl?” I ask. “I’m fat.” she responds without hesitation. I’m instantly weak. She continues, “My stomach jiggles when I run. I want to be skinny. I want my stomach to go flat down.” I am silent. I have read the books, the blogs, the research. I have aced gender studies, mass media, society and culture courses in college. I have given advice to other mothers. I run workshops and programming for middle school girls. I have traveled across the world to empower women and children in poverty. I am over qualified to handle this comment. But in reality, my heart just breaks instead. I am mush. Not my girl.