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How to Talk to Little Girls
June 28, 2011 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How to Talk to Little Girls. "Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It's surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I'm stubborn."
posted by John Cohen (137 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Did she slip the kid her mom's business card? Talking to a 5 year old about peer pressure is fairly ridiculous. I wonder if Maya's mom had to pry her off the child.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:01 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Ask her what she's reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You're just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain."

Well said. In fact, anything that is different from the cookie cutter responses that five-year-olds get will be appreciated and will get you an enhusiastic and much more animated response. You go with your bad self too, Lisa Bloom.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:04 AM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


I avoid Huffington because every time something is linked there it is so mind crushingly stupid that I myself become a little dumber just knowing it exists. You can take almost any quote at random and reading it will make your eyes roll, guaranteed.

That's why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows.

"Maya," I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, "very nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too," she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.

"Hey, what are you reading?" I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I'm nuts for them. I let that show.


Holy Christ, the whole fucking thing is so stupid it's remarkable. My favourite part; I told her that I'd just written a book, and that I hoped she'd write one too one day. She was fairly psyched about that idea. We were both sad when Maya had to go to bed, but I told her next time to choose another book and we'd read it and talk about it. Oops. That got her too amped up to sleep, and she came down from her bedroom a few times, all jazzed up.

Uhh, yeah. There's a whole fucking book meme about how toddlers won't go to sleep, visions of literary awards and writing in a cabin beside a misty lake with a steamy mug of coffee at your side wearing rugged yet fashionable outdoor performance fleece isn't what was keeping the kid awake.

What a stupid article.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:04 AM on June 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


What does she like and dislike, and why?

And if her answer is that she likes Hannah Montana and doing her doll's hair, there's something wrong with that?

Meh.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:05 AM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ideefixe, I think there are ways to address per pressure without mentioning complex terms.

To me this is definitely an interesting subject, given that if not for my mom's talking to us (and particularly to me), my sister and I would have ended up hating each other, with everyone mentioning how gorgeous I was, being lighter than her. I know for a fact she had self esteem issues that even I as a child could see. At 7, I started telling people my sister was actually prettier than me only they weren't smart enough to see it. At 27, I can tell you she's beautiful and interesting more so than I am), and all the adults who thought they were paying me compliments are heartless or brainless assholes.
posted by Tarumba at 10:07 AM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Talking to a 5 year old about peer pressure might be fairly ridiculous to some, but it isn't necessarily ridiculous to everyone. I am frequently amazed by the extent to which my (only just turned 4) son cares about his peers' opinions.

And even if Lisa Bloom did take it a bit far, I don't think it's unreasonable for the adults who are talking to small children to be careful and take note of what they're implying and what patterns of thought they're reinforcing. (I'm not suggesting we can all do that all the time, but that every little bit of consciousness helps.)

Why is this article stupid? 5 year olds are not toddlers (at whom the meme was aimed); and if she answers that she likes hannah montana and doing her doll's hair, then you can still engage her mentally on that topic. Just like you would a little boy who answered that he likes pretending to be a fireman (or whatever other stereotyped strawman you might choose).
posted by Fraxas at 10:08 AM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


What a surprisingly good article for HuffPo!

Yes, some of it is a little stuffy, but it's really true that clothes and appearance are the standard "opening line" for talking to little girls. I'm guilty too. There's got to be more variety.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:08 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


And if her answer is that she likes Hannah Montana and doing her doll's hair, there's something wrong with that?

I think the point was more that you shouldn't assume that is what she wants to talk about.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:08 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


You know what icebreaker is always a winner with kids that age? "Wow, your shoes are SO cool! I wish they made shoes like that for grown ups!" (Seriously, have you seen kids' shoes? They're all awesome.)

And no, I'm not still bitter that my parents refused to let me wear light-up sneakers as a kid, not at all.
posted by phunniemee at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2011 [28 favorites]


is it bad that I'm playing the who-has-kids game with commenters so far?
posted by Fraxas at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Holy jeez, folks. The whole point of the article is that little girls are often interested in things other than looking like a princess, and if you make the effort, you'll see that for yourself. Five years old is not too young to talk about peer pressure. Kid's gonna face it pretty soon, and she's already reading a book about it. Why not discuss it further?
posted by katillathehun at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


This is good - I always try to ensure that my conversations with little girls are not based around stupid, outdated gender stereotypes. That being said, I rarely talk to little girls, 'cos girls have cooties. And cooties is the silent killer. We all know it, guys - let's not deny it. COOTIES.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:10 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Talking to them like they're people is is my natural reaction to 5 year olds. I don't need to work it out in an article on the internet. It's all the sheeple of this world that need to work out why it's my natural reaction.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:11 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Even bright, successful college women say they'd rather be hot than smart.

Maybe that's because they are smart already.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:14 AM on June 28, 2011


Taking to 5-year-olds about peer pressure isn't really that ridiculous. My parents started talking to me about drugs and sex and all of those things from a pretty young age (always in a manner appropriate for my age). A lot of what they said stuck with me, because they didn't wait until I was a teenager to try and bring it up.

As far as talking to little girls about things other than how cute and pretty they are, is it really that hard to do? Maybe it's because I'm a guy, but I don't think I've ever talked to my friend's daughter about those kind of things. We talk about farts and boogers and Scooby Doo and give each other the stink eye.

She likes to dress-up and play princess (which sometimes concerns her mother), but that doesn't mean I have to talk to her about those things. Hell, she doesn't even want to talk to me about those things.
posted by asnider at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I LOVE books," I said. "Do you?"

Yesterday, I told my two-year-old daughter good night and said "I love you."

Her response: "I ... love ... BOOKS!"
posted by mrgrimm at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [77 favorites]


I talk to 5 year olds like people. The only difference is that I leave out the rude stuff. GOD!!, I remember being five and hating how people talked to me in baby voices, and acted like I didn't hear/understand things they said to each other, including things about me. I can hear you, you know.
posted by Xere at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why are we learning how to strike up conversations with random girl children? I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing
posted by Renoroc at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Five years old is not too young to talk about peer pressure. Kid's gonna face it pretty soon..

If by pretty soon you mean yesterday. My wife teaches 3 year olds. She sees peer pressure even at that age. One forceful outgoing 3 year old can get the whole room to do his bidding.
posted by COD at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sets them up for dieting at age 5

Telling a little girl that her nightgown is pretty sets her up for dieting at age 5? My daughter is only three, but I'll be very surprised if she starts turning down cookies any time soon.
posted by diogenes at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keith: I'm not sure I understand your ire towards the article. Do you perhaps believe that little girls shouldn't hear about books? Or that grownups shouldn't ask little girls about what they like to do? Or that little girls should be seen and not heard?

I'm honestly not sure what about this article got you so angry. Especially since I probably was that little girl long ago and I know I certainly dug it when grownups asked me about more things than my dolls and dresses.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


One forceful outgoing 3 year old can get the whole room to do his bidding.

Happens right here in MetaTalk.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


That being said, I rarely talk to little girls, 'cos girls have cooties. And cooties is the silent killer. We all know it, guys - let's not deny it. COOTIES.

I often tell my little girl she has cooties, which leads to a mad chase around the house as she tries to give her cooties to me, her mother and the cat.

Of the 4 of us, the cat is really the only one who doesn't think this game is the best game in history.*

*Other than the game where we dress Mouse in clothes and then throw him off of various heights.*

*Man, the therapy bills are going to be enormous.

posted by madajb at 10:20 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Taking to 5-year-olds about peer pressure isn't really that ridiculous.

Talking to 5-year-olds about anything isn't really that ridiculous, as long as you put in in the proper context.

As far as talking to little girls about things other than how cute and pretty they are, is it really that hard to do?

I was going to say I'm with you there (and I agree it's not), but then I think about the sheltered, progressive area where I live, and how many people tell me how cute my daughter is or how they love her sweater or hat or whatever, and how much, much less her male friends get that sort of comment.

A lot of people see a little girl in a frilly pink dress and let the cuteness overwhelm them. Little boys are just as cute, but it's not as socially common to comment on it, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:21 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for Keith, but the article makes me angry because it says stupid things.
posted by diogenes at 10:21 AM on June 28, 2011


What things does it say are "stupid"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing

I'm pretty sure that's why sheeple take the "safe" route and ask them about the ribbons in their hair. Anything else and you're a pedo. If you're a 45 year old guy with no kids, you've lost before you ever leave the gate.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:24 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


It would never cross my mind to ask a little girl about dolls and dresses and prettiness. Do people actually do that in real life?
posted by Vaike at 10:24 AM on June 28, 2011


I don't have kids (so you don't have to spot the parent with me) but I've also never liked to talk about hair or clothes or who's pretty. There are a lot of us out there, who are women. I hang out with my friends who have kids fairly often - over the weekend I had a fascinating conversation with a four year old girl about roller coasters, and what features made them better (versus the lame merry-go-rounds). Then her younger sister joined us and we talked about which dinosaurs rocked the most. So while it might be "hard" for her to not talk about certain things, that's totally on her - not all of us.
posted by librarianamy at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would never cross my mind to ask a little girl about dolls and dresses and prettiness. Do people actually do that in real life?

All the time. Trust me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


I gotta say, if you actually have little girls and you are not raising them in the past or in pageant world, this article seems like Notes From Obviousland.
posted by padraigin at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why are we learning how to strike up conversations with random girl children? I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing

Why does conversing with children give you a "pedovibe?"

Are you actually suggesting that no adults should ever talk to young children who aren't their own?

Kids are cool. Go talk to one.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:26 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


I like to talk to kids about sheeple. They're half-sheep half people! How silly is that?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:27 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Part of what irks me about this article is that it makes no sense from a parent's perspective. Like I'm going to put my daughter in a new nightgown and then ask her how she felt about the fiction article in the latest New Yorker. Yeah, I'm going to tell her it looks cute. I promise not to put her on a diet.

I can kind of appreciate the advice when it applies to small talk with other people's kids, but I still feel like it's hyperbolic to suggest that leading with a comment on a little girl's shoes is going to cause her psychic harm. Small talk is superficial, whether you're talking to a kid or an adult. I don't ask adults I just met if they like books either.
posted by diogenes at 10:27 AM on June 28, 2011


I gotta say, if you actually have little girls and you are not raising them in the past or in pageant world, this article seems like Notes From Obviousland.

I gathered that the article was geared towards people who don't have kids, though -- it's for people who meet a friend's kid or the neighbor's kid and don't know enough about that kid's interests to know what else to talk about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:28 AM on June 28, 2011


Talk to kids like they're people. Real people. Even adult people. Not about 'adult' things, but about people things. You would not approach a real person and say, "Oh, spin your ruffles for me little princess."
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


They seem to like it when you listen to what they say.
posted by Trochanter at 10:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


humboldt32, are you using "sheeple" ironically? Could you maybe pretend you are?
posted by katillathehun at 10:28 AM on June 28, 2011


I don't ask adults I just met if they like books either.

....Okay, wait -- why not?

That is a sincere question. why not ask someone you just met if they read anything good recently? I thought that kind of thing was a "small talk 101" sort of thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Talking to a 5 year old about peer pressure is fairly ridiculous.

From this, I deduce that you have no kids.

You know how the army teaches you how to handle a rifle before you're deployed in the field? Or how you get taught defensive driving before you're allowed on the highway, or how to read before you need to figure out what those fancy colors on the warning label mean? It's kind of like that.

It would never cross my mind to ask a little girl about dolls and dresses and prettiness. Do people actually do that in real life?

All the goddamn time. All the god damned time. It's awful.
posted by mhoye at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why are we learning how to strike up conversations with random girl children? I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing

It's her friend's kid, not a random child. There's nothing pedophile-like in talking to children, so tone down the melodrama.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:31 AM on June 28, 2011 [26 favorites]


Keith: I'm not sure I understand your ire towards the article. Do you perhaps believe that little girls shouldn't hear about books? Or that grownups shouldn't ask little girls about what they like to do? Or that little girls should be seen and not heard?

It's pretty shitty to imply that Keith Talent's objections might be due to misogyny. There's nothing in what he writes that suggests that. Indeed, his objection seems to be with the self-satisfied tone of the author. I'm not sure why you can't defend the article without trying to trash those who disagree with you.
posted by OmieWise at 10:31 AM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


What things does it say are "stupid"?

Complimenting little girls on their appearance leads to dieting 5 year olds? You find that to be a reasonable statement?

It would never cross my mind to ask a little girl about dolls and dresses and prettiness. Do people actually do that in real life?

If a little girl walked up to you while holding a doll and wearing a silly play dress, you wouldn't ask her about either of them? What the hell would you ask her about?

Note: little girls are often holding dolls and wearing silly play dresses.
posted by diogenes at 10:31 AM on June 28, 2011


I just shout at them "google Ron Paul!"

Actually I've never spoken to a kid and I never intend to.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:31 AM on June 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


humboldt32, are you using "sheeple" ironically?

No, I don't think that I am? Are you not understanding my point about what people do without thinking?
posted by humboldt32 at 10:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although to be fair, even adult women field a lot of small talk about our appearances from strangers. I see it recommended as a conversational icebreaker in magazine articles so often I want to kick something.

I have noticed that a favorite smalltalk topic that people use on my kids is to ask them what they want to be when they grow up, which to me is just another version of "So what do you do [to make money]?", a subject I've so thoroughly excised from my repertoire that I don't know the occupations of almost everyone I've met in the last year and a half since I moved to my city.

Ask kids of any gender what they like to do for fun, which is what I ask grownups at parties. The answers are way more entertaining. I know what all my new acquaintances do for fun.
posted by padraigin at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


It would never cross my mind to ask a little girl about dolls and dresses and prettiness. Do people actually do that in real life?

If a little girl walked up to you while holding a doll and wearing a silly play dress, you wouldn't ask her about either of them? What the hell would you ask her about?


That's pretty much what the article is about. You talk to her about what she thinks, not about her appearance.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


why not ask someone you just met if they read anything good recently?

As one of the first three sentences out of my mouth? That's usually where I would work in a comment on something a little girl is wearing or holding. I like to wait until sentence five or six before I ask them what they're reading.
posted by diogenes at 10:34 AM on June 28, 2011


My favorite book as a kid was one about elephants. Girl elephants were pink, wore bonnets and ruffles, and ate flower petals. Boy elephants were gray, ate leaves and grass, and played in the river. Girl elephants rebelled, broke free of their bonnets and ruffles, and charged into the river to play with the boy elephants and eat leaves and loudly said fuck off to the patriarchy.

It was a good book.
posted by lydhre at 10:35 AM on June 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


Wow. For a second I thought I might have clicked on a different link because I have no idea what there is to get your hackles up about in that article. I mean, maybe it's a little self-satisfied but geeze guys, don't you ever read anything and just go "meh"?
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:36 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You talk to her about what she thinks, not about her appearance.

What if she's wearing a diaper on her head that she covered with smiley face stickers. Can I comment on that?
posted by diogenes at 10:38 AM on June 28, 2011


Why are we learning how to strike up conversations with random girl children? I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing

RANDOM GIRL CHILDREN THREAT LEVEL CHART

Age 0-2: UNSAFE (girl child cannot really talk, therefore cannot consent to participating in conversation)

Age 3-10: UNSAFE (girl child's parents may misinterpret your small talk as a friendly gesture intended to validate said girl child's status as developing human being, do not proceed without legal counsel)

Age 11-17: ESPECIALLY HAZARDOUS (any communication with a girl child of this age counts as "sexting")
posted by hermitosis at 10:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [28 favorites]


Complimenting little girls on their appearance leads to dieting 5 year olds? You find that to be a reasonable statement?

If that's mostly what you talk about with her, thus teaching her that looking good is both her job and the most important thing about her, then yes. Kids respond to what we don't say as well as to what we do.

There are ways to talk about appearance with kids..namely "cool [whatever]! I like that!" Works for boys with tractor shirts as well as girls with princess shirts.

But it's a dead-end conversationally to just keep exclaiming over a shirt, so then you move on. If she's holding a doll, instead of saying "How pretty!" ask, "What's her name? What are you two doing today?" Much more to talk about.
posted by emjaybee at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, does this apply to boys? Almost every 2 year old boy I know would like to talk about trains, and pretty much nothing else. All of the books he reads are about trains.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if she's wearing a diaper on her head that she covered with smiley face stickers. Can I comment on that?

Ask her: "What were you thinking when you put that diaper on your head?" There you've covered both bases.
posted by asnider at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


geeze guys, don't you ever read anything and just go "meh"?

If you just write "meh" it counts as thread-shitting and your comment gets deleted. Better to effectively derail the whole thing with a glib overreaction.
posted by hermitosis at 10:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm going to write a similar article about how to talk with commodity brokers. Maybe we can cure some of them of their morality disorders.
posted by any major dude at 10:44 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why are we learning how to strike up conversations with random girl children? I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing.

Oh for god's sake - shut up.

I'm not around kids much, but a friend brought her daughter to our crafting group last weekend, and said daughter and I discussed dogs. It never crossed my mind to talk about her looks or clothing. We talked quite a bit about my dog (who was there), her dog at home, and another friend's dog that was sitting on my lap. I later got a spontaneous hug and wave goodby, so I guess dogs are a pretty good topic.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:45 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


oneirodynia: you just said everything valuable in that article with 12 words.

"You talk to her about what she thinks, not about her appearance."
posted by crush-onastick at 10:45 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


You would not approach a real person and say, "Oh, spin your ruffles for me little princess."

Well, not anymore. The job interview had been going so well up to that point, too.
posted by Drastic at 10:48 AM on June 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


I talk to little girls the way I talk to adults: I ask them what they're reading and then tell them it's stupid and that they should read more Paul Auster or at least some Philip K. Dick.
posted by klangklangston at 10:51 AM on June 28, 2011 [32 favorites]


The last time I talked to a random little girl, I asked her if she'd seen any good movies lately, and she answered "Interview with a Vampire."

I wasn't really sure where to go from there.
posted by Pants McCracky at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Complimenting little girls on their appearance leads to dieting 5 year olds? You find that to be a reasonable statement?

If that's mostly what you talk about with her, thus teaching her that looking good is both her job and the most important thing about her, then yes.


I'm not trying to be difficult. Are there really five year olds who restrict their own diets? Like you offer them ice cream, and they tell you they're trying to lose weight? That happens?
posted by diogenes at 11:00 AM on June 28, 2011


Oh man, I am so guilty of this, too. I was a late invitee to a 3 year old girl's birthday party this weekend and the first words I said to her were complimenting her on her dress. I'm trying to think of the last little boy's birthday party I went to and what I said to him (other than "Happy Birthday"). I'm pretty sure it wasn't a compliment on his outfit.

I do sometimes compliment a woman on her accessories or shoes (guys, too) if it is just a random stranger. But at a party, I usually ask them how they know the host/ess and what they do for a living. I'll have to try the "What do you do for fun?" line in the future.
posted by jillithd at 11:00 AM on June 28, 2011


I wasn't really sure where to go from there.

I would avoid New Orleans.
posted by Grangousier at 11:03 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You would not approach a real person and say, "Oh, spin your ruffles for me little princess."

Not to derail, but it is not uncommon to approach a real (female) person and say, "Smile! You should smile more!"
posted by jillithd at 11:03 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty."

I used to have these conversations with little girls all the time. When I was five. It's not that hard if a five-year-old can do it.
posted by Eideteker at 11:03 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's pretty shitty to imply that Keith Talent's objections might be due to misogyny. There's nothing in what he writes that suggests that.

The article was about using "anything except appearance" as the conversational default for little girls. Keith said that was "stupid." How ELSE was I supposed to take his observation?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately a lot of women tend to judge each other on their appearance: bodies, hair, makeup, clothes, shoes. I think it's great to initiate conversations with little girls that don't involve how they look. It fosters a different and longer lasting sort of self esteem that's based on who they are inside, rather than what's fleeting and based on their outsides.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article was about using "anything except appearance" as the conversational default for little girls. Keith said that was "stupid." How ELSE was I supposed to take his observation?

You have misrepresented what he wrote, or, rather, you have made an assumption about what he wrote that is unwarranted and is contradicted by what he wrote. True, he called the article stupid, but he did not call the thesis of the article stupid, or in any way imply that he thought the idea of talking to little girls about "anything except appearance" was stupid. Indeed, he quotes a passage and then mocks it, with the mocking specifically targeted at the ridiculous tone, poor understanding of children, and inflated self-regard, of the writer.

I think you're looking for a fight, and are very uncivil for making unwarranted accusations about people with whom you disagree.
posted by OmieWise at 11:13 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


The article was about using "anything except appearance" as the conversational default for little girls. Keith said that was "stupid." How ELSE was I supposed to take his observation?


Keith said the article was stupid, not the thesis of the article.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:14 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keith said the article was stupid, not the thesis of the article.

Then I'd like Keith to explain what the difference is, because he failed to make that clear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keith's comment cracked me up because of its abrupt, over-the-top venom -- it reminded me of Scott Meets Family Circus!

Anyway, not speaking for anyone else -- I think the article is fine, but I can see how it might come across as a little precious and self-impressed -- not in content or intent, but in tone.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:21 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I later got a spontaneous hug and wave goodby, so I guess dogs are a pretty good topic.

Or leopards, if you're my friend's kid. If you're really lucky, she might do her wicked impressive leopard growl for you. She can do several different subspecies' vocalizations.

(What can I say? Kid likes leopards. A LOT. She's homeschooled and she's a really fascinating girl with a lot of interests and things to say. She's probably the only small kid I really LIKE talking to, if only because I get to learn new things about leopards and stuff).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:21 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Space Coyote: Keith said the article was stupid, not the thesis of the article.


Actually, before he described the article as stupid he said:

Holy Christ, the whole fucking thing is so stupid it's remarkable.

After a description of asking a child what she is reading. That could well be an expression of contempt for Bloom's writing style, but it's by no means clear.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:23 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not trying to be difficult. Are there really five year olds who restrict their own diets? Like you offer them ice cream, and they tell you they're trying to lose weight? That happens?

This recent blog post, Fear of Fat: Preschool Girls and the Thin Ideal is less scholarly (and had surprising even to me evolution of Barbie pictures), but refers to a recent study: Body Size Stereotyping and Internalization of the Thin Ideal in Preschool Girls.

There's actually a lot of research about how early children start to be sensitive to weight and dieting.

I don't know how much is freely available because I'm at a university computer, but...

This (relatively old) one, Five-year-old girls’ ideas about dieting are predicted by their mothers’ dieting, 2000, is particularly on target:

Depending on the question, from 34% to 65% of girls aged 5 years had ideas about dieting. Compared to girls whose mothers did not diet, girls whose mothers reported current or recent dieting were more than twice as likely to have ideas about dieting, suggesting that mothers’ dieting behavior is a source of young girls’ ideas, concepts, and beliefs about dieting. Among mothers, more than 90% reported recent dieting, and most reported use of both health-promoting and health-compromising dieting behaviors.

On the broader questions, this is an extended quote from one particular paper (Does Barbie Make Girls Want to Be Thin? The Effect of Experimental Exposure to Images of Dolls on the Body Image of 5- to 8-Year-Old Girls, 2006) that has an extensive bibliography:

A recent study on the link between weight status and self-concept among 5- to 7-year-old girls (Davison & Birch, 2002) demonstrated that higher weight was related to lower body esteem and a more negative self-concept but that these links were mediated by social influences: peer teasing and parent criticism. Increasing parental pressure was captured in a recent article on the fear of childhood obesity, leading parents to such extreme measures as putting babies on diets or hiring personal trainers for 5-year-olds (Bernard, 2004). These findings emphasize not only the importance of social pressures of thinness but also attitudes toward weight. Indeed, 6- to 13-year-olds showed evidence of body dissatisfaction, with all age groups wanting to be thinner (Gardner, Friedman, & Jackson, 1999). Children from age 4 to age 6 were shown to favor a thin body (Musher-Eizenman, Holub, Edwards-Leeper, Persson, & Goldstein, 2003), and Cramer and Steinwert (1998) reported that 4- to 5-year-olds showed an aversion to “chubby” figures, whereas 3-year-olds did not.

This general “antifat” attitude is particularly pronounced in girls, who show higher levels of body dissatisfaction than boys and a stronger desire to be thinner (Oliver & Thelen, 1996), which increases with age: 40% of girls from age 8 to age 9 wanted to be thinner, compared with 79% of girls from age 11 to age 12 (Maloney, McGuire, & Daniels, 1988). A recent study on 5- to 8-year-old girls concluded that girls' desire for thinness emerges around age 6. Using a figure silhouette rating task, Lowes and Tiggemann (2003) found that, on average, girls as young as 5 years already desired a thinner body than their current figure but that this discrepancy became more pronounced in 6- to 8-year-old girls. Thus, girls' body dissatisfaction starts to emerge at a very young age, possibly from 5 years onward.


Like her article or not, she's responding to a real issue.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [30 favorites]


Metafilter: Holy Christ, the whole fucking thing is so stupid it's remarkable.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:27 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to talk to kids about sheeple.

I've chased my nieces (4 and 8) around the yard shouting "Wake up, sheeple!"

Kid likes leopards. A LOT.

That's the great thing about kids; you can have lengthy conversations just on the topic of favorite animals, why they're your favorite, why they aren't your favorite, etc. I always pick the liger.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:30 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a kid, I would have hated this level of scrutiny from a random adult. I would have squirmed away once she started with all the questions. But then again, I'm old and my parents were old and 1/2 foreign and when I was growing up adults didn't attempt to make friends with children. We (the children) were mostly like cats skulking about while the grown-ups drank and ate paella.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


yes, diogenes, it happens. It's ABC's hysteria of the month story, but similar findings been reported other places as well. Wall Street Journal article on 4th grade girls (8-9 y.o.) who are dieting.

A study conducted at Penn State shows that "Dieting, weight concerns, and body dissatisfaction have all been reported in children as young as age 7 to 9 years, and these reports are more common among girls than boys, with approximately 40% of elementary school-aged girls reporting that they have tried to diet to lose weight (4–7). " A British study (PDF) shows that body dissatisfaction issues emerge between ages of 5 and 7 in girls. I can't find the article right now, but in the last 3-4 years, there was a study done to determine diagnostic criteria for early onset anorexia nervosa. Here is an article (PDF)discussing early onset (meaning age 14), but noting an increasing need for diagnostic criteria in treating disordered eating in very young children.

Media madness aside, yes, it happens and it's really fucking sad. I've heard girls as young as five worry about needing to diet or look good in the bathing suits. I'm not sure they know what either thing really means, but they know it's supposed to matter.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:35 AM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Complimenting little girls on their appearance leads to dieting 5 year olds? You find that to be a reasonable statement?

It's not saying that if you take a girl and compliment her dress, that alone will cause that girl to go on a diet. Yes, that would be an unreasonable statement. We agree!

It's also not saying that EVERYONE who meets little girls talks to them about their appearance. I'm not sure why "I wouldn't ever do that" has to lead to "writing about people doing that is ridiculous and unnecessary."

Here's what I took from it, roughly paraphrased: "I try to keep in mind that when I meet little girls, they're often so cute that I'm tempted to break the ice by talking about the way they look. But it occurs to me that they'll have plenty of time to have people pay attention mostly to the way they look, and I've done some research on the fact that it puts them on a pretty tough road, so I try to talk to them about something else." It doesn't HAVE to be books. She's just saying, from her own perspective and based on her own work, "I figure girls growing up have enough aggravation coming about their looks, so I make a conscious effort not to lead with that."

I do think that for many of us, it's saying something we know in our bones, but it's just a thoughtful little "here's something that's worth keeping in mind" piece. She's not yelling at anyone, she's not saying you're a jerk, she's not saying that paying an individual kid an individual compliment about shoes is going to warp her for life. She's saying, in admittedly grandiose tones at times, "Let's do this one thing to try to make it a little easier."

And for what it's worth, for everyone saying that this would never make sense to a parent, or that it's something no parent would say, or that no parent would ever feel like this, I have seen this linked ALL OVER THE PLACE in recent days -- mostly by moms of girls. So.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:37 AM on June 28, 2011 [25 favorites]


As a kid, I would have hated this level of scrutiny from a random adult. I would have squirmed away once she started with all the questions.

Yeah, I generally preferred to be left alone by adults. It wasn't like I was under any illusion that they were my peers, so having a grownup try to be super chummy with me seemed kind of phony. But maybe it was just me, Holden Caulfield.
posted by Pants McCracky at 11:40 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I talk to little girls, I like to open up with a short discussion on the giving and receiving of high fives (or fist-bumps) and then see where the conversation takes us.
posted by jnrussell at 11:43 AM on June 28, 2011


You know what icebreaker is always a winner with kids that age? "Wow, your shoes are SO cool! I wish they made shoes like that for grown ups!" (Seriously, have you seen kids' shoes? They're all awesome.)

Why don't they? I mean, seriously, I've heard enough people say this that I'm sure there's some demand.

It's unfortunate that it would probably be socially unacceptable to wear them to work, though.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:48 AM on June 28, 2011


Why are we learning how to strike up conversations with random girl children? I'm getting a very uncomfortable pedovibe from the whole thing

The idea that striking up conversations with random children implies pedophilia makes about as much sense as the idea that striking up conversations with adult strangers implies an interest in rape.
posted by weston at 11:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


MeTa.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I’m siding with the people who talk to kids like adults. Except I try not to curse.
I don’t particularly care for kids (I’m pretty ambivalent as long as their not screaming). I don’t have that gene that thinks "OMG how precious". They’re just small, partially formed people to me, and that’s how I talk to them. I don’t expect them to know about Phillip K. Dick, but I try not to talk down too much. I’ve never understood the way some adults talk to kids.
posted by bongo_x at 11:54 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I never talk to little kids because I'm awkward enough with adults. With kids, I turn into full-on Dwight Schrute: "Greetings, small one. You are the future."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


Talking to a 5 year old about peer pressure is fairly ridiculous.

My five-year-old son got in trouble at school, because a 1st-grader told him to steal something out of another kid's bag, and then break it. And my son did it, because he's five, and he trusts people. So I sat him down and we talked about stealing things being bad, and breaking things that belong to other people being bad, but he knew that already. What he didn't know -- and so what we mainly talked about -- was how foolish it is to do things that you know are wrong, just because other people tell you to do them.

Long story short, on a few occasions since, he's told me how some kid at school or camp tried to get him to do a thing he knew was wrong, and he told them no and walked away. So, no, talking to a 5-year-old about peer pressure is not ridiculous at all.
posted by davejay at 12:13 PM on June 28, 2011 [23 favorites]


I'm not an expert on pre-school age kids but it seems to work pretty well to talk about the things I do that might be interesting or weird to them, that they can compare to their daily experience. This is easy because they're usually midwestern so conversation starters include "I take a train to work" or "one time a rat ran over my foot."

Best response so far: "I ran over my dad's foot with my bike and he said the fuck word. But I'm not supposed to say it...Do you have a bike?"
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:14 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a kid, I would have hated this level of scrutiny from a random adult. I would have squirmed away once she started with all the questions.

Yeah, I generally preferred to be left alone by adults.


Me too, but I'm an introvert, and I'm shy. My wife is the opposite, and it's interesting to see which path my daughter will take. Sometimes she loves it, and sometimes she hides behind my legs. A LOT of young kids like talking with me, though.

I never talk to little kids because I'm awkward enough with adults.

I was the same way. You can get better if you want to. Kids of all ages used to terrify me socially.

Maya," I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, "very nice to meet you."

That's the best advice in the whole column. How to talk to a 5-year-old girl (or boy)? Get down on the floor.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:19 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are kids who are good talkers and really like to engage with anyone, including (or especially?) adults. I envy those kids, because I figure they're likely to have a pretty good time in life.

I actually would welcome an article about how to talk to kids who aren't outgoing, since they're the really tough ones to engage with.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was the same way. You can get better if you want to. Kids of all ages used to terrify me socially.

Same here, but it was like they knew. And they'd come to me anyway. I'd be sitting at the mall, waiting for somebody, and there'd be a kid. I'd be thinking please don't talk to me please don't talk to me please don't talk to me and suddenly HI. I CAN MAKE A FACE LIKE NYEAAAAAAAAAAAAH. CAN YOU MAKE A FACE LIKE NYEAAAAAAAAAH? NO LOOK. NYEAAAAAAAAAAAH! And before you know it, I'd be all, "Like this? Nyeaaaaaaaaah?" until I'd completely forgotten where I was, and kid's mom runs up all, "Uh... sorry. About him. We're gonna... go."
posted by katillathehun at 12:29 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the detailed answers to my question about dieting 5 year olds.

I still think that this is a stupid thing to say:

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5.

On the other hand this is an interesting (and troubling) thing to say:

A recent study on the link between weight status and self-concept among 5- to 7-year-old girls (Davison & Birch, 2002) demonstrated that higher weight was related to lower body esteem and a more negative self-concept...

The second thing does not equal the first and does not make the first any less stupid.

I use the word "stupid" as a shorthand for hyperbolic, misleading, and unsupported by evidence.

(Can you tell I've been reading the MeTa thread?)






posted by diogenes at 12:38 PM on June 28, 2011


Just talk My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Why is that so difficult?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I’m siding with the people who talk to kids like adults. Except I try not to curse.

Yeah, add me that crowd. My experience with small kids isn't very consistent but I did just run into some small boys (4-7) at an event I was DJing last night. Weirdly, they wanted to hear to some old Disco, and as no one else was paying me attention at the time, I appeased them. And they all danced which got their moms up dancing, which eventually got the whole party dancing. But there came a point when people didn't want to hear just old Disco which led to a few complaints from the kids, because they really wanted to hear Disco and only Disco. So finally, I told them, "Hey, I'm not getting paid to make just you happy, so relax, and maybe you'll learn something about how cool ALL music is," which is pretty much the same thing I'd have said to a drunk adult.

They shrugged it off and were later seen having a blast thrashing around to some T-Rex. Good times. Weird party.
posted by philip-random at 12:44 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh hey look it's a prepositional phrase attachment ambiguity!

("It sets them up for dieting at age five" can mean either "At age five, they are being set up so that they'll start dieting [when they're 10 or 15 or whatever]" or "[At age three or four,] they are being set up so that they'll start dieting when they turn five." Is that why we're bickering about whether five-year-olds can diet?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:47 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow...what a non-issue for anyone with half a brain.

We raised two girls who are now confident, competent, talented, independent 20-somethings. And two boys as well. No rocket science or voodoo psychology involved. The trick is not to over-analyze this shit or be constantly "aware" of gender, but to just treat them as kids -- young, easily influenced beings. Feed them right -- both stomach and head. Neither neglect nor spoil them. Don't beat the shit out of them. Encourage them. Don't speak to them like kittens. Expose them to life along the way. Instill a sense of humor.

We won't penalize you if you tell your daughter she's pretty, either. They actually respond positively to that sometimes.
posted by VicNebulous at 12:48 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


prepositional phrase attachment ambiguity!

I don't think that's it. Here's the entire sentence:

It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23.
posted by diogenes at 12:52 PM on June 28, 2011


I'm not trying to be difficult. Are there really five year olds who restrict their own diets? Like you offer them ice cream, and they tell you they're trying to lose weight? That happens?

I can't speak to this, but I have been around many young children who will take the ice cream but tell you that it's bad for them and they're bad for eating it. They're learned that whole "Oh, I really shouldn't," thing already from overhearing their moms, or their parents, tryng to educate them about nutrition, have gone overboard and convinced them that certain foods are just across-the-board bad.
posted by not that girl at 12:58 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


We won't penalize you if you tell your daughter she's pretty, either.

If you want to defend your right to tell your daughter she's pretty, it's probably more important and helpful to do it in a thread related to a piece where someone is saying a parent should never tell a girl she's pretty. If you read the piece, then you already know it doesn't say that. If you didn't, then it would be more constructive if you did.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


well, I disagree with you, diogenes that "Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5." is a stupid thing to say. It may be a bit hyperbolic, but I think it can well be taken as a quick and dirty summation of what happens when, beginning from the time you are old enough to interact socially, all your interactions begin with how pleasing you are to the eye. I think it is a fair statement of how it feels to reach middle age as a woman, suddenly aware of how tired you are of always knowing how attractive other people find you--or don't and how exhausting it is always to be expected to be more attractive.

I'll once again reference oneirodynia's remark, but paraphrase this time: Take care to talk to little girls about what they think, rather than about their appearance. The author of the (typically fluffy and tunnel-visioned) Huff-Po piece seems to me to be saying "Don't be another voice judging little girls on their prettiness because living in that sort of world is what makes some five year olds concerned about having fat thighs."

By the time your average American girl is 16--much less 26 or 36--she has spent so much of her life being reduced to, valued by, addressed as, categorized by, or referred to by her looks and only her looks that almost nothing cuts through the noise of "your value comes first from how pleasing you are to look at, how attractive you are to me, how thin and clear-skinned and well-groomed you are." I think it behooves everyone to reduce the din and practice seeing girls and women as their thoughts, ideas, their interests and their intents first and foremost I think everyone should practice not noticing how pretty or how daintily-dressed little girls are until the world no longer values women by their attractiveness first.

But, eh, I have your standard middle-aged ambivalence to the body wars. And I thought the linked article was a poorly drawn argument about the importance of paying attention to what signals we send to children about the values of the adult world.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's not that one compliment is going to be bad for the girl that you are talking to; it's a problem of cumulative effect.

Quite a few years ago, I taught a programing workshop for a summer camp for high school girls. We used StarLogo (which was pretty fun), and after introductory stuff to learn about flow control and such, the big project was to model a high school girl's interactions with (a) parents/family, (b) teachers/non-family authority figures, and (c) peers. The basic assignment was fairly simplistic: the girls got to choose how positive the interactions with each of the three groups were and how they affected the program-girl's enjoyment of and performance in math and english.

So all of the girls in the summer camp plugged in values that they thought were pretty reasonable... aaaand basically, if you considered these subjects as important and related to self-esteem, pretty much all of their program-girls would have been committing suicide or something within half an hour. I had a roomful of rather shocked and distraught high school girls.

So we talked about how it was a pretty simplistic model, and ways they could make the model more complicated and realistic, and some of them came up with interesting variations, such as adding in some resiliency factor. But even with their upgrades to make the model more realistic, their program-girls weren't doing great.

My moral in telling this anecdote is that most people tend to underestimate small but cumulative effects. Such as the fact that so many of girls' interactions, starting from a very young age, are about appearance.
posted by eviemath at 1:25 PM on June 28, 2011 [18 favorites]




It's also not saying that EVERYONE who meets little girls talks to them about their appearance. I'm not sure why "I wouldn't ever do that" has to lead to "writing about people doing that is ridiculous and unnecessary."


I do think that for many of us, it's saying something we know in our bones, but it's just a thoughtful little "here's something that's worth keeping in mind" piece.

Linda_Holmes, way up-thread

I couldn't agree more. I read the article as soon as the post came in and was amazed to watch the comments (and arguments) come flying harder than it's raining right now on my roof.

Yeah, the tone was kind of annoying (and self-aggradizing/promoting--"I wrote a BOOK" And maybe someday you will TOO") but seeing where the article originated, almost expectably so.

As a substitute teacher, facing a new group of twenty-plus kindergartners to multiple groups of high school seniors in the course of any given day, I read this and thought, yeah, it is important to stay away from topics of appearance and clothing. Of course there is a difference between school and a friend's house or the rest of the outside world. But I go out of my way to deflect questions from kindergartners (by way of introducing themselves to me, a new person with whom they will spend the rest of that school day) such as, "Ms. H.! Do you like my new dress?"
And redirect the conversation, etc.

I wish I had a dollar for every time adults praised my own appearance, and later my daughter's, in a reflexive, "This is how to talk to little girls," way. And never mind the possible sequel: "How NOT to talk to preteen and middle school girls," as in "My, how much you've grown up this past summer!" Or the equally offensive, "You're only x years old? You're certainly mature for your age!"

Well-meaning people of all ages and walks of life continue to take these approaches to this very day. Because they don't know any better. Maybe a few of them will stumble on this Huffpo piece and stop to think for a second. But I am an optimist.
posted by emhutchinson at 1:40 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mother of two and former small girl here. I think this is a good article considering its audience. My eldest, who is pretty, has had to struggle a lot with people's expectations and conventional views. Obviously, I am glad she is good-looking, but we have been through two years of crying every single day, because people resented her stepping out of the stereotype. Peer pressure was one thing, but even her teachers and several relatives insisted she should keep her mouth shut and concentrate on girly stuff. Now, she attends a school where academic achievement is valued, and she will talk back if anyone tries to shut her up.
Just don't think this doesn't happen.

I've learnt from this too. The little one is a punk. not a punk-rocker, just an old-fashioned un-combed, mis-matching clothes city-kid kind of person. No one pressures her, they sort of understand it wouldn't be a good idea.
I have to admit I spent time dressing my first girl up. Buying clothes for her, admiring her. We had fun together with all that. Until I saw how the conventions about girls and women really hit her.
posted by mumimor at 1:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I totally agree with the premise of the article, but man the article itself was irritating. Why on earth would you tell a friend's kid to do what you do? ("Someday you can write a book, too!") That's what seemed annoying to me - not the stuff about gender or dieting five year olds.

Talking to kids in a way that's all "You can be just like ME!" may not be as potentially damaging, but it's still not really a way to win friends and influence preschoolers.

(I'm a former nanny and preschool teacher and have never had a problem striking up conversation with five year olds of either gender. Usually ending a conversation is the difficult part. "Yes, that's nice, I'm very happy for your invisible friend who lives in your basement... I need to go now. No, really, I have things to do. Maybe NEXT TIME you can tell me about that one time your brother did that thing with his poop.")
posted by sonika at 1:58 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not trying to be difficult. Are there really five year olds who restrict their own diets? Like you offer them ice cream, and they tell you they're trying to lose weight? That happens?

My son attended a Make A Wish party for a friend who had been through some horrible near-death surgeries (he's doing well now, pleased to say!) at a fire station in the neighborhood. There was a huge spread of food made by the station cooks, including the good stuff (raw veggies) to the bad stuff (more than one plate of cupcakes.)

He was hungry, and eager to eat, but I made him wait until some older folks had filled their plates. Then off he went, filling an entire plate with broccoli and and few other assorted fruits/vegetables, and a piece of bread. He ate a cupcake about a half hour later, but didn't finish it. That's just how he and his sister roll, and not from trying to teach 'em to lose weight or crazy like that -- we just emphasize eating "real food" before "fake food", and making sure that you eat enough "real food" to keep your body alive and healthy before you eat the "fake" stuff.

Incidentally, I'm a mediocre parent and my kids do lots of terrible things, too. I just don't mention those here.
posted by davejay at 2:06 PM on June 28, 2011


Just talk My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Why is that so difficult?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:43 PM on June 28 [1 favorite +] [!]


Umm...because I'm not a Brony?
posted by asnider at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


god what a bunch of horseshit, both the article and the comments here. I've got a 5yo girl, am not a horrible parent, and have no problems discussing clothes, hair, makeup with my kid. You know why? Because she fucking loves it. Every morning she lays out 2 or 3 different outfits on the floor and calls me in to decide which is best. While my fashion sense is poor, I know jeans are too hot in the summer, etc. What is the harm in this? Its not like we dont go out at night and setup the telescope, looking at the new supernova in M51, talk about how engines work and how to deal with playground ruffles. But in addition to that, we talk about and dancing and hair is shit she likes. She also tells me how much she hates princesses, and despises my little pony, etc. Its not like they turn into some twisted miss america doll when you talk about topics that are associated with -gasp- girls.

grow up mefi
posted by H. Roark at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just talk My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Why is that so difficult?


A lot of little kids watch too much TV.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:13 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


H. Roark, are clothing choices the main think you talk to your girl about, or just one, incidental part of her day? Do 90% or so of the people who meet her first comment on her appearance, or do they first bring up other topics?

The article (and comments) are not saying that talking to girls about appearance is completely bad. They are saying that having appearance be the primary focus of a large proportion of a girl's interactions is bad, and leads the girl to believe that her appearance is proportionately more important than other things about her.

So if you spend more time looking through the telescope and playing with engines and such, she'll presumably learn that you think that these things are more important than her clothing choices.

Many girls' parents (and other adults in their lives) don't do that. The article is aimed at such people.
posted by eviemath at 2:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


My wife (who hardly reads anything on the internet) told me about this article last night after getting it emailed to her, I get the feeling its struck a chord with many moms)

When I read stories to my girls at night I change all the men into women and all the women in to men (within reason when it doesn't change the plot of the story)

It ends up sounding weird to hear about all these "women" which makes me think that all the books we have have the subjects be men for no real good reason.

We just had a 3 year old birthday party and the girls were all frilly and the boys were in blue jeans. When the girls got in the dirt they were told don't get their nice clothes dirty, the boys didn't have that problem.

little things here and there add up.

It's hard.
You try your best, I appreciated the article for its main point.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


I didn't like the article, but I get the point of it. h. roark and other parents, this article is not for parents specifically or about raising girls specifically. It's about talking to little girls, when you meet them, so I think it is for people who do not have children and also don't want to perpetuate certain types of behaviors and attitudes. Those of us who don't have children are not necessarily so sure how to do that.
posted by sweetkid at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2011


When I read stories to my girls at night I change all the men into women and all the women in to men (within reason when it doesn't change the plot of the story)

This is not a snark - I'm genuinely, honestly curious: Did you do that with Cinderella or Snow White or any of those sorts of fairy tales, and if so, how did they react to the stories?
posted by Grangousier at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2011


This is not a snark - I'm genuinely, honestly curious: Did you do that with Cinderella or Snow White or any of those sorts of fairy tales, and if so, how did they react to the stories?

We don't really read those stories yet, but I'm sure we will someday. It's mostly things like Richard Scary's 'Story a day' or Golden Books where a train is a "he" for no real plot reason.

For example, Corduroy the stuffed bear. He can be a girl and not change the plot at all. He gets a sex change. A story with a mom in it stays a mom.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:45 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, I see, thank you.
posted by Grangousier at 3:06 PM on June 28, 2011


Many girls' parents (and other adults in their lives) don't do that. The article is aimed at such people.

I plead guilty to being one of those people who really, really need this article.

... restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

I almost always just go with this impulse reflexively and damnit, I KNOW better.

So, yes, I appreciated this article. Thanks to John Cohen for posting it.

Telling a little girl that her nightgown is pretty sets her up for dieting at age 5? My daughter is only three, but I'll be very surprised if she starts turning down cookies any time soon.

I was told by a friend that his 4-yr-old daughter stopped wearing her favorite sweater because one of her 4-yr-old friends told her that it made her look fat. So sad. Yes, this stuff really happens. I think this article helps us think about and talk about how we can change this.
posted by marsha56 at 3:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Umm...because I'm not a Brony?

Shun the unbeliever! SHUUUUUUUNNNNN!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


My 5-year-old daughter loves Charlie the Unicorn!
posted by erniepan at 3:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Mom, you know your friend Lisa?"
"Yeah?"
"Can you like not invite her to your next party?"
"Uh, why?"
"She's a stone bore."
posted by chavenet at 4:18 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Next time I talk with a little girl I'm just going to do Will Farrell's "Harry Carey" bit.

"What's your favorite planet?"
"Ooh! Satu-
"Mine's the sun! The king of all planets!"
posted by Navelgazer at 4:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Five year olds don't diet! It doesn't make any sense to analyze what makes five year olds diet. Because they don't!
posted by diogenes at 4:55 PM on June 28, 2011


Diogenes, yes they do. I did, and it was silly and harmful and not-great. I have specific memories of this from around age five or six.
posted by Neofelis at 5:28 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's only a pedovibe if you show up with Pedobear.
posted by bwg at 5:30 PM on June 28, 2011


A story with a mom in it stays a mom.

Why?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:50 PM on June 28, 2011


I raised a little girl, and I can guarantee she would have thought Lisa Bloom to be a putz. A total stranger appears in your house, giving you cheap advice about peer pressure and pimps her book to you? Idiot.
Not every interaction with a child needs to be a "teaching moment." Does Lisa Bloom feel called upon to impart her wisdom to every woman she meets--"Hi, Granny Smith, Nice to meet you. Have you thought about estate planning" Or eldercare? How about that hospice?!"

if this is the high point of HuffPo reading, I pity the fool.......
posted by Ideefixe at 5:54 PM on June 28, 2011


The article expresses a nice sentiment, but the author's smug, self-satisfied tone undercuts it. D+.
posted by boghead at 7:00 PM on June 28, 2011


Actually, I've always found talking to five year olds pretty easy. I would think teenagers are much harder. They're thinking so, so hard about who they are all the time.
posted by Trochanter at 7:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The author's smug, self-satisfied tone undercuts it. D+

I dearly hope (and assume) the genius of this is intentional.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:29 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just in case people think children being pressured to diet is something that never happens, let me tell you about being enrolled at Dietcenter when I was ten.

And I was not obese. And this was after many other attempts at dieting. I had some extra body fat, pre-puberty. It messed up my body image so much that once I hit puberty and lost my extra weight, I totally didn't realize it until years later when I saw a picture of myself at 12 and said, "OMG, I was skinny! I thought I was fat!"

The comment people seemed to make about me when I was little was that I was a "big girl." I was also always really tall. But let me tell you that it wasn't the idea of "tall" that I internalized."
posted by threeturtles at 8:53 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


whoah. I got the Big Girl thing, too. I was pretty profoundly medium – not chubby or statuesque, and I couldn't really understand what was wrong with me. Now I figure I must have had boobage or something, but at the time I just felt like some hulking, lumbering ox.
posted by taz at 10:29 PM on June 28, 2011


One of the kids I babysat for a friend earlier tonight is six. She's a regular adorable kid, all bright and sparky and full of energy. She's a reedy little thing and tall for her age, since she runs around so much and her dad is a tall, reedy dude.

And the other day she quite unexpectedly told her mother she (herself) was fat. After a few seconds of sheer 'oh my god, what the FUCK, who has put this into her head?' I asked her mother what had made her think that. She answered that some of the other girls at school had told her so.

So yeah, it happens. Makes me miserable to contemplate. She's six, for fuck's sake.
posted by pseudonymph at 6:37 AM on June 29, 2011


I talk to little girls the way I talk to adults: I ask them what they're reading and then tell them it's stupid and that they should read more Paul Auster or at least some Philip K. Dick.

I shared a bedroom with my sister when I was four and I used to read her GCSE set texts. I would have quite liked it if someone asked me about Hobson's Choice.

(I also knew that Spycatcher, the book about spies, had been banned, but I didn't know why or what 'banned' even meant - I just pointed to it on an uncle's shelf and told him in case it meant they'd send him to prison.)
posted by mippy at 7:59 AM on June 29, 2011


Good point. It starts young, this conditioning about appearance. I notice the strongest objections seem to be coming from men?
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on June 29, 2011


slight derail, whenever I read phrases like "go on with your bad self" or "she was down with that" retrofitted onto dry toast rhetoric, I cannot help but hear it coming out of Mr. Rosso from Freaks & Geeks
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:01 AM on June 29, 2011


Maya," I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, "very nice to meet you."

That's the best advice in the whole column. How to talk to a 5-year-old girl (or boy)? Get down on the floor.


I don;'t know why, but I really hated adults doing this - I found it sort of patronising, and as though they were all up in my face.
posted by mippy at 9:10 AM on June 29, 2011


Given how the internet responds to threads about childhood obesity it's weird to see how they react to questions like this.

Yes, kids are pressured on their weight. Fat kids get made fun of and well meaning parents put on the same pressure out of concern for health.

It can be tough for a kid to tell the difference and sometimes the concern is unwarranted.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:13 AM on June 29, 2011


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