I wasn ’ t surprised that he stared in my baby when the plump approached our desk on his way from the restaurant. Ten weeks to motherhood, I’m aware that a newborn is catnip to strangers of all ages.
My infant cooed a little, smiled wide from her location in my lap, and made a spit bubbles.
“Can it be a boy or a girl? ” the man asked of my toothless kid.
“It’s a woman! ” I chimed.
He nodded as if he knew, then added:ldquo;What a little chuckle! ”
Certainly, the man was well-intentioned. Nonetheless, the interaction didn’t sit. My new mother instincts tell me it’s bizarre to get a whole stranger to say something like this of my two-month-old infant, who’s barely effective at making eye contact, let alone doing this coquettishly. Also bizarre: that he felt compelled to affirm rsquo & my infant;s before issuing his or her ldquo; compliment, sex. ” If boy & rsquo ;d answered & ldquo; I, & rdquo; could he have followed up using a different opinion? Perhaps commented on capable or how powerful the infant looked? ‘What a powerhouse entrepreneur in the making! ’, I will hear the man saying.
A little research confirms my hunch that what we say to kids — and, by extension, imply about their sex — things, after that day. A lot.
A study published in the journal found that by age 2.5, children begin to internalize gender-based prejudices. Plus it’s not just what strangers state in passing that counts. The study noted that 31% of those toys marketed to women center such as queen dresses and makeup kits. 46 percent of toys &ldquo” such as chemistry sets and sports gear, emphasize actions.
“We’ve all been socialized also to consider the futures about marriage and dating, & rdquo; states Lisa Bloom, and to sexualize women . Bloom has contended that by labeling young women flirts and heartbreakers, society efficiently educates them that appearances are more important than anything. “It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation in age 11 and boob projects at 17 and Botox in 23,” she said in HuffPost.
This is a troubling cultural phenomenon, particularly when you consider a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, where researchers found that a child’s real-life operation can be hugely influenced by the beliefs they embrace about their sex.
Although my little woman is incapable of knowing what being a means exposure to remarks about look and her hypothetical appeal could condition her to measure her self-worth according to factors. And that might influence her ability.
What’s a mother when a comment tied to troubling narratives towards her little woman is directed by a stranger to do? Smile and let it slip? Or, as Bloom suggests, conjure a smart retort? “I think she’s more of an astronaut than a flirt. Check back in 20 years and I&rsquo! ”
Just as I’d like to try the latter alternative, it doesn’t seem all that realistic–at least not without alienating myself from well-meaning strangers or becoming “that mother” who can’t help making an issue out of everything. It seems almost impossible to control what my daughter absorbs from the outside world. However, rsquo & that; s when it happens to me how important it is to monitor her surroundings.
In evaluating how readily a sex stereotype can infiltrate an otherwise uneventful family meal outside, I can’t ignore my behavior could factor into the equation. Truthfully, I can’t even think of a compliment I’ve given my daughter other than “You’re so cute!!! &rdquo the day she was born.
Of course that she’s cute isn’t quite the same as alleging that she’s flirt, that denotes something sexual. But when I’m not leading to the sexualization of my daughter, that can lead to serious mental health problems like eating disorders and depression, it doesn’t even seem entirely sensible to fixate on her physical appearance.
Babies–boys and women alike–are, of course, adorable. Mother Nature makes them that way so you feed them rather than consume them, essentially. From firsthand experience, I know that the parental drive to protect and cultivate a child is rooted in that child’s cuteness, which makes them just appealing enough to prevent you from going nuts when they demand to be fed at 2am. That said, I will see how focusing too much on a young child’s appearance may be detrimental. Plus it’s the cultural norm to do so in the case of little women.
Popular blogger Crafty Mum admits that she’s guilty as anybody else to get defaulting to remarks about how stunning her young girls look. “These things in themselves are not bad, but it would be good to change the attention from their outward appearance,” she asserts on her site, highlighting that even modest, subtle changes can be impactful.
Intent on increasing a badass girl-boss in a world programmed to tell my baby girl that she’s better armed to break hearts, I decide to conduct a little experiment. I challenged myself to prevent making any remarks concerning my daughter’s appearance.
Only one hour passes before I catch myself wondering just how cute she is after planting a belly fart on her tummy mid-diaper shift. Before making the same mistake, I bite my tongue times. Often, it’so embarrassing to state anything other than “You’re so cute,” as, well, she doesn’t do much besides sit and be cute. When my infant stuffs her fist and squeals, I stumble in search of praise. What am I supposed to say? “You’re so inventive! ”?!? But through “tummy time” (the practice of placing a toddler on its belly for a quick stretch so that they’re forced to work towards holding their head up), I find my footing, declaring how powerful and determined she is while inviting her to try harder. This feels good. Natural, also.
It’s hard to go cold turkey on appearance-based affirmations, but it also shows that thinking before talking helps a lot. It could not be possible to shelter our daughters from damaging, deeply ingrained cultural standards. However, the more we all think twice about how we frame what we say to little women day in and day out, the better.