More Than a Pretty Face: Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapter 6 (Week 4)

Published on: September 21, 2015

Filled Under: Beyond The Pages, Books, Guest Speakers, Resources

Views: 33412

What If Book Study Marketing PicToday we are discussing Chapter 6: Teaching Girls They’re More Than a Pretty Face. Diane Levin is our guest content expert this week to provide insight and lead our discussion. Visit Diane’s website to learn more about her work. Find her on Twitter @DianeELevinJust joining us? Get all the book study details HERE.

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dianelevinA Child Development Perspective on How & Why Media & Marketers Promote “Pretty Faces” to Young Girls and What We Can Do about It by Diane Levin

Thank you, Rae Pica.  The child development issues you raise in Chapter 6, “Teaching Young Girls that They Are More Than a Pretty Face,” are vitally important for parents, teachers, and the wider society to address if we want to promote the optimal well-being of girls in these times.  Several factors you address stand out for me and connect directly to why I felt I needed to write my book, So Sexy So Soon. (Levin, D. & Kilbourne, J., So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. New York: Ballantine Books, 2009).

The degree to which young girls growing up today focus so much on appearance and think that popularity comes from looking “right”, has not always been quite as extreme as it is today.  And the increasing focus of young girls on these issues is not happening totally by chance.  It is deeply connected to both how children think in the early years and how they develop ideas about gender.  But, it is also highly related to what they learn about how to define their gender from what they see males and females doing in their environment.

Young children tend to think in dichotomies—for example, things are good or bad, right or wrong, for me or not for me.  At around 18 months or 2 years, they begin to learn about gender and what they learn fits very well into this dichotomous thinking—for instance, “I am a girl and not a boy.”  They then set out using this dichotomous thinking to try to define what it means to be their gender and not the other gender.  And because young children are concrete thinkers, they look for concrete images they can see in the world around them to help them define their gender category—pink for girls, dresses for girls (even make-up which is being used at younger ages than in the past), and of course, princesses!

Because of how they think, it is hard for girls and boys not to develop some stereotypes about their gender.  They always saw differences in what men and women did and put these differences into the dichotomies they needed in order to define their own gender.  But, whatever behavior they learned from their environment for their gender in the past, today’s lessons in the all-pervasive media and commercial culture provide a whole new level of highly visible, gender-stereotyped content (and products) for young children.  From very young ages, children are seeing extreme gender divisions, which focus on girls “being pretty,” and needing to look right and having/buying the right things.  And, as the Princess theme has become a dominant force in media and popular culture for girls, so has it become a role model for young girls’ appearance and play.

Creators of media for children know just how to exploit the cognitive and gender development vulnerabilities discussed earlier to capture children’s attention and to sell them products which they come to think they need in order to be happy (and popular).  And manufacturers make big profits from engaging in these practices (See: Linn, S. Consuming Kids: Protecting Out Children from the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising. New York: Anchor Books, 2005).

Of course, because of how young children think and develop, with an early focus on appearance, there probably has always been some gender-stereotyped behavior that focused on appearance, as young girls tried to figure out what it meant to be a girl, and not a boy.  But in girls’ world of today, where appearance has become such a dominant force in media and popular culture, the emphasis on appearance has been greatly increased to the point of being the dominant force for many girls.

Thus, it is more important now than ever that we recognize the importance of finding time and developing strategies and resources to counteract the potential harm being caused and promote positive gender development and the full potential of girls.  That is why I am so grateful that Rae Pica has addressed this issue in her book as a vital aspect of child development.  We should all know about and address this issue in our work with children.

[A brief note about boys in these times:  The developmental and societal issues raised here related to gender are also relevant for them.  They too are victims of increasingly narrow and extreme stereotyped images about their gender.  For instance, for boys, being tough, macho and ready to fight is what is often modeled as important for them, and viewed as what is necessary to be popular! These images potentially undermine caring behavior and relationships, and can undermine positive interactions and friendships with both other boys and girls.  Could the increasing levels of bullying behavior being reported in schools by the “tough guys” of the boys “wimpy guys” have anything to do with the increasingly macho stereotypes being modeled for boys at a young age?]

Here are some additional suggestions for what you can do to counteract the harm to the development of girls caused by the forces in society that I outlined above:

  • Protect girls as much as possible from exposure to media and media-linked products that show extreme gender divisions and narrow roles for girls that focus on appearance—even though some of it will get in no matter what adults try to do.
  • Talk to children about what they do see on screens.  Don’t try to tell them the right way to think about it.  Have give-and-take conversations.  Ask them what they think. Try to complicate their thinking by asking questions like:  How are the girls on the screen like you?  How are they different?  Make the conversations comfortable so children feel safe talking with you about what they really think.
  • Help children develop a broad range of interests, skills, friends, and behavior beyond a focus on appearance.
  • Work with families to help them better understand the gender issues in these times, and reduce the exposure to and impact of gender stereotyping in their children’s lives.  And help families talk with each other so that when their children get together to play, there are shared understandings about the issues.
  • Work in small and big ways in the community and wider society to reduce the gender-stereotyped images that girls are seeing in the community, media, and commercial culture.

THOUGHT QUESTIONS

  • Have you seen behavior like what Rae and I describe?
    • Please describe some of the more dramatic examples.
    • Do you have concerns about this behavior? If so, what worries you the most?
  • What aspects of popular culture [TV shows, movies, video games, toys] seem to enter most into the gender specific play and behavior you see?
  • Have you tried any of the strategies recommended by Rae Pica or me for dealing with the gender divisions among girls and boys and particular stereotyped behavior of the girls or boys?
    • How did they work?
  • Do you have other strategies to suggest to readers?
  • Do you have questions about what Rae or I wrote about this issue that you would like us or other readers to answer? If so, please ask!

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Please share/retweet this post! Let us know that you’re participating in this study. We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts regarding Chapter 6 and about the Thought Questions Diane has provided. Your voice matters – participate in the dialogue and share your ideas here! (Comment below) If you’ve chosen to blog about what you’ve read on your own site, link back and share your post with us here. Perhaps you have a burning question about something that you read in one of these chapters… we have a feature for that – Ask The Author! That’s right, Rae Pica will be available throughout this live study to answer your questions. #AskAuthor

What to read next: Chapter 13- Play Is Not a Four Letter Word (9/28/15).

*If you’re a MN participant seeking training hours, please visit this link to access to requirements.

76 Responses to More Than a Pretty Face: Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapter 6 (Week 4)

  1. Rae Pica says:

    Diane, THANK YOU for this fabulous post! The details you provided about the link between child development and this issue were precisely what was needed.

    I was having my hair cut the other day when a mom walked in with twin kindergarten-aged girls. Every single stylist in that place stopped to exclaim how cute they and their outfits were. And that was it; they said nothing else to them. I wanted so badly to have a real conversation with the children, just so counterbalance the focus on their looks, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible with my stylist swiveling me this way and that. My second choice would have been to have a friendly chat with the mom, explaining that it wasn’t healthy for the girls to hear about nothing besides their looks. That probably wouldn’t have gone over very well.

    I’m looking forward to reading the thoughts of others here. I’m curious as to whether or not members of the study group have considered this issue before. Do they see the validity of the arguments you and I make, or do they feel we’re making mountains out of molehills?

    I hope everyone who reads Chapter 6 will also read So Sexy So Soon. It’s such an important book.

    I’m honored to know you and your work, Diane, and to have interviewed you on a couple of occasions for BAM Radio!

  2. Rae Pica says:

    It’s so interesting that this topic hasn’t drawn the comments that past topics have. Wondering why that is…

    Dawn, any theories?

  3. Mike Huber says:

    I think gender is a topic that is difficult for adults to talk about (in a similar way adults don’t like to talk about race). Our center has a very active anti-bias curriculum. We focus quite a bit on gender diversity. We talk about diversity both in terms of gender expression, ways to be a girl or boy, as well as gender identity. We have staff and parents who are gender-nonconforming (trans and gender queer) so children learn how to be respectful of people and their gender identities. We have found that preschoolers can use appropriate pronouns and can start to understand the idea of people having a boy brain and a girl body (or vice versa).

    At the same time, preschoolers seem to talk about gender identity and expression interchangeably when talking about themselves and friends (and use the term girl or boy to refer to feminine/masculine and female/male). What I find most interesting is that we have had children who use the same exaggerated gender expressions to break out of gender boxes. We have one girl (at 7, she still identifies as a girl) who would have a dream each night that told her to dress as a boy or a girl. She either came in with pink clothes and patent leather shoes (and matching backpack), or black, blue and green with skulls and light up shoes. I had another preschooler, back in the early 1990s, who was biologically a boy, but carried around a Barbie doll and wore a sequined skirt on their head like hair. I have lost touch with that family, so I don’t know how they identify as an adult, but clearly the child picked up on the cultural messages and used them to create an identity.
    The biggest lesson I think we’ve learned is that all children should be acknowledged for the things they do, seen for who they are (even if that changes over time), and engaged on topics that interest them.

  4. Rae Pica says:

    Thanks for sharing all of that, Mike! I love, love, love your last paragraph. : )

  5. Dawn Braa says:

    Rae- I don’t think that it’s necessarily the topic. Perhaps people are simply bogged down this week with other responsibilities and haven’t had time to read/reflect yet. This is a topic that people may be sensitive to and may need a bit extra time to formulate their thoughts and ideas. I anticipate that more entries will pop up throughout the week 🙂

    Those of you who are participating…we eagerly await your reflective thoughts! We truly enjoy the dialogue with you!

  6. Betsy says:

    Thank you Diane Levin for your excellent post. I always admire and learn from your insight.

    First I want to say that although I heard Diane speak many years ago about engaging young girls in conversations about who they are rather then how cute they are or what they are wearing it is always good to hear it again! I love this opportunity to reflect and refocus. (I felt the same way when I read it in the book)

    When my daughter was a toddler we had very limited screen time and avoided “princess” movies because we were not interested in having a princess for a daughter but rather a competent well rounded child. One day at the program I ran she was putting on a pull-up for nap time along side several of her friends. The conversation turned to the animated princess characters on the pull-ups. (An example of media and media related merchandise infiltrating our home) It was interesting to me that my daughter did not have the context to enter into the conversation. I found this to be a major victory but I also wondered about how she felt about not being able to enter into the conversation. When she was a bit older we did have a few family pizza and movie nights to introduce her to some of the Disney Princess movies so she had a bit of social context when all her friends were playing princess. Interesting to me, she never became terribly interested in the princess genre even after some exposure.

    Several years ago I was listening to a BBC news program. There was a piece on children’s clothing. The expert pointed out that the less expensive the clothing line is the more provocative and inappropriate they were for children and cited great examples. Although I did not follow up on the topic after leaving my car that day it is something I have not forgotten. I would love to investigate further…Has anyone come across research that supports this idea?

    Finally related to boys. Last year I had an almost 3 year old who could only play by acting out the movies he had been watching at home. All his play was rough, violent and domineering. I could actually tell when he would switch from continually watching one movie to another by the change in his play. I found this to be really disturbing.

  7. Lynn Kokal says:

    After reading this week’s chapter, along with Diane’s book excerpt introduction from So Sexy So Soon, my mind was going in so many directions I didn’t know where to begin! In response to popular culture and media influences, I can vividly recall my 4yr old nephew karate kicking a life size cut out of Darth Vader to the ground at my local Pizza Hut and declaring loudly that Darth was the bad guy. My own daughter was a mixed bag of nuts who enjoyed dressing up as “Super Fairy Sara” wearing blue jeans, a “flower power” t shirt, princess shoes, knee pads, towel cape, fleece hat, and a lighted star wand to top it all off (best picture ever).

    This got me thinking about kids clothing in general and I realized boys clothing often depicts action based images such as super heroes, various vehicles, space ships, etc., while girls clothing seems more docile with flowers, butterflies, rainbows, princesses, etc. I think pop culture and gender stereotyping influences are both at work here. Betsy’s BBC reference to the promiscuity of less expensive clothing is something my friend and I were just commenting on when shopping for school clothes. That being said, I’ve seen some shredded off the shoulder type tops at Justice in the past that weren’t exactly cheap. Either way – yuck! I’ve wondered who would buy these clothes and why? However, we just have to consider some of the various female media influences such as Miley Cyrus and that’s what our children are seeing reflected back to them. Then there is also the fact that parents are the ones buying these clothes. I know I’ve seen a few parents at school functions who look like they are going out clubbing vs. attending cirruculum night!

    As for complimenting girls on their looks and outfits, I think as long as that is not the primary feedback they are receiving, commenting on their appearance is not necessarily a bad thing. My daughter is in middle school now and went from not caring about clothes and hair and hating taking showers to spending an increased amount of time in front of the mirror. So now I find myself commenting on her appearance more than in the past because I want to encourage her for actually caring! I also think various circumstances can influence more complimentary responses to appearance. Dance recitals come to mind here – who isn’t seriously going to gush about how adorable little girls are in their dance outfits?! We can also make sure to comment on how hard they must have practiced, etc. to balance it out.

    I have also noticed that my daughter is definitely comparing herself more to others and making comments about popularity, etc. She had a rough start in middle school when many of her friends broke off into groups that she wasn’t included in, but thankfully she has made new friends that appreciate her for who she is. I was never more proud of her than the day she came home and told me that a friend she has known since preschool told her she could use some tips on being popular. I asked her what she said to her and she replied, “Nah, I’m alright!” I think the best thing we can do as parents is to continually ask our children what they think about things when they comment about other people’s opinions – that way they learn to think for themselves and value their own perspective.

    At work in the hospital setting, I have encountered a few cases of self mutilation by cutting, as well as various eating disorders. What is most disturbing is how young some of these children are and the fact that they are mostly girls. Our culture definitely does need to improve our focus on positive self affirmation opportunites for girls.

    Thanks Diane – I’m looking forward to reading more of your book!

  8. Lynn Kokal says:

    Oops – curriculum vs. cirruculum – yikes~

  9. Jen N says:

    What a relevant topic and discussion. I have some young cousins that are unfortunate examples of the “so sexy so soon” dilemma. I remember feeling sad when I saw them in their make-up and Hollister t-shirts at about 8 years old. It seemed that their childhood was being cut short in some very important ways.

    This chapter really made me more aware of my interactions with both girls and boys. I agree with Lynn that comments about appearance need to be balanced with other comments/questions related to what kids think, value, enjoy. Our words have great power, and I know I could benefit from being more aware of this. Many times I have gushed over how cute a patient’s outfit is or offered princess toys when something else might have been more appropriate. I am definitely going to add So Sexy So Soon to my reading list in order to continue to explore and address this issue.

    In the hospital setting, I work occasionally with patients in the eating disorder treatment program. Most of these kids/adolescents are struggling with body image and therefore dress code is something we often have to discuss (no tight clothing or leggings are allowed). This is a program where there are never comments made about appearance in the group setting. However, there have been situations where there’s a subtle sense of competition between patients for who is the smallest, sickest, eating the least amount of food. Often, I have wondered when the challenges of treating this disease in a group setting (competition, comparisons, teaching each other new, unhealthy habits) outweigh the benefits (peer support/encouragement, sense of community/camaraderie). Again, a fragile balancing act.

  10. Cory says:

    Thank you for all of the great information- I had to pause to think about this- I have not been working directly with children for many years and as a mom of four boys most of my life revolved around them and their mail counterparts. But then the light bulb went off I am a girl and grew up with all sisters. Reflecting back on my early years we PLAYED dolls until we went to senior high, when my older sister quit playing with me I urged my younger sister to play. We did not dress ourselves to be sexy in fact for most of my youth my sisters and I wore matching clothes. What we did do is dress our dolls be it baby dolls, paper dolls or Barbies(which quite frankly are a bit sexualized themselves) but we played and explored and had massive doll communities. it was fun and it was creative and it was play- my thoughts may have been inspired because I read the next chapter…

    Certainly the media perpetuates this vision of what a young girl looks like- but it doesn’t stop there, as an older than middle age gal my tv peers that are in their 50’s look nothing like me? I mean seriously Demi Moore and I are the same age and she looks like my daughter!

    So we do have to shift our thinking and start at a young age, I have done mentoring with Middle school-ers and love the Dove website: http://www.dove.us/Our-Mission/Girls-Self-Esteem/Get-Involved/default.aspx
    and this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5qZedMTkkE

  11. Rae Pica says:

    Jen, reading your comment, I couldn’t help but think about how often we hear the statement, “They grow up so fast!” Given the way time flies (especially for parents), I can’t imagine why any parent would want to do anything to hurry the process into adulthood!

    Cory, thanks for sparking the memory of playing with paper dolls and Barbies (which I did NOT do until at least middle childhood). Back then we dressed the dolls and not ourselves for effect. We also had to use more imagination in doing so. Today it seems everything is pre-packaged.

    Just came across a wonderful article, written by a mom, on how to compliment girls. Check it out!: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/09/25/the-best-way-to-compliment-little-girls/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_parent

  12. Sarah Fritsch says:

    It is so interesting how much parents want to separate child development into male vs. female. Even in the toddler classes I teach. They want to know when the average age for boys to toilet trained vs girls, that boys are expected to be rough and concentrate on their fine motor and girls are fine motor and language. I talked to them about how each child is an individual and even though there are physical and chemical differences in boys and girls we have to see them for more then a boy or a girl. I loved the reminder to not comment on clothes, or surface beauty with child. Focus on ability and who they are!! I spend time in my classes really showing parents how media can manipulate what we think is normal and how we pass that on to our children. I also think it is really important for adults to model for our boys and girls, to value all people for who they are and not what they look like.

  13. Sarah Fritsch says:

    Just another comment about how valuable this group has been for me!! It really feels like an Early Childhood Support Group. I can log on and get the encouragement I need to keep sharing and advocating for families. Thank you so much for all the resources. I have been able to use so many of them in my parenting groups and with other teachers too!!

  14. Diane Levin says:

    Thank you, to everyone who has written into Rae’s Book Study Group about Chapter 6 and my comments about it. First, my apologies for not having participated in the discussions sooner. I looked for comments the first few days after my post went up—and was very appreciative of Rae’s initial comments—thank you very much, Rae, it is always a pleasure to work together to connect the issues we both care so deeply about in promoting the wellbeing of children. But, I was waiting to make any of my own responses, until others wrote in comments too—and after not seeing any for a few days, I got diverted. So, I was verrrrrrry excited and heartened now to find the rich range of comments that are now here. And I’m glad that the blog is still open after the official comment ‘Week’, so we can still make comments.’

    Here are a few thoughts that add to what I originally wrote, based on what you all have written:

    Regarding Betsy’s comment near the end of her message about the almost 3 year old boy who could only act out the violence he saw in movies: That was the topic that first got me involved in how media was affecting children’s development of gender roles and play—and the source of my first full-length book that I wrote with Nancy Carlsson-Paige in 1987 (2nd Ed. in 2004), THE WAR PLAY DILEMMA. In the middle 1980’s, teachers began complaining that they had boys obsessed with very narrow, media-imitating violent play. On investigating why, we discovered that children’s television had quietly been deregulated and for the first time toys that were exact replicas of what children saw on screens and other products with logos could be marketed with TV programs. I won’t go into it all here—but this was when the COMMERCIALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD and intense money driven marketing to children really took over. And, gender divisions in programming and products for girls (being pretty and sexy) and boys (being tough and macho) became the norm for commercial media. Since then the divisions, sexualization and violence have only continued to escalate.

    Regarding LYNN’s comment: “I think the best thing we can do as parents is to continually ask our children what they think about things when they comment about other people’s opinions.” This is a very important point. It connects to what I suggest in my bullets at the end of my initial conversation piece. In sum, it is really important that we STAY CONNECTED with our children—so they feel safe talking to us about what they see and hear and think—even things that may disturb them. We can ask questions and try to complicate their thinking a bit. But we can’t just pour the “right” answers that we want them to learn into their heads! They need us to help them, not lecture or criticize them. Of course we can protect them, but we can’t keep it all out, and we need to be there to help them when it does get in.

    And LYNN’s comment at the end about encountering a few cases of self mutilation by cutting, as well as various eating disorders in hospital settings—Jean Kilbourne, SO SEXY SO SOON’s coauthor, is an expert on SSSS issues as they relate to older girls and her writing is helpful with issues such as this. But in researching the book, I found out from eating disorder therapists, that they are seeing more children at younger ages with eating disorder problems than in the past. And while it is mostly girls, they were also beginning to see more boys too.

    Finally, thank you all for the stories you are sharing about your experiences with children related to the topics here. It is through reading about your experiences and how you deal with them that I continue to learn about and deepen my understanding of these issues.

  15. Rachel says:

    Again, I have to say I am loving this book and study group – The book addresses such important issues that as a mom and as a professional, I should thoughtfully consider but don’t always give time to. But it’s succinct writing style and conciseness is perfect. Then I come to this group and find even more food for thought and resources.

    My favorite part of this week was the practical article Rae shared in her comment about how to compliment girls. I wish this would go viral!

    As Jen and Lynn mentioned, in the hospital setting we are trying to build rapport quickly with children and often staff begin their interactions with a compliment or by providing toys (dolls for girls, cars for boys?) I think this interaction can still be appropriate but this chapter really does make us think about our approach with children. And making sure that the interaction continues and the child’s attributes outside of appearance are highlighted. On the opposite side, this I think we are able to do well in the hospital setting! Often we don’t focus on appearance because children’s appearance is altered from illness/injury/procedures and area able to provide encouragement for mastery of a new environment, or using problem solving skills, etc.

    Separate note – as a parent I am AMAZED at the gender division in clothing as so many have mentioned. In fact, today my son is wearing a ninja turtles shirt and socks and my daughter is wearing Minnie Mouse. This does not always happen at our house but that’s what’s out there! So far with toddlers/infants I haven’t had to address the “sexiness” of girl’s clothing. but I’m sure I’ll encounter it soon enough!

  16. Jane says:

    It would be amazing if we could focus on affirming character rather than appearance. Both clothing and toys are strongly influenced by the media. Even though it is challenging , as educators we need to instill a love for learning, creativity, and critical thinking skills in the preschoolers we work with. The Washington post article about complementing girls was insightful. Complimenting character can help children build the confidence they need to make educated decisions.

  17. Dianne says:

    I found this chapter to be very interesting. I think that the media plays a huge role in the way preschool boys and girls think in regards to gender. I have several boys in my daycare that are constantly acting out their favorite movie (which changes every couple of weeks). I have one boy right now that thinks every male figure has to fight. I had one little girl in daycare a few years back that from the time she was two years old, all she wanted to do was fall in love with a handsome boy and get married. She had no desire to be anything herself – other than to be married to that cute boy. I think society needs to treat girls like they are important and valuable just being who they are and encourage them to have dreams and set personal goals for themselves. All girls need to be who they want to be first and foremost. If they want to be a doctor or lawyer, then that is great. We need to stress to girls as well as boys that they are capable of doing anything they set their mind to and it isn’t about what they look like or what they wear but what they set their mind out to do. In my daycare, I don’t focus on what the girls are wearing any more than on what the boys are wearing. We also talk a lot about different things they can be when they grow up and what it might be like. It gets them thinking beyond the typical stereotypical male and female jobs.

  18. Kim Woehl says:

    I really had not thought too much about comments like “I like how you did your hair today”, can cause a young girl to feel like she is sexy or is fitting in. I totally agree that we can ask better questions to engage in the fun filled discussions that most children seem to want to hang on. I also totally agree what market campaigns are pushing for our little girls to grow up much too fast.

    I really liked the idea of inviting women community members into our programs so that little girls and boys can see that there are lots of great opportunities for both genders and that the dress in these professional roles likely isn’t what we think it might look like.

    Having raised two boys they have heard from almost infancy that if they work hard that they can grow up to be anything they want to be. I never once thought about clothing with them but have indeed worried about some of the clothing that some of the girls came with over the years. I think we can also comment on some nail polishes and jewelry too. Oh so much to think about!

  19. Rae Pica says:

    Kim, thanks for sharing your perspective and your experience as the mom of boys!

  20. Heather Q says:

    http://hqtoddlers.blogspot.com/2016/05/its-about-who-i-am-not-how-i-look.html

    In reading this chapter, my thoughts go immediately to a child in my care. She is a strikingly beautiful child and her appearance is commented on by other parents every day. I will tend to agree and then change the subject, but, after this lesson, it seems I need to do more, as a teacher and advocate for all children,

    I have more thoughts on my blog. Please follow the link.

  21. Cindy Kish says:

    In reading this chapter, I also agree the marketing of toys and clothing is to gender related. In my daycare we have days we comment on each of the children’s clothing (ex Tom I really like that orange shirt you have on today). I think it is important that the children learn how to make and receive compliments, but we make sure to do it in a group setting and every child gets a comment on their clothing, it also gives a chance for the younger children to learn their colors. This is no different than when we make comments on a child’s actions, we try to make sure everyone gets a comment so no one feels they are not good enough.

    I also have weeks where I may only have as example dolls out so both boys and girls get to play with them, then there is other times we may have out the tools as example again so both boys and girls play with them and together. Most of the time there is a wide variety of toys for the children to choose from, we also make sure we read stories that are not gender related but show both men and women doing the same thing.

    I have also noticed that the children who get a lot of screen time at home follow more in the super hero or princess types. I agree this is a problem but is a hard one to fix. Here in my daycare the children don’t get screen time often, some months not at all. When we do it is usually more for a dvd that is related to a subject we are learning about. I see my children that have limited or no screen time at home will play house just the same as they will build for example. The playing together is more of a focus than what they are playing with.

  22. Diana M says:

    From my personal viewpoint, this might be the most challenging issue to me. It’s so hard trying not to reinforce gender stereotypes with the media and the simple fact that it’s so easy to not realize you’re doing it yourself! I know I almost always comment on the clothes my preschoolers wear everyday because they just look so darn cute!! But oftentimes that’s all I’ll say and fail to follow up with a more neutral question. I know in the older preschool room where I work, I have several boys who insist that Frozen is strictly a “girl” movie and then won’t participate if we sing or dance to a song from the movie. They wait for me to pay a “boy” song! I also remember during space week that when I asked many of them would like to astronauts, most boys said yes, but I had a girl or two also say yes. one little boy then said that girls couldn’t go to space! Needless to say, I did have a discussion on how it’s OK for both. Luckily, my age of children haven’t quite gotten to the sexualization of clothing, etc yet, but it’s sad some of things that I’ve seen young girls wear or how much makeup they have on already at the age of 9 or 10!

  23. Rachel D says:

    I can say first-hand that as a way to start off a conversation with a child, especially a girl I will make a comment about the clothing that she is wearing. Usually giving a compliment about some article of clothing that she is wearing and then asking her more questions about herself. After reading about the statistics about girls and their thoughts on their appearance I will now be using a different strategy. It is amazing that at such a young age children can get these thoughts in their heads and change how they think about themselves. I will for sure make more of an effort to focus more about the interests of a child and less on their appearance. When the “norm” of hearing compliment after compliment about appearance decreases and more about a child’s interest level increases hopefully change will occur.

  24. Kelsie Brandl says:

    I have caught myself telling girls they’re pretty or their clothes are pretty, but now I have been able to stop myself. It’s harder than I thought it would be! Especially working with toddlers. I’ve been able to compliment and encourage them on their skills such as the towers they build or how fast they run. A very controversial topic I struggle with about gender play as young children is gender being based on liking princess stuff as a boy means they should be considered female. It’s a mess. But there are definitely more factors involved.

  25. Sarah H. says:

    1. Have you seen behavior like what Rae and I describe?

    Yes, as much sons grow older, they have begun exhibiting behavior that I think is related to their socialization about what it means to “act like a man” as Rosalind Wiseman would say. I’m currently listening to her book “Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.”

    2. Do you have concerns about this behavior? If so, what worries you the most?

    3. What aspects of popular culture [TV shows, movies, video games, toys] seem to enter most into the gender specific play and behavior you see?

    4. Have you tried any of the strategies recommended by Rae Pica or me for dealing with the gender divisions among girls and boys and particular stereotyped behavior of the girls or boys?
    How did they work?

    5. Do you have other strategies to suggest to readers?

  26. Sarah H. says:

    1. What aspects of popular culture [TV shows, movies, video games, toys] seem to enter most into the gender specific play and behavior you see?

    I’ve seen gender specific play in the children’s choice of toys. I have rarely seen the boys in my care play with dolls. Most of time, the boys like to play with dinosaurs or superheros.

    2. Have you tried any of the strategies recommended by Rae Pica or me for dealing with the gender divisions among girls and boys and particular stereotyped behavior of the girls or boys?

    I am not currently providing childcare, but when I do, I will. I think the suggestions around not commenting on a girl’s appearance as the first thing that you say when you meet the child, but taking the time to learn about what the girl has an interest in is a really cool idea,

    3. Do you have other strategies to suggest to readers?

    I am listening to Roselind Wiseman’s “Masterminds & Wingmen” book, which is geared toward parents and understanding and raising boys. It’s incredible and she has a lot of great suggestions. One suggestion for getting boys to open up about their day is rather than asking generically “How did your day go” asking more specifically for the child to tell you his high and his low for the day. I’ve tried this and it works.

    4. Do you have questions about what Rae or I wrote about this issue that you would like us or other readers to answer? If so, please ask!

    My question would be around how we support boys to be true to themselves and manage/address the pressure they face to adopt “typical male behavior.” I’ve seen boys at my sons’ school that were so kind and thoughtful a year ago become nasty to other boys this year. It’s unfortunate…

  27. Samantha Miller says:

    Walk into my classroom and what do you see on all of my hooks? Princess backpacks or star wars on almost everyone. Children are so bombarded with boy or girl toys that they don’t get to pick anything that isn’t very often. That is why I strive to offer gender neutral toys In my classroom. I do have a house and dolls and blocks and I encourage all of my children to try out all. I find that many of my boys look forward to playing house and a lot of the girls love to build. I also encourage them all to play with each other and offer a safe place where all feel welcomed. Those little boys who play dolls guess what they are going to grow up to be, they are going to be great parents and husbands! Those little girls who build, they are going to be able to fix things by themselves.

  28. Freda says:

    Being pretty should be the last thing our little girls should worry about but in this age, it seems to have become the only thing that truly matters. This has only gotten worse with time and the invention of beauty tricks. All most girls worry about is how the next girl looks skinnier, prettier and with big butt/lips. When I was younger, it was all about how we could read books, participate in sport and we didn’t have any idea about makeup or any of these other beauty tips I see over the internet. It is very disappointing to see that with the help of social media, most celebrities (females) have wrongly influenced our girls to think that they have to look a certain way to be accepted in society as being beautiful. Beauty should come from inner not what the outer looks like. I hope someday soon, girls learn what it truly means to be beautiful.

  29. Nikki Shapiro says:

    This is a great topic and so current and relevant to date. As an EC educator and a nature based provider, much of my toys are gender neutral. I have both boy and girl dolls of varying skin colors. Blocks and magnets are a huge hit. Along with trains, cars and tracks for both boys and girls. Many toys are wooden and neutral colored. I have consciously not brought in any types of barbies or “made up” dolls even for the school agers. That being said I do catch myself saying “what a pretty dress or your hair looks so pretty in a bow” to the girls. I also compliment the boys on their looks. I do make a conscious effort to talk to the children in a way that recognizes their talents. “How smart of you to think….” “What a great decision to share…” I am the parent of 5 children and my youngest daughter is 4. She loves her princesses and dolls, but she also loves to dig for worms and go camping. She loves to dance and loves to kick a ball around with her brothers. I think it is all about balance. It was really wonderful to watch the movie Moana with her and to have the main character be a strong young girl, who was able to make decisions for herself and was confident. I believe that the media is hearing the need for change in role models for young girls and I hope that continues to improve.

  30. Kirsten Barie says:

    This chapter and the article are spot on! Thankfully my daughter was never into the princesses that much. The obsession over princesses has always bothered me. Also, an earlier post brought up dance recitals. Many of my daughter’s friends attend competition dance studios and wear hardly anything! Our studio doesn’t believe in showing that much skin and works to instill a belief that it is about skill and ability, not how you look! We are very proud of that and let the teachers know it!
    I must say though that I am guilty of making certain comments to little ones about how cute they look today, how their hair looks, etc… I am somewhat introverted and I suppose this is an easy way to strike up a conversation. I think now I will be more conscious of what I say.

  31. Marcy Dragseth says:

    After reading this chapter it made we think of the movie Frozen how it has made every little girl want to dress and act like her. Want to buy all that has to do with frozen.

    In my home as a provider I try to encourage gender neutral play. I have both girls and boys playing with dolls, cars, trains etc… No specific gender plays with just one. I try to encourage parents the importance of having gender free play as well.

    As a parent of teenage girls I tried to encourage them that they can achieve anything that their mind is set to do. The sky is the limit. My daughter works at a vet clinic as kennel staff. She has role models of female vets. Her goal is to become a vet herself. She has been working hard to achieve that goal.

    So I think if we encourage both genders that they can accomplish anything with can do attitude. There accomplishments will be great!

  32. Kelly North says:

    I have an in home daycare and when there are toys out for both boys and girls, they each tend to play with the gender associated toys. On days when it’s just one or the other they will still play with whatever is out. I have noticed as some of them have gotten older (4yrs.)they will make comments like “those toys are for girls, boys don’t play with dolls”. We then stop and have the conversation that all the toys can be played with by girls or boys.
    I too think it’s about balance.
    It would be great if we could focus on complimenting their characters, their, creativity and how great they are just being themselves.

  33. Yi Ling (Ivy) Flanders says:

    It is very important that we provide images of females who are known for the work they do, we sometime read stories with great female characters, we also invite women who are police officers, artists and firefighters to visit our school.

  34. Derrylin Young says:

    In “Teaching girls they are more than a Pretty Face”, Rae Pica talked about how young girls are worried about being Fat. They are too worried about looks because they are told that they are pretty or not pretty at early ages. I to tell my child that she is pretty. After reading this, it does make me understand why I should praise her other accomplishments. I might not stop completely telling her she’s pretty but I will start balancing it out with her other accomplishments. I don’t want her to believe that being pretty is the only thing that’s important.

  35. Brandon Young says:

    Its true that a lot of peoples first inclination is to compliment a little girl by saying “your so cute” or something like that. I do see that point of how it could probably create a standard that a girl may fill they need to live up to in some aspect. Yet on the other hand, I really don’t believe that really young children put any stock on such statements. To explain, I have been around children my whole life, and I cant recall not one time I ever heard a child younger that a pre-teen say “I don’t think I look good” or “I’m too fat”. From my experience I just don’t think this is a primary issue for younger children

  36. Steph Kallinen says:

    I am often guilty of commenting on hairstyles or clothes when kids come into day care for the day. I have read things like this before and have been working on getting away from that. One thing that really helps me is that I am a day care provider in a very, very small community and I am friends with every family on Facebook so I often see what the families have been up to over the weekend or the night before and I can use those things for conversation starters instead.

  37. Kathryn says:

    Chapter 6
    Girls are always more than their appearance, more than just make-up or a pretty smile. I think that it is awful that mass media, especially social media, and pop culture are sexualizing children as young as age 3 and 4 years old to sell different products to the masses of consumers. It is a sad state of affairs when children, especially young children, are more concerned about how they look over who they are as a person. But if we want this to change, then we need to change how we are talking about and commenting on their appearances. We also need to point out that what they are seeing and hearing in the media is often an unobtainable goal and unhealthy physically, emotionally and mentally.

  38. Samantha says:

    I think about my mom and how we were raised a lot after starting daycare. One thing I was taught was in beautiful inside and outside. I grew up to defen myself or ignore bullying, that my mom/dad loved me very much. We were active outside all the time with hardly any TV. Like I can remember where the Tvs were but don’t remember much tv time. We watched shows like DragonTales or Mickey Mouse. Then when we got older it was a lot of movies. So we never saw many commercials.

    In my Childcare it’s really hard for the girls. They come will dresses on even on days we get dirty I have girls with just dress and underwear. It’s harder to explain to the parents we as and active daycare and fancy outfits just don’t fit in here. It’s hard for me because I was taught when to dress up and home or grocery store was not the time.

    I have only a 4 year boy. He loves to play ball and be active. We are a racing family so he gets down and dirty. But he also knows how to help mom do dishes and clean his room. He loads the washer and dryer. He likes doing this stuff because he knows it helps mom.

  39. Melissa D says:

    I’ve worked hard over the years I’ve been in early education to vary the compliments I give to the girls and boys I work with. While I agree that girls are getting the message that they are defined by their appearance I don’t think it is all that different from boys getting the message that they need to be strong and “manly”. There is currently a little boy in our center that absolutely loves coming to school in his beautiful Elsa dress and I am thrilled that his parents are willing to let him make this choice. We also have a little girl that comes dressed as a king and enjoys taking on that role for the entire day. On the flip side there is a little girl that likes to wear “make up” and be cool like her older sister. I know that they want to hear that there princess dress is beautiful or they look like a very strong king but I also know that they light up when I tell them that the “A” they wrote is well done or how great it was when they helped their friend. There needs to be a definite balance.

    • Shari Ernst says:

      I agree. We all know how it makes us feel to get a compliment. Whether it be for a job well done on something or because we put together a cute outfit or styled our hair different. We like to be complemented.

  40. Shari Ernst says:

    Great topic. I feel like the book should be called eye opener..LOL. I am just as guilty as the next person about complementing little girls on how cute they are that day, etc….but I also know I comment the same to little boys. I didn’t realize the message I was sending by my words when complimenting someone on appearances. Girls are so much more than just a pretty face and appearance should NOT matter or determine your value but honestly it is the way of the world we live in these days. I know I can help change my role in it…but marketing and messages on TV can make a huge impact. I wish they would start there. I know as a mother of a 8 year old girl I have always watched my words around her. I have never said out loud that I thought I was fat. I keep those comments to myself because I am aware that girls pick up on how us adults talk and I never wanted to push that onto my child or the children in my care.

  41. Karlee O says:

    I think I somewhat struggled with this chapter and its content. While I understand the concern in girls becoming overly obsessed with their looks and overly sexualized I think some of the emphasis was misplaced. I don’t see harm in telling a little girl she’s pretty or cute especially a child you don’t know or have just met. I cannot complement the little girl next to me in the line at the store on her intelligence if I’m just seeing her for the first time. Also, I think we all enjoy and benefit from the boost that comes from being complemented on our looks now and then. That being said, I would also complement a particularly dapper looking little boy in the same way if it were just a brief meeting in the same way. Also, if I noticed a child, regardless of gender, behaving very well or listening to their parent well in the line behind me I would certainly complement them on that. Children I personally know and see their stregnths and personalities are definitely going to get more complements on these things rather than their looks but that’s not to say I’m not going to complement a little girl on her newly painted nails either. My point here is I don’t see the necessity in giving little to no complements to little girls on their looks as I think a complement a time or two isn’t where the harm lies.
    I think there is more harm in the role models these girls have in their lives speaking candidly and openly in front of children about their own physical appearance. You can often hear mothers talking about their diet restrictions at the dinner table, about what clothes and make up do and don’t look good on them, about their bad hair day and how it effected the rest of their day in front of their daughters. I think seeing the positive female adults in their lives equate their beauty to their self-worth does more damage than a single complement. Personally I would’ve liked to have seen more emphasis on recognizing one’s own words about oneself as a teacher have an effect on students rather than on complements being bad.

  42. Jill Baer says:

    Diane made such a good point that it goes both ways. It is not just girls that we need to be aware of how we speak to, but also to boys. We need to allow for exploration in non-traditional gender roles in both sexes. It is building self-esteem and character development based on what interests them. Boys and girls need to see women in strong roles as well as men in nurturing roles. So many times we reinforce stereotypes without trying. This chapter and post reminds me to be more intentional in the words I use.

  43. Amy Carter says:

    I think this was such an important topic. I have two little girls and a little boy. And while it’s always been very obvious to me to talk to my girls about how appearances don’t matter, it was less obvious to me at first to talk to my son about it. My son is 4 and regularly complements people, particularly girls/women though. He complements all ages and body types. Example, he’ll say to an elderly woman behind us in line at the store, “you look beautiful.” He tells almost all girls/women that they’re beautiful. And it’s so sweet to see their eyes light up. But it started to concern me that maybe he was focusing on appearances of others too much. So at home or even just in the car we’ll talk about it after he’s complemented someone. We talk about what being pretty and beautiful really means- that it actually has nothing to do with how someone looks but how they behave and treat others. So now when I ask him , “I noticed you told that woman behind us she was beautiful, I think she liked hearing that. But what does beautiful mean?” He immediately responds, “kindness.”

  44. Jamie Boorse says:

    This can be a touchy subject to some. There is so much in the world about how both genders need to be equal and I think this is true to a certain extent. I have 2 daughters and they know that they are girls and can do anything their hearts want. So far they have both decided to dress “girly”. My oldest is 10 and I am in shock at the clothes in the stores. She will not be allowed to wear “sexy” clothes. So there are some stores that we don’t shop at because of this. Someone else mentioned Justice and that’s where I see most of it. As they both grow and decide to wear a tutu to garden or sparkly shoes go fishing in – it’s their decision. I will, however, make sure they are dressed appropriately and look presentable. I think when it comes to the toddlers having so much pink/purple for girls and red/blue for boys it helps them understand who is a boy and who is a girl. My 2 yr old is learning and trying to understand the difference. So if she see’s a boy wearing a pink shirt with a unicorn on it she is going to be confused. At my childcare the children all play with the same toys whether its cars/trucks, babies, playing house, or throwing the ball around.

  45. Tasha Martin says:

    I have four daughters ages 3-5-8 & 9, I tell them how beautiful they are every day, I even go as far as to say your the most beautiful (name) in the world. I always want my daughters to know how perfect they are just the way they are but when you sit back and really think about it society will ruin that for them no matter what. My 9 year old has her own way to dress sometimes its a bit out of the box but she loves it. I even had a parent get upset with me once because her daughter was sneaking different clothes to school to dress the same. I know as a parent of so many daughters I need to be more careful because at some point they are going to start to get older and the world is very hurtful and me being as I am can end up causing them more harm because I didn’t prepare them for how harsh the world is.

  46. Arissa Kordell says:

    This chapter got me thinking about the other chapters that we have already discussed, such as pushing our kids to grow up faster then they need to. It’s the Same with kids dressing “so sexy so soon”. I see girls younger and younger starting to wear makeup and already wearing heals and short skirts. I can’t believe that parents are allowing kids at such a young age to actually put on adult makeup and go out of the house like that. Someone else mentioned the comment that we all hear far too often when our kids are little “they grow up so fast”. They do grow up incredibly fast and we don’t help by pushing them to be more grown up then they need to be by dressing them like a teenager or young adult. It doesn’t help that when you go into the girls section of a store that you find a large amount of clothing that’s not appropriate for young girls. I also find it very strange that you can buy gender neutral baby clothes but once you get to bigger stuff it’s a very strong line what’s boys and what’s girls.
    In daycare I see a huge controversy of letting girls play with “boy” toys and letting boys dress up in dresses. Personally I love that my daughter likes to play with trucks. She also carries her baby doll around and loves her purse but she almost always has a truck or car inside her purse that she’s playing with also. I encourage the boys to play with dolls and dress up clothes if they want. There was a daycare blog on facebook recently that said boys shouldn’t dress up in princess dresses or play with dolls and that just frustrates me. I do not believe that just because a boy plays with dolls that he is going to grow up any different. I have a little daycare boy in care now that loves to play house with the girls. Every day while playing house he insists that he’s the mom and that one of the girls is the dad. I let his mind be creative and play the way he wants.

  47. Joni Helmeke says:

    I have been thinking about this topic since I heard the news that I was going to have twin girls! My girls are just toddlers now, but, as the commentator pointed out, this is the time when they are developmentally able to begin learning about gender and the experiences they have now will begin to shape their understanding of themselves as girls. My biggest take away from this chapter are reminders to focus on taking to them about their interests and abilities instead of their looks or their cute outfits. Just tonight, my husband put a cute little skirt on one of the girls and she ran out to show me. We often play dress up because they like having something different to wear- and for the first time really, I changed my response of “look at your cute skirt” to “looks like you’re having fun sweetie!” It’s a good food for thought kind of chapter. I had planned to avoid the princess push as much as possible though it won’t be totally avoidable. It’s good to have some guidance on how to navigate some of this a little bit. The commentator’s recommendations for asking kids to talk about how the characters they are seeing on the screen are similar or different from themselves is good advice as well and something that I’ll try to remember to use when they are a little older.

  48. Kora says:

    I think this is a topic that a lot of people can relate to. We want to be or have our children be confident, self assured, and feel good about themselves. Society brings up body image in songs and shows people with make up and the “perfect body” on magazines with headlines of losing weight. Barbies have always been skinny and worn makeup. They always were perfect and could do anything and I think it had a negative effect on young girls. Now they are turning it around and making more realistic Barbie’s. But their motto is more empowering to young girls. So I think society is getting better but now to change how adults act and think will be hard.

  49. Laura says:

    This chapter is a total eye opener. the fact of telling the girls in our care how pretty they are on a daily basis makes them worry about what they are wearing and if Ms. so and so will like it or think its pretty. The fact that we put that much pressure on our little ones is crazy and I am guilty of it and This book will and has made me change my way of complementing young children. Society has changed so much for women from being homemakers, wives and mothers to successful business women and hardworking firefighters and construction working women. Teaching all our children it is ok to be other and something the society is specified as gender specific. Part of our job as providers and caretakers for these children is to teach them healthy body habits and self image.

  50. Barb K. says:

    Chapter # 6 is a good reminder to look within a child and not just at their outward appearance. Boys as well as girls need to be reassured that their self worth is not directly related to their appearance .

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