More Than the Sum of Their Looks

This post has been percolating in the back of my mind for weeks now. It’s one that I write then erase, write then erase, and on it goes in the vicious little circle. Sometimes, when I have trouble writing a post, I just stop myself and it never sees the light of day… but with this post, I really wanted people to see this… so here it is, with all it’s imperfections…

Ella’s become a very good mimic lately. She’ll often repeat things that I say or that she’s heard from someone else. Lately, she’s been talking to Tehya, mimicking the “baby talk” she hears from a lot of adults, saying “You’re so cute” or “Oh look at you, aren’t you adorable?”, even going so far as to mimic their body language where she bends right down to Tehya’s face to talk to her. This GRATES on my nerves.

Don’t get me wrong, in my completely biased opinion, I think I have two beautiful girls, and I want them to believe that about themselves… BUT, more importantly, I want them to recognize that they are more than the sum of their body parts. Yes, Tehya’s adorable, but she’s also adventurous, funny, kind, strong willed, mischievous, smart, determined and hard working. She loves to cuddle in my arms at night before bed, asking repeatedly for her favourite song to be sung to her. She LOVES her big sister and will do anything for her. The other day Ella fell and hurt herself, so Tehya went running to find her favourite stuffies and brought them to her to make her feel better. She loves to giggle, and play and chase and be the wonderful little two year old that she is. These qualities, her amazing little personality, is what I want her to LOVE most about herself, and as she grows, I’m starting to recognize more and more how difficult this battle will be.

It seems at almost every turn, I am reminded in society that women are not seen as equal and often, that it is preferred for them to be seen and not heard. That there is more value in them as “art objects” in advertising campaigns than anything else. Especially when you start looking at what happens behind the scenes in Photoshop to “make them more beautiful.” That in movies they are often portrayed as the “weaker sex,” needing to be rescued. My nephew was playing with some action figures the other day, and said, “This is you, auntie.” holding up a Princess Leia action figure. He then proceeded to say, in his best squeaky voice, “Oh, Help, Help me! Oh, please someone save me!” I quickly set the record straight, telling him that I most certainly did not need to be rescued and that I could take care of myself. Just because I’m a woman, does not make me helpless… even if this is how it’s shown in the movies.

I see the tides of change coming, as more and more people are speaking up and insisting on change. There’s a great speech by Joss Whedon where he talks about about the “dumb questions” that he’s asked by reporters about why he writes strong women characters. He talks about all the typical answers to this, from his “strong mother” to his “engaged father”, to the fact that female characters are allowed emotions. He says at one point in his speech, “Why aren’t you asking the 100 other guys why they don’t write strong female characters?”… and his final answer to this question: “Because you are still asking me this question.” This is someone who wants to see this change, as much as I do.

I work hard to instill strong values in my girls. I want them to be independent and compassionate. I want them to know that they can do anything that they set their minds to. I want them to understand that it’s okay to be different and to stand up for what they believe in. But mostly, I want them to know that they matter, not for what they look like, but for who they are.

Every time Ella starts with the “baby talk” to Tehya, I stop her and talk to her about what she’s saying and ask her why she’s saying it. I want her to learn that just because adults talk like this doesn’t mean that it’s okay. I’m hoping that I will eventually figure out what to say to every well meaning clerk/random person on the street, that there are better ways to speak to my kids, and that while I understand you’re paying Tehya a compliment, it’s one that she really doesn’t need to hear every time we go out.

So I’d really love your feedback/advice on this post. How do you feel women are viewed in our society? Am I being too sensitive about the comments that Tehya hears all the time? What would you say to someone, if you were in my shoes?

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

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