Girls bully, too: A comment on princesses and how we treat women that “can”

Ok – just read this post by Peggy Orenstein. It’s not new, it was originally published in November.http://peggyorenstein.com/blog/why-princesses-wont-be-presidentsThis “princess” connection is fascinating to me. One of my daughters was very into princesses, etc. so to me its not the “evil” empire that some people feel that it is. But then when my daughter was invited to a princess party with other 6 year olds, she went as a pirate. Not a pirate princess, a pirate.  I guess I just had a different princess-parenting experience.I see the do-it-all-perfectly-and-effortlessly thing differently, I suppose. I don’t associate that with princesses at all. I associate it with the way women talk and the way they judge each other.

I think the limiting factor here is the very real possibility that you will be publicly shamed for leaving your house without perfect make-up, making the slightest mistake or showing any effort whatsoever.

Look at the number of articles related to Hilary Clinton’s hairstyle vs. Madeleine Albright! (FYI – 1.1 million in .25 seconds vs 180k in .53 seconds)

It is sad but true.

My 16 yo is presenting a seminar to teenagers this weekend at a local 4H leadership conference. The topic is bullying, with an emphasis on how to support the victim. She has done a lot of research to prepare and one of the stats she pulled was about the shocking percentages of girls that experience emotional bullying through negative comments DAILY. The comments might be about their hairstyle, their clothes, their grades, etc. but very often girls EXPECT to hear negative comments from their peers with any sort of achievement. In contrast, boys could expect bullying to be more physical and tended to be doled out to those who “can’t” rather than those that “can.” **

The message is clear – do well, girls, and there is an army waiting to tear you down.

This is what we have to fight, people.

 
 
 

Peggy Orenstein is an award-winning writer, editor and speaker about issues affecting girls and women.
 
** Please note – NEITHER form of bullying is ok. I bring it up because the contrast was interesting to me.
 

When I look in the mirror

I sat on the bed and held Becca while she cried. I smoothed her hair, made soothing sounds and told her it was ok. Inside my heart was breaking for her. Between sobs she poured out her heart.

“I know there are other kids that don’t have as much as I do. I know that I am so lucky because I had you and daddy and you love me so much. But when I look in the mirror, I don’t think I’m pretty and it makes me feel so bad.”

The awkwardness of 12. That feeling that you are the only person who doesn’t have it together. She is noticing her body for the first time, really, and noticing that it is changing. Although at this point, it hasn’t changed much. She has always been petite, always the shortest of her friends. At 12 years old she is barely 65 pounds – everything about her is small and fairylike.

Then she entered the Junior High Girls Locker Room and the self image doubts entered right behind her — along with a lot of girls farther along in the development process.

I remember those days. To be honest, I can’t say they are fully behind me. I have a great job, loving husband, sweet friends and wonderful family but the number of the scale can ruin my week. As a mom, I have tried to keep my own body issues out of the spotlight. I don’t go on crazy diets or constantly talk about losing weight. Instead I have emphasized a desire for more energy by exercising, or choosing to cut out sugar.

I really thought Becca would not fall down that rabbit hole. But there we sat on her bed, starting a new phase of our relationship. She is looking to me for emotional support. After years of saying that it’s the beauty inside that really counts, I need to help her learn feel good about her outside beauty, too.

Have you had this conversation with your daughter? What did you say?

This post was originally published on WorkingMother.com on May 18,2011.