Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pressured to be pretty.

Yesterday I was eating an ice-cream at a bar, when I saw two stick-thin girls standing in front of me.
They were discussing about how many calories they had eaten today, and in the end they decided to to take a sugar-free diet ice-cream. They were wearing skinny jeans, tons of make-up and lots of jewellery.
What's so strange about that? You may ask. Well, nothing, if you exclude the fact that these girls must have been about 10 years old, if not less.



And the problem is, they are not the only children who spend their days trying to be as sexy as possible.
When I was in 5th grade I used to spend all my break time reading or playing tag or fairies. I didn't wear make-up, didn't read celebrity mags, didn't follow fashion. And that didn't make me very popular.
Once, a popular girl was excluded from the group because she liked too many boys. Evidently, that wasn't acceptable. I offered myself to be her friend, and she immediatly got on my case. I think she was trying to help, but I didn't appreciate it much. She wanted to make me fashionable, she said that with her help I'd no longer be an outcast. I hadn't even realized I was an outcast, actually, since I didn't care to be part of the popular group. Anyway, in her opinion changing me was easy. She had elaborated the 5-step plan below.

1. Straighten your hair. Curls are no longer fashionable.
2. Stop eating apples. They aren't fashonable at all. Chips are much better.
3. Every girl should have a bracelet.
4. Wear make-up. No-one wants to be a friend of a make up-less girl.
5. Act fashionable. Say hi with a sweet voice and look while leaning slighty back and twisting just a bit. That's very sexy. Speak sexily in a girly way. Don't read. Don't play with barbies.Wear cooler clothes and shoes.

She tried to "better" me in every way. I thought about it for a day then decided that I didn't want to become like one of the mean girls in the movies. So I stopped hanging out with her.



That was when I was ten. However, my decision to not spend my life being sexy couldn't last long. By the time I was twelve, I was desperate to earn the approval of the popular gals. I wanted to be pretty. But it was useless. Sexy girliness simply isn't in my DNA. I can't act sexy all the time. I can't style my hair each morning.

So I got kind of depressed and gave up, while all my friends- who previously liked playing with me in the woods- all started hanging out at the mall talking about boys, make-up, clothes and their wish to wear high heels. I didn't like it. I desperately tried to find a way out of it. I still wanted to be a kid.

Then I realized that the boys still played as much as they wanted. They always had. So I started playing with them instead, together with another girl who felt alienated from the rest. We played football. As girls, we had never played football before, while the boys had spent their entire lives doing so. Thus, we lost every time at first, but after a couple of months we learned. That made us feel very proud.

But it was hard, resisting the "you have to be pretty" expectation. I always had relapses, months in which I decided I would become "cool". I still do, even now, even after understanding all that was going on.

But the fact is, not everyone is as lucky as me.  I have always had the deep conviction since childhood that appearences don't matter. It has faltered at times, but it was always there.
Other girls don't. My sister is in 4th grade and has two girls in her class who refuse to eat because they are afraid of becoming fat. I saw her once staring sadly at the mirror and when I asked her what was making her sad she said she thought she was ugly.
I have tried to convince her that she is very beautiful, and that anyway wasn't what really mattered. I hope the point got across.


umm, no, not appropriate.

 It is sad enough when adult women spend all their time trying to be pretty and feel insecure about their appereance. But it just isn't fair to force it on little girls too.

How can the world understand that women are not just pretty sexual objects if women themselves don't understand it?
And how can they understand it, when the world is forcing them to believe that they are?
It's a sad circle. =(

5 comments:

  1. Have you ever heard the song Popular from Wicked? It fits this well I reckon.

    There's a list as well in The Lollipop Shoes that is pretty similar to the one you put up. The character's are 11 I think. It ends with the girl reciving the advice telling her friend that she doesn't want to be a clone.

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  2. When I was around 10 or so, I found the girls in my school were acting 'weird' around boys; but I had no interest in boys. I wanted to hang out with my brother, ride BMX bikes and play soccer ... then my brother took up skateboarding and that was the end of me being girly. I asked him how to do it and he gave me a home-made board and told me it all had to do with balance. So, I spend a good part of year 6 and 7 trying to stay on the skateboard and getting myself moving.
    I skated until I was 21; after that I got a melanoma taken off my pivot leg (I was goofy step so that meant it was my left thigh) and well... that was the end of my skateboarding. So, I took up inline-skating.
    During high school, I didn't stay with the fashions, didn't have the 'right' hairstyles and didn't hang with any popular groups simply because I thought I didn't have to. I was me and I had my own taste and if anyone didn't like it, well, tough. I began growing out a mullet haircut when I was 15 (thank god!), but still people at school were trying to convince me to wear make up and get a boyfriend (and I had more than a few guys ask me out... which I turned down; not because they were ugly, but because I knew where it would end up).
    Popularity isn't everything... being yourself and making yourself happy first and foremost is. That is the main thing you must remember.

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  3. Great post, really.

    I like how you tackled this issue, because really, even though a lot of people do, it seems like it's just not enough to drive it across their heads.

    I could say they're just young and they don't know any better, but maybe teachers, adults, everyone, can do something --just show them--that the world isn't ALL about appearances.

    Sure, neatness matters. A lot.

    But it doesn't mean being pretty means looking like a clown with stick-thin arms that could probably barely lift anything.

    I agree with you, and though I know it's hard for some kids to really stand up and defy the popularity norms, I just wish they'd realize we're all beautiful inside.

    And that's what matters.

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  4. Amen to all that. I was a tomboy too from the ages of about 7-10. After that i became more girly, but still:

    eating apples
    reading
    leaving hair au naturel
    and not wearing make up

    remain some of my favourite hobbies. In fact i have conducted lengthy studies re the subject of make up. It transpires most boys actually assume i am wearing makeup, and are always surprised when i reveal i am not and very rarely do. Therefore we see that men actually do not notice or care. So why do we bother?

    Also when i was about thirteen i didn't brush my hair for a phase of about six months and just washed it and left it how it looked when i came out the shower. This is not a look i would advocate now, but i was told by one of my old friends the other day that actually she liked i that way. So it just shows, why bother?

    ReplyDelete
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