Sisterhood Blog

Maybe You Shouldn't Call that Baby Cute

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

I call babies cute. Most of the time it is because they are actually quite cute, and occasionally because it is the polite thing to say.

Calling babies cute is second-nature for most of us. It is what the spit-up splattered parents want to hear, and in those pre-personality early months there is really nothing else to comment on but the little one’s appearance.

Once kids get a little older though, many of us find ourselves commenting on boy’s personalities or intelligence, while still making sure to tell little girls how cute — specifically pretty — they are. For awhile now we have been discussing how girls internalize these messages, but now we are starting to realize how much parents do too.

As Lisa Bloom wrote a few years ago on the Huffington Post, the standard icebreaker in our culture for talking to little girls is commenting on how they look. The issue here is that “teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything.”

And the (female) kids are not alright. Bloom points out that close to half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat, 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now regularly wear make-up, and a high number of bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart.

Australian feminist writer Kasey Edwards wrote a great column this past winter expressing her frustration with how much attention Santa paid to her daughter Violet’s outfit and good looks. She noted that when a boy sat down on his lap he asked him what he thought about reindeer. Both Bloom and Edwards suggest we can break this habit by reminding ourselves to ask girls about their favorite books, movies or what they think of their surroundings. I don’t think either of them believes we should never mention how lovely girls look, because they are often so lovely, but just that we need to do it way less and shouldn’t lead with it. This would help not just children, but their parents too.

In the Sunday New York Times, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wrote about his research looking at the Google search patterns of parents.

Even with girls 11% percent more likely to be in a gifted program, parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?”

Don’t worry little girls, your parents haven’t forgotten you on Google. While parents are more likely to ask about sons on all matters relating to intelligence — even its absence — they are two times as likely to ask whether you young ladies are overweight. Oh, did I mention that boys are actually more likely to be overweight? They are also more likely to ask the search engine whether you are beautiful or ugly. I guess this must make Google the “beholder.”

Stephens-Davidowitz didn’t say whether moms or dads are behind these searches. It would be interesting to see whether insecurities about one’s kids plague moms more than dads, or vice versa. If I was a betting woman I would go with moms, especially with the “is my daughter fat?” stuff.

Either way, this study shows us that parents seem to be just as sensitive to you telling little Eva that she has lovely eyes as little Eva herself. Also, to not ignore the unique pressures put on boys, every time you tell little Finn how great it is that he knows everything about dinosaurs, his parents start worrying that he doesn’t know actually know everything. Let this be a good reminder to all of us to make be a little more aware of what we say kids, for the good of our kids, and their parents’ too.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.