1.) At my job tutoring at an elementary school, I find well-intentioned people constantly commenting on little girls clothing or appearance. It’s teaching them at a very young age that their value lies in their appearance. In one particular instance, one of the girls I had just finished a tutoring session with, exclaimed to one of my co-workers, “I just spelled a bunch of words!” My co-workers response was, “Oh! I love your dress! It’s so pretty.” The young girls smile evaporated and she looked down at her dress. I wanted to yell, “She was just telling you something she DID! Not how she LOOKS.” She was so excited and that excitement turned to confusion. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional appearance compliment, but when it makes up such a huge part of what people are seemingly valuing about them, it takes it’s tole. As Lisa Bloom points out in her article from the Huffington Post,
“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.”
The unhappiness Bloom is referring to is the rising rates of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and lowered rates of self-esteem in women that hinder achievements and progress that everyone could be benefiting from. And it starts at a young age.
On the flip side, little girls start conversations about their clothes or their make-up, or their new jewelry or accessory by themselves sometimes. Some of it is just because they perhaps like that kind of thing, and that’s fine. But much of it is coming from us who are reinforcing this idea that how they look is of the largest value and importance, above what they’re actually doing. When the kiddos start conversations like that I say, “Oh that’s nice. And how were swimming lessons yesterday?!” And switch it to something they’re proud of doing; Something they have an opinion about or an activity that sparks their interest. Nine times out of ten their enthusiasm increases and they are engaged in telling me something.
2.) At my other job, I discovered the best response to a customer making crude and/or sexist comments to me while I ring up their groceries. Luckily I’ve only had a couple of men who have done this. (An example is the time this guy looked me up and down and said those hip huggers look real nice on you while he stared at my crotch.) Side note, it’s usually much older men hitting on me, which is a problem in itself. I could be the mans daughter or granddaughter. How do these guys not realize those kind of comments are unwanted? Several of my co-workers, female and male, have talked about how inappropriate that is and how uncomfortable it makes women in general: How it especially throws you off your guard at work, with no place to go, having to be polite at your job. So here’s what I said to a particular customer who is notorious for making female employees uncomfortable.
“Oh, you know, I actually don’t appreciate those kind of comments, especially in my work space.”
He didn’t say anything but seemed taken aback. Since then, I haven’t had to deal with him coming through my line again.
Bloom, Lisa. “How to Talk to Girls”. Huffington Post, 2011, web April 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html