Not a pretty girl

written by Love Isn’t Enough co-editor Tami; originally published at What Tami Said

Damn.

@kellyhogaboom sends me the best links.

When I wrote about some random woman at my high school graduation shaming me for the size of my thighs, a lot of women chimed in with similar stories–criticism of youthful appearance by adults who should have known better, who should have been nurturing and not warping.

That stuff stays with you, I think, especially for women, because society tries to make “pretty” our currency. I know I can remember everything about the moment our neighbor, Mrs. Kaminsky, pronounced that my younger sister would be “the pretty one” and I “the smart one.”

(One day I’ll tell you all about how, all in one summer, I got glasses and had all my once-long hair break off due to a too-strong relaxer. I had to have my hair cut off into a tiny afro. I realize now that my mother could have taken me around the corner anywhere to have that done. Instead, she took me to a fancy salon in Chicago’s Water Tower and made me feel grown up and special. It was the day Elvis Presley died. I remember, because they announced it on the radio as our car sped back to Indiana on the Skyway. Anyway, the “pretty” police do not love a big-boned girl with glasses and an afro. No ma’am, they don’t. Being the not-pretty-but-smart-one was quite mild compared to other things I heard from grown ass adults.)

This video reminds me again of how we build physical insecurities in young girls and then chastise them when they are women for being insecure about their looks. It’s sick.

And this isn’t just a mother’s problem. Studies have shown that fathers play a significant role in shaping their daughters’ image of themselves. This is not just a parent’s problem, besides. I do think that women will have to take a lead role in ending this cycle of criticism and insecurity, because we know the damage it does more than anyone.

How are you working to make the girls and young women in your life confident in their skin?

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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