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    • It's really hard not to give appearance-based compliments to girls, but I notice most people don't give them to boys past a certain age, or do it in a very different way ("You look like such a little gentleman!" "You're going to break some hearts!") I think it's worth thinking about that, and subverting it if possible: telling boys they're beautiful; calling a dressed up girl a 'queen' instead of a 'princess' -- or heck, let's get crazy and go with 'international superspy', 'ambassador', or even 'senator' or 'admiral', thank you, Star Wars! (And thank you so much for making sure my favorite princess growing up also wore a snowsuit and carried a big gun.) Girls don't sacrifice their potentials by enjoying dressing up. Boys are beautiful, and should hear it. And if they wrinkle their noses, they've already learned some things that should be unpacked and talked about.

      But even past giving more creative compliments to looks...if one pays attention around a little girl one finds that she is being bombarded with assessments based on looks and femininity. Compliments are also assessments: they are telling kids what we value, what about them they should value too. Kids are sponges, and they pick up subtext as well as text. So even if a little girl is SHOCKINGLY beautiful, I think it's good to consider being the person who asks about her interests, compliments her drawings, or her impressive racing-car sound effects, because she hears about her looks all the time, and it's great for her to learn other values too. And that's without getting into the entire 'innate versus effort' compliment field of study, which is waaaaay off the topic of the thread so I'll stop babbling.

      As to the original post...I hate the fact that waving around my committed relationship is the best way to get interested men to back off, too. I hate feeling like I'm supporting that premise you mention, the ownership thing, by relying on it. But as you say, there is an innate threat, if not of overt violence, then at least of rage. Heck, I've gotten cussed at for whipping out the 'I have a boyfriend' shield too early, when the interest hadn't yet been undeniably explicit. Because then I'm a 'stuck up B'. Which is, of course, also a failure of femininity -- one of the metrics of intrinsic worth on which I'm constantly being assessed by random strangers or new acquaintances!

    • Couldn't agree more on compliments being assessments and kids picking it up. Children of either gender should be told they are beautiful, but for girls, it often becomes the central part of their being.

      When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pirate, a tracker in the Wild West or an explorer of faraway lands. While my granddad and dad fully supported those ideas and made me bows and arrows from a hazelnut tree, my mother (bless her) made me wear tutus, practice ballet and always remind me I should be more beautiful and elegant, just like girl X, and why can't I just be a little more like girl X (girl X was my exceptionally beautiful, skinny and graceful classmate who would learn to apply make up in sixth grade while I trained for show jumping competitions in a mounted police yard).

      Result? I still refuse to fold my clothes neatly and haven't owned a dress or a skirt since 2009. Kidding aside, though... I don't think my mom's obsession with beauty and elegance did me any favors, but they did leave a few lingering complexes. I don't blame her in any way - she was a product of her time, upbringing, culture and the notion of femininity back then - but I do sometimes wonder whether I would have been braver, healthier and more successful if I hadn't been so torn between the pressure to look pretty and the desire to see the world on my own terms.

    • Felicity, Evergreen,

      So much yes to both. I think about that a lot. The way society talks to little girls in comparison to little boys.

      EVEN the way women can sometimes talk about themselves.

      Over the weekend I was waiting on a group of women to show up in a limo for a 40 year old birthday party photoshoot. The group ended up being over an hour and a half late. We made it work, but what I was more interested in is the reasoning everyone kept giving:

      "Ohhhhhh you know how it is with girls, we can't be on time to anything."

      Almost every single women said this same thing. I never confronted or asked them why they were late, this just kept being brought to me. It had me thinking about a couple of things.

      First of all: these 40 year old women kept referring to themselves as girls and two... I am a woman and I was there 30 minutes early. I wasn't offended by this statement, more just fascinated at the way some of us have been trained to see ourselves. Sure, it was a cutsie way of saying "Hey, there were 30 of us trying to pile into one limo coming from all over the bay area, it took some time to collect everyone." Though instead it came out in a self deprecating statement, not only to themselves, but suggesting that women are "Girls who can never be on time to anything."

      Sexism is so engrained in us, that some even feel it towards themselves as women.

      In that moment I nervously giggled as I do.... but felt a bit of sadness.

    • Nervous laughter is such a horrible reflex. It's like the opposite of staircase wit -- not only do we not get to respond to something with the perfect witty takedown of our dreams, but it seems like we were fine with it because we laughed. Arrrrgh!

    • Sexism is so engrained in us, that some even feel it towards themselves as women

      Not on the scale of the female side, but sexism is alive and directed at males as well.

      I deal with it everyday at work, very difficult to talk about as it is "just whining, you don't even know what it is" responses.

      equality after shift in power is rare if non-existent in many situations, payback or revenge is heavy.

    • Not on the scale of the female side, but sexism is alive and directed at males as well.

      I notice it too sometimes, but like you I feel like it's not on the scale of the female or person of color side. Honestly, in both cases I feel like what 6% of white men have done to women and people of color have brought most of this upon us.

      Can you imagine being a Catholic Priest? You can be wonderful, a true saint and role model for the boys in your parish, but could you blame the parents for exercising caution with their young sons around men like you and me?

    • Somehow I got drawn in to this article yesterday. It's horrifying and I lost some faith in humanity, but it is extraordinary journalism, a story that took 3 years to write. I can't imagine what it's like to live in fear of this.

    • Username, Chris,

      There is absolutely sexism towards men as well. Sure, it's not the to degree that women suffer, however it's equally as detrimental to our young developing boys.

      You're right, I can't even imagine being a Catholic Priest.

      Aside from that though, young boys are taught they have to be "strong" and that if you show emotion you are "weak". Not being able to properly express your emotions causes anger issues down the road. This also turns around and plays back into the overall sexism for women as well because women are considered the "emotional ones" instead of it just being a natural human emotion.

      I can't imagine what it must be like to be a young boy growing up being told I have to be this strong man or to "just be a man" in general.

    • Old post but I read most of the comments and felt the urge to reply.

      As a 'famale-bodied' person I've had some guys hit on me but I never told them "I have a boyfriend" unless they specifically asked me if I was single and if I did indeed have a boyfriend. I always said something like "I'm not interested" or, if the person wasn't rude, "thanks, but I'm not looking for a relationship at this time." Never have I really felt threatened by someone hitting on me either, and I actually think and have been told many times that I look quite threatening myself when I'm pissed, despite my small size.

      I think that the threat of physical violence is in people's heads most of the time (of course sometimes it's real!) If you are scared, it's natural to say "I have a boyfriend" to 'scare' someone away. If you're not, then you'll just say the truth: "I am not interested in you."