Last weekend, while considering her reflection in the full-length mirror in my bathroom, The Geej asked me innocently, "Am I skinny, Mommy?"
The Geej who has yet to reach 50 lbs.
The Geej who wears size 7 super skinny jeans that have their adjustable waistbands taken all the way in so that they'll stay on her body.
The Geej who is almost always cold because she has zero body fat.
The Geej who is only seven and a half years old.
My heart sank with her question. I answered her honestly, "Yes honey, you're skinny."
But then I followed up with, "But what if I'd said that you weren't?" She looked at me, bewildered. I told her, "Not being skinny isn't a bad thing, honey. You know that, right?" She nodded her head, a bit confused, and returned to brushing her hair while gazing at herself. After a few seconds she asked, "But I AM skinny, right?" I didn't answer.
So this is what our world is like. With all of the advances women have made in most societies, how they look and dress still plays a huge part in how the world perceives them, and how they perceive themselves, and it makes my feminist blood boil.
But it's more than just the appearance thing that gets me. It's the fact that, now as the mother of a young girl, the overt gender stratification of the world around us leaps out at me as never before.
Go to Target, to the toy aisles. There are, clearly, aisles of toys intended for girls and aisles of toys that are intended for boys. The way the simple act of play is marketed and merchandised almost ensures that boys will not explore "girl" toys, and vice versa. When I first spoke to The Geej about reading some Harry Potter together, she balked at the idea because "Harry Potter is a boy's book." Same with Star Wars movies. [NOTE: I read the first Harry Potter to her, and she LOVED it. We're now reading the second. We'll get to Star Wars soon.] She's already self-limiting what she is willing to experience because of some "THIS is okay; THAT is not" bullshit that has seeped into her young brain.
And she is beautiful. Stunningly so. People--including strangers--comment on her looks all the time and always have. I rarely tell her she's cute or beautiful, choosing instead to focus on how smart and kind and funny she is. As a goofy looking kid, I didn't have people commenting on my looks very often. You know, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. But to The Geej, she's already started to believe that her looks are one of the most important things about her. And how, as her mother, do I instill in her that they're not without bruising her confidence?
Being the mother of a girl is hard.