Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Se faire belle

My SIL and her children stayed with us for a very hectic five days (the amount of noise and mess two small kids can produce is really quite incredible).  My niece is at the age though where everything princess rules.  Pink dresses, tutus, crowns, wands - you name it, she loves it. 

Her mother and grandmother are very earthy and don't really bother with external appearances at all, so whenever she comes to see us, she is always extremely interested in my make-up products, nail polish, etc.  She would sit quietly with me every morning while I got ready, just watching me, and sometimes asking questions about what I was doing or using.

Her main question though was Why?  Why are you putting on makeup? Why are you doing your hair?  Why do you paint your nails?  My immediate answer was "pour me faire belle", or to make myself beautiful, but then I thought - what on Earth kind of message is that sending to a young girl?  I certainly didn't want her to think that a woman needed to put on makeup in order to be beautiful, but then how do you explain to a 3-4 year old that you can put on makeup to feel better for yourself, and not just for others?  Or trying to delicately answer that I used mascara to darken my eyelashes without making it seem like it was bad if you didn't do that, especially since her mother doesn't.  But it still didn't stop her from asking "Can I wear makeup?  Can you do my hair? Can you paint my nails pink?"

The whole time she was here, I kept thinking back to an article I read some time ago that brought up the different vocabulary used with boys and girls.  Boys are often told they are strong and smart while girls are told they are pretty or good.  And it's something I've been very conscious about ever since.  I mean, it's true - it must be so much more difficult to motivate girls to excel in academics or sports if they are mainly lauded for their looks or how they act.  Even as an adult, I'm not really anything special but still most of the compliments I get tend to be more looks-related and not accomplishment-related. But luckily I have some pretty great girlfriends and blog readers who also recognize how hard I've worked. ;)

Anyways, I know a lot of you out there currently have or have raised girls, so I'd be really curious to hear your thoughts on this and how you dealt or have dealt with these sorts of questions.

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8 Comments:

Blogger judyb said...

Sam,

Since i work for an non-profit that is actively empowering girls and women, i could probably overwhelm you with a ton of articles about this. But i won't. What i will say is that the fact that you're being conscious about it and asking the question is really half the battle.

A girl of any age will understand doing something that makes herself (or yourself) feel good. Framing makeup and clothing in that way, instead of making it about presenting yourself to the outside world, is a really great way to do it.

One of the things we do at camp is try to follow up superficial compliments with deeper ones. The joke (among the adults) has become that we add, "and you're smart" to any compliment, but it honestly makes a difference to be so conscious about it.

When talking about this stuff, make sure you mention the other tomboy/butch side of the coin and say that being that way is great, too.

Just some thoughts :)

Judy

July 30, 2014 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger The Paris Chronicles said...

With my two girls (now 16 and 19), I was very comfortable letting them witness my own "self-care" which involved always looking as attractive as I could...even to take down the garbage! (This, in France. When I'm in the USA, I'm very comfortable going without makeup and basically live in shorts and tennis shoes, an outfit I'd never be caught dead in in Paris.)

Now, my older daughter is a real fashionista, and her dream is to be CEO of Sephora. She has her own YouTube channel where so does makeup tutorials, and is very gifted at the art of makeup application. She is like me in that way; she'd never go outside our home without looking impeccable, even if it means getting up a hour early to do her hair.

My younger daughter is going through a bit of a grunge stage but despite that, she also takes time with her makeup and hair.

Both girls are very confident in their intellectual skills as well, so it's not a case of choosing between being pretty or being smart.

As a mom, I did/do emphasize that looking one's best reflects feeling one's best and that these things go hand in hand.

It would not have broken my heart to have raised a girl who had no interest in self-care, (as long as she didn't self-harm or dress to provoke) but I'm pleased that we all share this love of looking our best (and share lipsticks, too!)

August 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM  
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September 19, 2014 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I still struggle with this myself. If it were just for me I would wear running clothes and no make-up everywhere and all the time.

When I put make-up on (about once a week, maybe) and dress in real clothes (almost every day) it is for the outside world.

I think many men do it for the same reason. If they are honest, I am sure that many of the men I know wear dress shirts instead of T-shirts and nice pants instead of sweats because it is expected of them, not because it makes them feel good.

Which brings me to another thought... why do we, as women, say that putting on make-up makes us feel good? Because we like the way we are presenting ourselves to the outside world. It all comes back to that in the end.

I have two sons who ask me why I have my legs waxed, why I wear make-up and I tell them with my legs, it's because the world expects women to pretend like they don't have hair that grows there, and also because it bothers me in sports activities. With make-up, I tell them it's so I look extra special pretty. I have no idea how that will affect their future relationship with women and standards of beauty for women, but hopefully it will give them realistic expectations.

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