Reinforce more than ‘pretty’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Did you hear? Barbie has gotten another makeover.

Not by my 7-year-old mind, you. No, a Pittsburgh-based artist and blogger picked up a pen and paper to give a voice of reason for young girls everywhere that one doesn’t have to be a leggy blonde with a teeny-tiny waist and vivid makeup to be beautiful.

According to the web, Nickolay Lamm is not letting up on his eye-opening series of Barbie critiques. First he focused on the icon’s heavy makeup, giving her a more natural look. Then, he went after her unrealistic body proportions. For that, he compared her side-by-side to illustrations of a mockup realistic version, based on average measurements of a 19-year-old American woman as provided by the CDC.

Through the magic of retouching and 3D printing, he has “made” the true-to-life Barbie – on paper, at least.

“So, if there’s even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average sized woman in America, what’s stopping Mattel from making one?” Lamm asked.

That’s a good question, but I think a better one is why is it that televisions, movie screens and magazine racks are filled with images of impossible standards of beauty?

I applaud Lamm’s effort as a starting point, but when you have a mega star, weighing all of 90 pounds soaking wet, with perfect hair and make-up on the cover, how can we not expect girls to believe that to be the epitome of beauty? Same can be said, again, for television and movie screens.

According to Catherine Steiner-Adair, the overemphasis on girls’ appearance begins at babyhood.

“As soon as a baby is dressed in pink or blue, the world responds differently to that baby, as there are gender-based expectations on how girls should behave and what should interest them.” Steiner-Adair said. “Adults respond so much to what a girl looks like that by age five or six, young girls are getting the notion that their body is their selling point. ”

To combat that, she recommends talk about who your daughter is instead of how she looks, giving compliments on qualities other than looks.

“Parents so often say ‘You look so pretty today,’ but don’t say things like, ‘You were such a good friend today,’ or ‘You handled that frustration well,’” she said. “It’s very useful to compliment girls on their assertiveness and even their anger with statements like, ‘You were brave to tell me how mad you were,’ ‘I like how you stand up for yourself,’ ‘You and I disagree and I respect your thinking,’ or ‘I never would have thought of that; you are so smart about these things.’”

I’m going to work really hard to reinforce the message to remember it’s always brains before beauty. Looks fade, but being smart is forever.