Writer Kasey Edwards voiced understandable indignation last month about the way strangers break the ice with her 4-year-old daughter. During a trip to Santa’s cottage, she noticed that people (and North Pole-dwelling elves) tended to zero in on Violet’s appearance, to the exclusion of, say, her thoughts or interests. She takes Santa to task: “You remarked on every item of clothing Violet was wearing—including her socks. And then you told her she was the most beautiful and best-dressed person in the shopping center… You kept going and suggested that she takes up modeling when she grows up.” Meanwhile, with a young boy, Santa talked about his reindeer.
It’s not just Santa. “Like most girls,” Edwards laments, “my daughter hears, ‘That’s a pretty dress, did you pick it yourself?’ or ‘What lovely hair you have,’ or ‘You have the most amazing eyelashes,’ or ‘I like the bows on your shoes,’ or ‘You are so cute’ almost every time somebody engages in conversation with her.” She worries that her daughter will internalize this aesthetic focus: “If family, friends, shop assistants, complete strangers, and even Santa only remark on how girls look…how can we expect girls to believe that they have anything more to offer the world than their beauty?”