YAY! Facebook FINALLY recognizes: misogyny exists. It’s real, FB says, and that’s a giant social media step in the right direction. In 2013, gender-based hate and violence is epidemic and still, for the most part, accepted as normal.
I’m 44 years old, a member of the notoriously apathetic Generation X. Since I started speaking out about feminist issues, back in my twenties (not lazy or apolitical, by the way, didn’t really know anyone who was) I’ve been told sexism doesn’t exist. We live in a post-feminist world. What could American women, not to mention white, educated, privileged ones, possibly be whining about? We weren’t under Taliban rule for goodness sake. Not that college kids, all of us so well versed in South Africa’s racist history, had any clue about the gender apartheid of the Taliban. And if we had known of it? Gender bias, while kind of a shame, was just a cultural difference, not a political issue. “Relative ethics” was the term my sociology professor taught us for female genital mutilation: Who were we, in all our privilege to judge?
So for years, Facebook has been receiving reports on posts depicting gender based violence. While the company actively bans religious or racist hate speech, here’s just one example of its past response to misogyny.
(via Amazing Women Rock . If you go to the link, and you have a strong stomach, you can see many more.)
So why did Facebook change its tune, pledging to take misogyny seriously? Obviously, in no small part, because of a well-run, well organized campaign by Women, Action, and Media. THANK YOU WAM and thank you to all of you who responded. In days, 5,000 emails and 60,000 Tweets went to Facebook’s advertisers who started to take their ads off the site. Facebook, if anyone could, saw where all this viral action was headed. Women have been using social media to change the world for some time now.
Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM… points to the outrage over the social media-documented rape in Steubenville, gang rapes in India and the suicides of several young rape victims as indications that Americans may have had enough of the consequences of rape culture. While she’s still unsure that the country is ready for widespread change, she believes “there’s a critical mass right now; it could be a tipping point moment”…
But this glaring, in-your-face misogyny may be the spark that pushes culture forward—there’s no arguing with these images, these court cases, these stories. Maybe it needed to get a lot worse—or more visible—for it to get better. For years, the most common anti-feminist talking point has been that American women don’t have it all that bad. That we should stop complaining and focus on women in other countries who are “really” oppressed.
But today, telling women that sexism doesn’t exist anymore is a really hard sell. Thanks to the Internet and the speed at which stories move—not to mention the vile sexism in most online spaces—any American woman who spends more than five minutes onlines hears about or experiences misogyny every day.
I started this blog, Reel Girl, because I have 3 daughters, and I was so horrified by the gender stereotyping marketed to kids like it’s okay, like it’s normal, and then how everyone participates in it. It’s so sad that sexism, packaged and sold to kids, is so ubiquitous that, paradoxically, it’s become invisible. I feel like 90% of my work is just pointing out that sexism exists. I’ve posted this a couple times, but here it is again:
Violence against women is epidemic. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale. Here’s some propaganda marketed to kids:
Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938
Africans circa 1931
Females circa 2013
It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?
Since my post, I’ve gotten comments asking how dare I compare sexism to racism and antisemitism. I’ve been rebuked for taking sexism seriously for a long time. When I was a senior in high school, I was talking to a good friend of mine about sexism, and he said to me, indignantly, “A woman has never been lynched for being a woman!” Maybe, maybe not, but women have been murdered throughout history for being women. Does getting raped or sexually assaulted qualify as pretty bad treatment?
Here’s a classic comment from Chinwe:
What I find embarrassing, shameful, and flat out appalling is you comparing the current state of girls in 2013 to the days that Blacks and Jews were stereotyped, discriminated, and killed in the early 20th century. Girls and women have gained so many rights in the last 40+ years and you compared its ”oppression” to Blacks and Jews in the 1930s.
That’s absolutely and utterly lazy comparison and analysis.
Years ago, the Wall Street Journal used to have a Bad Writing Contest where readers can submit writing that’s truly awful. Too bad they don’t have this contest because I would personally submit this post–and your blog–to judges of the Bad Writing Contest and you would win hands down.
Honestly, you need a new hobby because you come across really immature, out-of-touch and bitter towards the world. Once again, do yourself a favor and enroll in an English 101 class at your local community college and learn how to write. Everytime I see a new post, 1) you are embarrassing yourself and 2) you put yourself further down the cultural rabbit hole by making piss poor arguments.
I guess Disney was right to be so terrified of creating a strong, BRAVE, female protagonist (along with Pixar studios which hadn’t had ANY female protags before “Brave.”) It looks like Merida could be turning Disney’s franchise on it’s head. That’s pretty damn heroic.
Another mistake Disney made with “Brave?” They hired a female director. They fired her, but it was too late. Brenda Chapman wrote “Brave” based on her daughter. She was furious with the character’s transformation and wrote publicly about Disney’s terrible mistake.
That’s right: Although Merida was created by a woman as a role model for girls, the male-dominated consumer product division at Disney has ignored the character’s intended benefits for young girls, sexualizing her for profit. Compared with her film counterpart, this new Merida is slimmer and bustier. She wears makeup, and her hair’s characteristic wildness is gone: It has been volumized and restyled with a texture more traditionally “pretty.” Furthermore, she is missing her signature bow, arrow, and quiver; instead, she wears a fashionable sash around her sparkly, off-the-shoulder gown. (As Peggy Orenstein noted when she broke the news of the redesign, “Moms tell me all the time that their preschool daughters are pitching fits and destroying their t-shirts because ‘princesses don’t cover their shoulders.’” I’ve heard the same from parents, as well.)
Is the sexualized image of Merida gone for good? Has Disney learned a lesson? Or will that lesson be: No more strong female characters leading a film! No more female directors writing about their daughters! Keep the females weak and quiet!
Objectifying and sexualizing girls is dangerous. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale.
Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938
Africans circa 1931
Females circa 2013
It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it, not to mention expose my child to it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?
Be part of the solution. Demand narratives with strong female characters for your kids.
Update: New Merida may be off Disney’s site but she’s showing up all over the place including Target. Below is Target’s web page.
Check out this cool nursery that journalist Lisa Ling designed for her daughter, Jett. It’s black and white and sports a mural featuring… snakes! Ling says, “It’s fine if Jett ends up loving pink, but I won’t introduce her to it now.” LOVE.
Perhaps I am the wrong person to open this discussion, because I was raised in a house where being beautiful (if you were a girl) was everything – I was dragged from under my bed as a 6-year-old, kicking and screaming, so that my “ugly” straight hair could be permed.I was the only pre-teen I knew who was forced to wear makeup.And I existed on air-popped popcorn throughout high school because I dreaded being withdrawn from school and put on a liquid diet until I lost weight like a friend of mine.I grew up to make my living for a while from my looks, modeling and acting.So it would be silly to claim I don’t carry some baggage about beauty, and I won’t even try.
But I’m going to throw my hat into the ring anyway on the latest movement to redefine beauty, to make it more inclusive, to tell every woman she’s beautiful (yes, Dove, that’s you…and so many more).I hate it.I absolutely detest it.Why?Because even the most well-intentioned, politically correct, supportive, inclusive statements and movements can still be boiled down to this:beauty is all important.
The traditional wisdom – from my grandmother’s era – was a terse “if you’re not beautiful, cultivate a great personality, be the smartest, wittiest person in the world, be charming, develop great talents.”This seems outrageously offensive in today’s era, yes?It puts beauty in a removed and superior category which excuses the lucky ‘owners’ from doing anything else on that list (plus it reinforces the tired dichotomy of smart/witty/talented vs. beautiful).As much as we sincerely applaud the use of larger-sized models and real women in these new campaigns, the honest truth is: nothing has changed.We are still saying beauty is the defining item in women’s lives.We’re just screaming for an expanded definition.
If you take out the words “beautiful” and “ugly” in the widely celebrated, empowering “Everyone’s Beautiful!” campaigns and you substitutethe words “white” and “black” or “straight” and “gay” you begin to see how thoroughly stupid it is to waste time trying to define (or redefine) “beauty.”Go ahead, try it: “Everyone’s white! You’re white just as you are!” Or“We just need to redefine straight to include all humans! Everyone’s straight!”
It suddenly seems ridiculous (not to mention condescending), doesn’t it? These well-intentioned feel-good anthems really just posit beautiful (or white or straight) as the goal, as the “best” option, as the ultimate compliment/inclusion/approval.Think I’m exaggerating? I can guarantee that someone in response to this article will think the most insulting, awful comment they can summon is “you’re just a jealous, fat, ugly dyke!”But it’s not just those haters – it’s the advertisers, it’s the lawmakers, it’s the population, it’s each and every one of us.We all keep thinking that telling women and girls they’re beautiful is the answer, as long as we adjust the definition to include everyone.But we’re all still holding it up as the holy grail, the pinnacle of achievement, the most important thing they can be.
You know, my mother thought straight hair was disgustingly ugly (a fact she will still tell anyone to this day).As a child, did I wish she would open her beauty boundaries, recalibrate her metric, until it included my stick-straight strands?That would have saved me a lot of tears and chemical burns on my scalp, sure, but really I just remember fervently wishing she would stop focusing on my damned hair so I could go outside and swing on the monkey bars.Did my young friend wish her parents would say “honey, a few extra pounds are beautiful!” Not at all.She felt nearly the same shame and humiliation whether they praised her weight loss or put her on a diet.She simply didn’t want them or anyone else to discuss her body, in any way, good or bad – it was mortifying.She just wanted to be riding her horse.
Each one of us – me, you, Dove, everyone – needs to stop trying to expand our precious definitions (“beauty is valued, so we need to make sure everyone feels beautiful!”) and figure out why (and if) they’re important to define at all.Everyone should be accepted and given equal consideration and rights, even if we’re not all straight, we’re not all white, and we’re not all beautiful.Who cares? Let’s cultivate our talents, our charm, our smarts, our personalities.And then let’s run out and swing on the monkey bars.
“Thoughts that come with dove’s footsteps guide the world.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Melissa Duge Spiers is a writer whose work has appeared in Adventure Sports Journal, Vermont Sports, and The Monterey Herald, among other publications. She is working on her first novel. A graduate of Barnard College, she lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and four children.
My six year old daughter goes to an excellent public school, but like most public schools, its resources are limited. I supplement my daughter’s education with art classes, music, and sports outside of school. She goes to art class at a place called 4Cats every week, and she loves it. I love it too. Every season’s session 4Cats picks one or two artists. The children study all about the artist, her life, and her work. Simultaneously, they create a painting in that artist’s style. Since starting 4Cats, my daughter has studied Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Vermeer, Lichtenstein, and Frida Kahlo. I asked her who her favorite is, so far. Her answer: Frida Kahlo, and then she asked me, “Why is there only one girl?”
Here’s Alice’s Frida Kahlo.
I was thinking that it’s great my daughter is getting exposure to art, but also how, and this reminds me of the post I just wrote on boarding school, the more “educated” we get, the more we can “learn” to internalize sexism. Before 4Cats, my daughter had no idea there were many more male artists than female artists. Now she knows. Will that limit how she evaluates her own potential? Her dreams? Her aspirations? Of course, I tell her she can be anything she wants to be. But words are just words. Showing a kid something, modeling it for her, is much more effective. That’s how kids really learn, and grown-ups for that matter. My words contradict what my daughter sees.
My temporary solution? Art class is today, and I’m going to ask 4Cats if they’ll consider featuring more female artists in the curriculum.
Update I spoke with my daughter’s teacher who is wonderful with these kids. She told me that in the 4Cats curriculum, there are only two female artists. 4Cats studios are all over the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Each franchise (the one we go to is in San Francisco) can select who they want use out of that established curriculum. The curriculum includes books for kids on the artist, apps, and games, along with other related activities. Alice’s teacher said that the 4Cats curriculum reflects who the important artists are and that’s why there are mostly males taught. I suggested a few females– Mary Cassatt, Artemisia Gentileshi, and Georgia O’Keefe. I love Kara Walker’s silhouettes, and I bet the kids would have so much fun making those.
The teacher told me she’d forward this blog to whoever is in charge of curriculum. So if this blog, gets to you, we love learning about art. Half of the kid population– and most likely, at least half of your students– are female. It would be great if 4Cats made an effort to educate and inspire kids by teaching them about female artists.
My daughters had two incidents this week where other kids asked them why they had boy stuff. The first time was when my nine year old daughter was in ski school and another girl asked her if she had a big brother because she was wearing boy clothes. My daughter was wearing a black parka and gray ski pants. My daughter told me that she lied to the girl, saying she didn’t have a big brother but she had a boy cousin who was older. The girl was wearing white ski clothes and her skis were covered with a pink design that my daughter thought might be birds.
My husband told my daughter, “Just say to her, ‘Did you eat something pink? Because it looks like you threw up all over your skis.”
I kind of like that. I need help from you about how to respond to kids like this. I know exactly what to say to adults but I don’t want to get all intellectual on kids. I also don’t want to shame the kid, even though part of me does. Here are my three daughters, learning how to ski, being brave, taking risks, trying something new, and some little kid makes them think about how they appear? How they look? ARGH.
Have you had similar experiences and what has your kid said or you said that you felt good about?
The next event happened to my six year old daughter. Usually she gets school lunch, but that day, she brought a lunch bag to school that is blue and gray. A boy in line asked her why she had a boy lunch. A boy lunch?
Again, the last thing I want my daughter focusing on is how her lunch looks.
The focus on appearance starts so young with girls, and I hate watching it get programmed into their growing brains. Kids are resilient but girl children get so much attention for what they look like, you can literally see them learn “how I look = attention= love.” Unlearning that message, when it is reaffirmed everywhere for a lifetime, is challenging to say the least.
If there were any way to win this battle of appearance= happiness, maybe I could get behind it. But there is no way for females to feel good about themselves when their identity and power is shrouded in how they look. Even if a woman spends all of her time, all of her money, and all of her mental energy on looking good, say she’s Kim Kardashian, people will still call her “fat” and “a hairy Armenian.” No woman who is in public on any level will escape being called ugly to insult and degrade her. But even say, magically, some woman were so perfectly “beautiful,” she was immune to ever having a bad photo on the internet. That woman will age and then she will be “ugly.” There is no way for a woman to win the “beauty” game. That is why I hate that tiny baby girls are taught by parents, doctors, and teachers that their bodies are valued for how they appear and not for what they do. And one of the saddest things ever is watching little kids do this to each other, because you know who has taught them this– us.
You are definitely not alone or bonkers! In fact, you are intelligent enough to know that sexism is still present in our society. I am 13 and I share the same experiences with you! I never tried to advocate feminism openly in public because I know how ignorant, oblivious , and stubborn people are that they would not accept the truth, or flatly deny the existence of sexism. I would have had the courage if there was such a thing such as a feminist campaign club in my country. At least my sister and all of you here understand sexism!
It makes me so mad and frustrated that neither of these girls, 30 years younger than me, feels like she has a public voice to tell her story. I am happy that they wrote on this blog, and I hope that they will continue to write and refuse to believe that the sexism they experience in their world is trivial and doesn’t matter.
If this isn’t sexist:
And this isn’t sexist:
And this isn’t sexist:
Is this sexist?
This photo of Obama’s inner circle is from the March issue of Vogue magazine.
When girls go missing in children media, it acclimates a whole new generation to expect and accept sexism. It’s an annihilation of half of the population. So why do parents accept sexism in a fantasy world created for children? When did it become normal to us? And why are teenage girls afraid to talk about what they see?
I took my three year old to her first dentist appointment today. She’s actually almost four and not a toddler at all. According to my dentist, I should’ve taken her for her visit when she was two. I know this because I have two other kids, neither of whom made it to the dentist at age two. All their teeth are going to fall out, right, so what’s the point?
I’m just kidding, I know the point. Good habits! Also to make sure gums are healthy and stay healthy. The philosophy is preventative care, catching problems early and avoiding problems altogether.
Or you could be cynical and say because of fluoride in the water, kids don’t get cavities like they used to and dentists still need to make a living.
Frankly, the main reason my youngest child hasn’t been to the dentist is scheduling. Every time I tried to make an appointment for all three kids, my head would spin and the receptionist and I would give up.
So the good news is… no cavities. All three kids! Nothing screams “bad mom” like your little kid’s cavities, so I’m cool, right?
Actually, no. Not by most dentists’s standards, certainly not according to my kids’s dentist.
The dentist gave my kids and me a giant, smiley tooth packet which reads:
The way you eat also affects your teeth…Foods that are sticky or gummy really hang on to your teeth. Starchy foods, like crackers, chips, and cereal, and foods with sugars in them like dried fruits, candy, and cookies, also can be a problem. One solution is to brush after every time you eat. Another is not to snack often.
I was asked:
Do my kids drink juice? Yes
Do my kids snack? Yes.
Do my kids eat candy? Yes, whenever and whatever they want though I didn’t put it quite that way. Why pick a fight, right?
We were also given a yellow piece of paper with two columns: good snacks and bad snacks and told to avoid refined sugars and starches.
Basically my kids have the same eating and brushing habits I do, which isn’t rocket science. Even the dentist form I filled out out asks about the mother’s cavities in the past year and the dentist also asked me if I flossed my own teeth.
Like my kids, I eat what I want, when I want. I would summarize it this way: my teeth are important to me, but they are not the most important thing to me. Teeth are the most important thing to your dentist. They should be, she’s a dentist. But if you follow her advice, is that the life you want to lead?
I go to a great dentist, and if he had his way, I would get X-rays once a year (too pricey and why get “tiny amounts” of radiation?) He wants to fit me for a mouth guard to wear at night because I clench my jaw. He says a mouth guard would protect my teeth. I told him I was sure he was right, but that I know myself and there was no way I would wear a mouth to ensure that kind of perfection.
I don’t think of myself as lax when it comes to my teeth. I brush at least twice a day, I floss every night, I get my teeth professionally cleaned every four months. My kids do the same, except they regularly miss check ups which I regularly reschedule. Teeth, while important (and I know gums affect the heart and all that) are not the most important; I take my dentist’s advice with a cube of sugar.
One more thing I’m not a fan of at the dentist’s office: the stickers:
This made me sad about my daughter who loves Batgirl. It’s only a matter of time before she realizes that her superhero is invisible and caves to Ponyworld.
Here is the best thing I’ve read about it, from Twitter:
Do mags ever publish cautionary 1st-person tales about men whose lives are disasters because they refused to settle down?
That Tweet was written by Sarah Eckel. A visit to Eckel’s web site reveals that she is coming out with a book next year: There’s Nothing Wrong With You. Here’s part of the description of her book:
Are you a single person who would prefer not to be? Do you spend a lot of time wondering why? Do you worry that you’re too needy, or too independent? Too picky, or too undiscerning? Too close to your opposite-sex parent, or too distant?
Funny, isn’t it? No matter what you do or who you are, there is always a pathology to neatly explain the problem. Well, I have a radical suggestion: Maybe you’re perfectly fine exactly the way you are.
Apparently, she wrote a piece for the New York Times Modern Love that now I’m dying to read.
Visiting Eckel’s web site reminded me of a post I wrote about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book: Committed on her decision to be childfree. Gilbert’s book is about being with someone but much of her book (and I think the last one in some ways, too) is also about her decision to be child free.
Reel Girl is, in many ways, a blog about parenting, yet my post about Gilbert’s happy, fulfilled childfree life is one of my most popular, most shared posts ever. Why? It makes me think that celebrations of happy childfree women are rare, too few and far between. I wonder if you don’t have kids, if you’re supposed to be unhappy about it? Or something is wrong with you, is that it? And if you’re not with someone, are you supposed to be unhappy about that too? And what about if you’re a man?
Actress Zooey Deschanel, who– get this– actually called herself a feminist publicly– responded to a question about whether or not she would have kids:
That is so personal, and it’s my pet peeve when people press you on it. And it’s always women who get asked! Is anybody saying that to George Clooney?
What is so clear to me is that when women are not valued for being single or for being childfree, all women are not valued. If women’s worth is determined by their relationships, they have no worth at all. So, I guess that’s another reason why I wanted to defend Elizabeth Wurztel. Even though, in many ways, she perpetuates a stereotype of an unhappy single woman with that piece, in many ways she doesn’t.
Here’s a re-post of what I wrote about Elizabeth Gilbert:
Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert says childless women are just fine
The husband, the kids, the picket fence, you know this scene. Women’s biological clocks are desperately ticking. We’re on a quest to secure a man so we can reproduce, because becoming mothers will make us truly happy and fulfilled.
While childless men manage to find a respectable place in society, often with a few publicly recognized achievements under their belts, admired, or even envied, as the self-sufficient bachelors they are; childless women remain suspect, if not total freaks. They’re often pitied; people wonder at what point in their lives they veered off onto their unnatural, unfeminine paths, becoming lonely “spinsters” or crazy cat ladies.
Best-selling, childless author of Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert introduces a radically different theory in her new book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. She writes that childless women have historically served a crucial role in society, not yet publicly recognized. These women should not be scorned but celebrated for their contributions to bettering the human race.
“If you look across human populations of all varieties, in every culture and on every continent (even among the most enthusiastic breeders in history, like the nineteenth-century Irish, or the contemporary Amish), you will find that there is a constant 10 percent of women within any population who never have children at all. The percentage never gets any lower than that, in any population whatsoever. In fact, the percentage of women who never reproduce in most societies is usually much higher than 10 percent- and that’s not just today, in the developed Western world, where childless rates among women tend to hover around 50 percent.”
Gilbert speculates that female childlessness is an evolutionary adaption:
“Maybe it’s not only legitimate for certain women to never reproduce, it’s necessary. It’s as though, as as a species, we need an abundance of responsible, compassionate, childless women to support the wider community in various ways. Childbearing and child rearing consume so much energy that the women who do become mothers quickly become swallowed up by that daunting task- if not outright killed by it.”
Gilbert points out that childless women have always taken on the tasks of nurturing children who are not their biological responsibilty as no other group in history has ever done, in such vocations as running schools, hospitals, and becoming midwives.
That’s all fine and good, but won’t these childless women be desperately unhappy in their old age?
Gilbert says no. Recent studies of happiness levels in America’s nursing homes show the indicators of contentment in later life are poverty and health. “Save your money, floss your teeth…you’ll be a perfectly happy old bird someday.”
Gilbert concedes that without descendants, childless women are often forgotten more quickly, but that the role they played when alive was vital. Gilbert calls these vibrant women the “Auntie Brigade.” Here are some examples she lists of their influences:
Jane Austen was a childless aunt.
Raised by childless aunts:
the Bronte sisters
Edward Gibbon (famous historian raised by his Aunt Kitty)
John Lennon (Auntie Mimi– convinced him he would be an important artist)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (Aunt Annabel offered to pay for his college education)
Frank Lloyd Wright (first building commissioned by Aunts Jane and Nell who also ran a boarding school in Wisconsin)
Coco Chanel (Aunt Gabrielle taught her how to sew)
Virginia Woolf (muse was Aunt Coraline)
Marcel Proust (memory set off by Aunt Leonie’s madeleine)
Gilbert writes that when J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, was “asked what his creation looked like, replied his image, essence, and spirit of felicity can be found all over the world and hazily refelected ‘in the faces of many women who have no children.’ That is the Auntie brigade.”
I’ve always wondered why people get in such a tizzy about gay people, justifying their bigotry because: “It’s just not natural.” How do we know what’s natural? Is everyone supposed to pop out babies like the Duggar family and their 20 kids? Is that “natural”? And is every “natural” thing good anyway? Death is natural. Cancer can be natural.
Women without children are perfectly capable of being happy; what they’re often missing isn’t kids, but a society and a culture that values and respects them.
To all the moms out there, thank you for working hard to continue the human race. And to the “Auntie Brigade,” thank you for working hard to continue the human race.
Read my post on New York Magazine’s biased coverage of childless women here.
I used to blog regularly about kids and food, but, now, hardly at all and that’s a good thing. Knock on wood, but food is pretty much a conflict free issue at my house.
I realized my food blogs had stopped when I wandered downstairs during movie time and saw this:
My kids got that candy for Christmas. Before you call CPS on me, I want you to know that when my older daughter saw me standing in the doorway, she asked for chicken soup. My three year old shouted, “Me too!” That bowl of candy doesn’t have a dent in it.
(Lucy is watching “Ratatouille” and hopefully smirking about the lack of female chefs. Rose is watching “My Little Pony” which commenters keep telling me I should watch but I can’t bring myself to do it.)
All of my blogs on Reel Girl about kids and food basically centered on this: I let my kids eat whatever they want, whenever they want. I have raised them based on the principles from the excellent book Preventing Childhood Eating Problems. I read this book because the same authors wrote a book that helped me to get over a tenacious eating disorder. I hope to train my kids (as I eventually trained myself) to listen to and trust their own bodies instead of any authority figure, “expert,” or fad about what to eat.
Every Christmas, Santa leaves a candy trail for the kids their bedroom to their presents, and they all say finding the candy is their favorite part of Christmas. Note that it’s not eating the candy that they love, but opening the door, seeing the sparkly silver kisses, and following them to their presents.
As I keep writing in these blogs about kids and food, I have no idea what will happen when my kids grow into teenagers, but I am hopeful. Right now, my kids are not only adventurous eaters who try new foods all the time, but also, they are what any parent would call “healthy” eaters.
Once they were old enough to feed themselves, we have regular meal times and I make healthy food always available but hardly ever controlled their eating as far telling them what, when or how much to eat. I write “hardly ever” because my middle daughter is allergic to eggs. I was terrified of the allergy when she was a baby, after she had a skin rash when she ate a hard boiled egg. For probably a year after that, I made a big deal about telling everyone she was allergic to eggs and making sure she never had anything with eggs in it. Then I saw her getting tentative about trying food, always looking up at me nervously before taking a bite of something. Clearly, she was picking up on my anxiety.
So I shifted tactics. I subtly told adults she was allergic when it was necessary to tell them. I didn’t make her allergy a conversation topic that she could overhear. I rarely had eggs in my house, again without making a big deal about it. She calmed down and also, luckily, her allergy lessened as she grew older. Now if she eats something with egg, sometimes her tongue will itch. But that she is still the pickiest eater of the three, though none are picky, further indicates to me that the more relaxed parents are about food, the more relaxed their children will be.
Now here’s the problem: How many women do you know who are relaxed about their food intake?
Before you ask, so far, no cavities.
Here are some (not all) links to previous blogs on Reel Girl about kids and food that go into more detail about books, practices, experience, philosophies, etc.