UPDATE: Due to the dangerous nature of some comments that make-up for young kids “is one of the reasons pedophiles exist,” we also want to point out the serious problems with victim-blaming women and girls for their assault or abuse.
Last week I wrote that my daughter wears make-up for special events or family get togethers. Today, that feels like a much more serious confession than it did even a week ago. Today, Good Morning America aired a segment about my daughter and I, specifically asking if she’s too young to be playing with big girl beauty products.
First of all, I have to say that I’ve been incredibly honored and excited to be involved with GMA. The amazing correspondent who flew to Indiana, Paula Faris, is already besties with my daughter. That tea party scene in the clip wasn’t just b-roll, Brenna actually had a tea party with Paula just because the two got along so well. All in all, I feel fortunate to have sparked some conversation about appearance and confidence for young girls.
I have to admit that there was one line in the segment that made me cringe and it’s one that I want to talk more about. During their conversation, Paula asked my daughter why she liked wearing makeup. My naturally adorable little girl replied, “Because it makes me pretty.”
No matter what else is said in that segment, it kind of comes down to that statement. Of course, I wish that they would’ve asked, “Are you pretty without your makeup?” I think Brenna would’ve said yes. But Robin Roberts correctly pointed out that this was a key piece of the conversation, this idea that a young child thinks makeup helps her be more beautiful.
As adults, we know that’s not true. At least, not for children. I am well aware that Brenna is a gorgeous little girl, whether she gets into my blush or not. When it comes to grown women wearing make-up, well the jury is still out on that. Women will debate that issue for the rest of their lives but its not the conversation that I want to have today.
I think its important to point out that I don’t want my child to wear makeup because I want to present her as a beautiful little doll to the world. This wasn’t a practice that I encouraged or directed. And as Paula pointed out, I don’t let my daughter put on layers of foundation and mascara. This is not a Toddlers & Tiaras-level issue. It’s more like light blush and lipgloss. My daughter saw her mom putting on makeup and simply wanted to mimic my actions. She wanted to pretend she was a grown-up and play with with grown-up things. And yes, she wanted to be pretty, like her mommy.
There are a lot of things that make my child feel pretty. Some of these things are influences she gets from me, some are influenced by the culture she lives in and some come straight out of her own thoughts and personality.
I understand why my daughter thinks that makeup looks pretty. After all, I put on makeup when I’m trying to look especially put together for a special event. I don’t wear makeup everyday, so when I do, it seems like a special occasion to her. This isn’t something that I’ve explained to Brenna, it’s an idea she has grabbed on to because of my actions. And I think that she would have this perception that makeup is pretty even if she was never allowed to wear it. Simply by watching her mother put on makeup, she picks up that we do this to make ourselves more traditionally attractive, even if its just in our own eyes.
There are other things that my daughter feels make her pretty. For instance, the princess dresses that were pictured in the backround of GMA’s piece. Yup, that’s our collection. And my daughter thinks their beautiful because they make her look like the princesses she sees on TV or in stores. To be fair, she also thinks that her Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Captain America costumes make her pretty. This is all part of pop culture’s influence on our kids.
Then, there are my daughter’s personal interests and they have a huge impact on her idea of beauty as well. Brenna thinks that riding her horse makes her pretty, because it’s “strong and fun and horses are really pretty.” She thinks that dressing up like a pirate with an eye patch makes her pretty, “because you can tell I’m tough.” She thinks that wearing cowboy boots make her pretty, again with the horse theme. These are her own ideas and she’s formed them based on her view of the world. And while it wasn’t shown in the piece, in the middle of all that makeup talk, they asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grows up. Her answer wasn’t a princess, like you might have expected. She said that she wanted to be a doctor. When asked why, she responded, “Because doctors fix things.”
As my little girl grows, her idea of pretty will change. And I hope to be there discussing it with her the whole way. I want to tell her that she’ll be beautiful no matter what she puts on, makeup or otherwise. I want to tell her that her actions and thoughts will be so much more important than her physical appearance. Of course these are conversations we’re starting to have now, but it will take years for them to make sense.
Every mother and father will make their own decisions about whether or not their child will wear makeup. I don’t think that everyone should make the same choice as me. I think that we all need to raise our children as we see best. But I don’t know that the idea of makeup helping us be pretty is caused by my letting my daughter experiment with makeup. I think she would’ve had that impression no matter what. So I choose to try to keep makeup in the right sphere for us, something fun but not always necessary. I try not to make a big deal out of something that I don’t want my daughter fixating on. And I hope that this will let her have a relaxed attitude about makeup and beauty products in the future.