I recently came across a Facebook post promoting Tree Change Dolls,
a fab initiative which transforms unwanted dolls into ‘down to earth’ characters for little girls. It also gives these scary looking dolls caked in make up a make-under to look more like, well, little girls. Their slutty outfits are replaced with frankly, some rather enviable hand-made numbers. I’m ashamed to admit that my four year old daughter owns a collection of dolls that look like a band of strippers; but I tell myself it’s ok because she’s too young to even understand.
But when will she start to notice that her dolls don’t look like the women she knows? Start to question why her mum doesn’t totter about in 6 inch heels, crop top and ra-ra mini skirt whilst at Tesco?
At the moment, she thinks I’m beautiful (even more than Elsa apparently, although I would kill to be able to pull off such an impressive plait). She tells me this every day. She notices when I put on a new top, or if I wear new earrings. She tells me I look nice as I am about to go out for dinner with her dad and tells me I am gorgeous as I frantically scramble on mismatching clothes each morning (mostly covered in yesterday’s tea).
At what point does a little girl stop seeing past her mummy’s giant pants, bad hair days and wobbly belly? When will she start to think that the images she’s seeing on TV, social media or in magazines are actually the definition of beauty she should aspire to? I make a huge effort to tell her every day how utterly perfect she is, as I live in fear of her becoming engulfed in the artificial world we now find ourselves in. Being a teenager in the 90s was hard, but at least we didn’t have to compete with preconceptions of beauty that now involve absurdly tattooed-on eyebrows, inflated plastic bosoms and botoxed unmovable faces. The worst we had to deal with were dodgy perms, paisley shirts and highly unflattering flared jeans.
We also had no social media nor mobile phones, so no risk of photo sharing, public embarrassment or scrutiny. The worst thing that happened in my class was the teacher getting hold of a circulating scribbled note which shockingly revealed that Stephen Chapman had seen Laura Scriven’s bra through her shirt at lunch.
How do we protect our daughters, and sons (for they are not free from the ridiculous spray tanned, plucked eyebrowed, bouffant hair looks) from all of this utter guff? The mindless reality shows that promote vacant, thin, big boobed people as role models?
I’m as guilty as the next person for cringing when I look in the mirror post-children. I’ve swapped my bikinis in favour of M & S ‘control’ swimsuits and skulk about on the beach under a towel wherever possible. But the one thing I don’t do is talk about myself negatively in front of my daughter. I don’t want her to hear her mother moaning about being flabby, or looking ugly, as I am hoping that this is a good way to ensure she thinks positively about herself.
I keep thinking back to these beautiful Tree Change dolls with their natural looks promoting innocence (as well as really quite nice knitted jumpers, seriously where can I get one?) And that’s how I want my daughter to see beauty.
So for the time being, I am happy to take the compliments. And who knows, by the time she’s a teenager maybe the poodle perm and paisley shirt will be back in vogue?