Photo by Lisa Jay

Today Birdy told me she loves pink.

I’m still coming to terms with this.  I hope it’s just a phase, but I have my suspicions that Birdy’s love affair with pink may be long and enduring.

I’m not entirely sure how it came to this.

When my daughter was born, my husband and I were determined to dress her in any colour BUT pink.   However after a month or so of having her constantly mistaken for a boy, we started to buy one or two pink items.  Then we realized she actually looked really good in pink.  Now there would rarely be a day that goes by when she isn’t dressed in something pink and sparkly.

I think all little girls seem to be attracted to sparkle and bling, (just look at the number of fairy dresses in every toystore!) but a couple of recent incidents have made me question my daughter’s ideas of beauty.

The first was a moment relayed to me by my hubby.  He was about to pop on a DVD when the phone rang.  In the meantime, the TV was left on The Bold and the Beautiful for just a few moments.  On screen was the image of a dolled up older woman, with soft-focus camera, over the top glamour makeup and a sparkly dress.  “Look Daddy she’s sooo beautiful!” Birdy exclaimed in excitement.  My husband recoiled in horror!

The other incident was with my sister.  I’d bought some cardboard people, which Birdy and her cousin decorated by cutting out heads and clothes from magazines.  My sister later told me that Birdy consistently chose the bling-bling glamour dresses and hairstyles.  All Birdy’s paper dolls ended up looking like celebrities on the red carpet.

I certainly don’t think I’ve done anything to encourage this!  I’m not the most fashionable person… I rarely even dress up.  But you’ve only got to look at the images of women that surround us on billboards, magazine covers and advertising to realize that glamourous seems to be the only female model on offer.  You don’t see many fun, healthy images of women and girls in the mainstream, so it’s no wonder that Birdy’s ideas of beauty are the airbrushed, stylized images she sees all around her.

Girls need to know that there are many different ways to be beautiful and that every person can find a style to suit their personality and their body.  Of course, parents can model healthy attitudes, but young girls growing up in this saturated media environment are going to have a real battle on their hands to maintain realistic ideas about health and beauty.  What we need are ethical advertisers and editors who are serious about their responsibility to the next generation of women.

As parents, we need to offer our kids a broader definition of beauty, both in how we respond to our own appearance and to theirs.  But we should also take delight in the natural beauty around us, in animals, plants, artworks, waterfalls, sunsets, sailboats, good food and in the faces of those we love.  Perhaps then we can help our girls to intuitively understand that there’s more than one way to be beautiful.

Do your girl/s love sparkle and bling?  When did they start to develop their own ideas about fashion and beauty?  How do you try to encourage healthy ideas about body image?