I have very strongly negative feelings towards baby beauty pageants, pushing little girls towards maturity too fast, and the general sexualisation of our youth. I also am aware that it is not a new problem, I remember the days of my Primary School discos when my mother would send me in a flowery pinafore dress with flowery clips in my hair and my fellow classmates would rock up in leather mini skirts and belly tops. However, I also believe that whilst not new, I think the problem is more prevalent these days.
The age of the internet, the reality TV shows that fill our children’s heads with fake tan, fake eyelashes, fake breasts and fake orgasms, and the magazines aimed at tweens that talk about blow jobs. These are all things that are becoming easier and easier to access at a younger and younger age.
I do not wish for Miss Rose to be one of those children that is rushed. I want her to maintain her innocence and to experience a childhood full of fun before the pressures of adolescence bring about the trappings of sexualisation and burgeoning maturity which can be such a traumatic time for so many.
However. I am aware that I perhaps do not achieve this.
At the tender age of two, Miss Rose is a lover of high heels and can trot around in mine with a remarkable skill.
She has also noted that I wear make up. Not masses, but I do, and because of that she wants to wear it too. And I let her.
My argument, mostly internal but also with those who challenge me on it, is this.
I let her try on my shoes and play in them. I do not buy her high heels of her own, though they are available in her size. The shoes she wears day in, day out, are pumps, flat mary-janes, or warm boots. Shoes for “wearing” are sensible, comfortable and practical. Shoes for “playing” can be my high heels, but she also likes to try on my slippers and my trainers. Basically she is playing at being mummy, she is not considering the way heels make her legs look or that she wants to look glamorous and grown up. When she reaches an age that she wants her own pair of high heels I will allow it, as long as they are a low, chunky heel and only for play or special occasions. They will not be shoes for wearing shopping or to school. They will be for play.
I let her wear make up. But the make up she wears is brightly coloured eye shadow, glitter, and bright lipstick. In my head, rightly or wrong, she wears “fun” make up. And not all the time. I do not let her wear any make up designed to correct flaws. I wear concealer to cover my tired eyes and spots, powder to smooth out the look of my blotchy skin, mascara to make my eyes look bigger and not so sleepy. Miss Rose wears none of those and is refused when she asks. I tell her she is beautiful without it, and if she wants to wear some fun colours like facepaint then she can, but she doesn’t need it to look nice. She is a beautiful, smart, loving little girl and that is what matters.
I am very aware that for many parents I shouldn’t let her do the things I do. I shouldn’t encourage her to give in to the harsh and uncompromising beauty industry standards. I do not wear high heels because they are comfortable, I wear high heels because they make my legs look good and I feel sexy in them. I do not wear make up because it’s fun to paint my face, I wear it because I feel better about myself when I look more physically attractive I feel better about myself. I don’t feel proud about these things, but I accept them. But am I encouraging Miss Rose to feel the same way? Do I want her to feel that if she doesn’t copy me she won’t be attractive? Of course not. I also don’t want her thinking that being attractive is the be all and end all. Indeed, it’s pretty low down on the list of priorities I want her to take into consideration about herself.
The feminist in me feels ashamed that I buy into these standards myself and that I should keep Miss Rose away from their toxic influence… however… here’s my justification. Whether it holds water or not I will let you decide.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. When The Boy is coming round, I take extra care to make sure my make up is neat, my hair is brushed. Not because I think if I didn’t that he would reject me or be cruel, indeed the man has seen me hungover, first thing in the morning, before I’ve brushed my teeth, put in my contact lenses, or wiped the drool off my cheek, and then he has kissed me and told me he loves me and I’m beautiful. I do it because I like to, because I want to make the effort for him and for me, because I enjoy feeling like I have tried. I want to look good for him. If Miss Rose falls in love with someone then I expect she would want to do the same thing for them, because it is nice to, because it shows you care as well as giving you a sense of self satisfaction.
I don’t wear heels very often. In the Winter I mainly wear boots, in the summer I mainly wear pumps. In the gym I wear trainers and ballet shoes, in the house I wear slippers. Miss Rose is not being raised to believe that she has to wear heels all the time and if she doesn’t she’s ugly or lazy. She is being raised to see that heels are nice to wear and look pretty, but are for occasional fun, not an essential of day to day life. Because I am a firm believer in everything in moderation.
I also don’t believe in shaming women who wear make up all day every day, and who live in heels more than flats. Because if that’s how they’re comfortable then that’s how they’re comfortable. I recently overheard scornful comments about my heels I wore to a party, an acknowledgement from a fellow guest that shoes like mine are ridiculous and the reason they refuse to wear heels. Fair enough, they’re not for everyone, and a lot of mothers would feel the same way when referencing heels to their own daughters. I genuinely respect that opinion because part of me truly judges myself for choosing to wear the shoes, and choosing to put on the make up. But not enough to give them up.
Ultimately I land on “everything in moderation” when it comes to the beauty industry. It’s nice to feel and look your best, it’s nice to make an effort and have some fun. For me the cutting off point is when you feel you have to do these things, and pass that opinion on to your children. You do not HAVE to. You choose to. You choose to do whichever elements you choose, be it fake tan and nails, or the slightest slick of lipstick. The moment you make a child think they have to I think you have done wrong by that child.
I may be wrong, and I may regret it. But we all do what we feel is best and right for our children, so hopefully I won’t because Miss Rose truly is beautiful and I never want her to forget that.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!