Recently, the Girl Scouts of the USA changed .
Girls (who are distinctly feminine in their thinking and actions, from birth!) shouldn’t want to pursue a badge about things that make them look and feel good. They ought to be encouraged to understand fashion scientifically. Otherwise, we might be nurturing Barbie-Syndrome. Right?
I’ve read stacks of books on beauty. (I’ve also written one for a class I teach for teen girls — www.standingontheheights.com). I hardly ever pick up a fashion magazine, but I don’t feel guilty when I do. There
is real science behind beauty, and I’m interested in it. But I also know a
fabulous sweater when I see it, without needing a study to tell me why my brain is drawn to it.
My favorite books on beauty give insight to the research behind why women want to feel beautiful and why this desire is valid and important. (Every woman should read Why Beauty Matters by Karen Lee-Thorp and Cynthia Hicks.)
Personally, I wish the GSUSA would’ve chosen to “make new friends and keep the old” where their badges are concerned (a little Girl Scout humor there). The science of beauty is fascinating. So is fashion itself. What would be wrong with having a badge for each?
For the past several decades, mothers have felt the pressure to teach their daughters to be strong and independent and to insist that their daughters’ brains work not just as well as, but in the same way as their male counterparts. Intelligent women must have an affinity for math and science, or they couldn’t possibly be intelligent.
Did we not know any strong, fiercely independent, beautiful, artistic and intelligent women (science or non-science majors) prior to the women’s movement?
We all know women with great logical, scientific minds and men who tend to be more literary and artistic in nature, but traditionally, boys excel at science, while girls tend to be better readers and writers.
Girls should know that if they are interested in science they are just as capable as their male counterparts. But to make them feel “less than” if they are not scientifically minded? Where are those same voices telling boys that they must be “intelligent enough” to pursue the arts?
I’m something of an anomaly because I’m both logical and artistic. My
highest ACT scores were in English and math. Science wasn’t a strong subject for me, but it didn’t keep me from graduating from college as part of the honor society.
I am a huge fan of Howard Gardner, whose Theory of Multiple Intelligences suggests that rather than having one overall “intelligence quotient” every person has areas of intellectual strength. (The seven he initially identified werelogical/mathematical, linguistic, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.) Children should be given opportunities to develop all of the intelligences, and nurtured where they show interest and/or promise.
Certainly we should encourage our daughters to courageously pursue their dreams and to be strong. Like our great-grandmothers were.
They learned to persevere in the face of adversity, not from media hype or politically correct program offerings, but from women who came before them, women who lived out, in spirit, the femininity they beautifully embodied, and this without apology.
Many of them knew how to use a post-hole digger (something which, Katherine Anne Porter’s "Granny Weatherall" says “changed a woman”) in addition to understanding chemistry, even as it relates to baking without a recipe. They pursued beauty and happiness, for no “greater” reason than that it made them smile. (They had no need of a “Science of Happiness” badge to pin to their vests!)
Common sense and experience with men told them that women and men are “wired” differently. They didn’t need current brain research to prove it (though it does).
I want to teach my daughter to be intelligent and wise. To unapologetically pursue what she is interested in and good at. I want her to know that she can do anything she sets her mind to, and that along the way, she can be beautiful. I want her to understand that her feminine allure is important enough to be treasured and guarded and that there is nothing wrong with having a desire to be beautiful.
If we are honest, every woman knows that desire.
Unfortunately, the media capitalizes on it and takes advantage of women. Our daughters need to be saavy about that, too. Next week, The Growth
Chart will continue to explore the issue of beauty, specifically how we can
help our daughters to respond wisely to media images and their subliminal,
potentially damaging messages.