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UK mother: “Don’t you dare tell my daughter she’s pretty”–you’ll make her flunk her math test

March 10, 2014

This UK Guardian mum has her knickers in a twist because people dare to assume that little girls are different from little boys:

I love it when people compliment my children, but the theme is stuck in the same tired old groove. My six-year-old daughter is always “cute”, “pretty”, and “sweet”; while my seven-year-old son gets “smart”, “resourceful”, and “determined”. No matter how many parenting fads we pass through from year to year, the “sugar and spice” adage just won’t die – and it’s setting our girls up for failure.

It will corrode the little girl’s self-image:

“Pretty and perfect” have been absorbed into my daughter’s perception of her own identity already. She’s already afraid not to comply as she is given little in the way of alternatives. From an early age she is presented, by a range of sources, with the dilemma of if I’m not pretty, then what am I? Who am I, indeed? That’s hard enough for an adult to answer, let alone a child – but the longer it goes unanswered, the harder it is to shake.

And pretty soon she’ll be getting crummy grades in math, and she won’t want to go into a STEM field:

It translates into the classroom. Subjects like maths and science, full of difficult problems and experimentation needing to be tackled show a clear gender bias towards boys. In January this year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report showing that 40 per cent of UK girls lacked confidence in their mathematical abilities, compared to 23 per cent of boys.

Consequently it’s no coincidence when those boys end up in science and technology careers, while girls tend to set their sights on lower-paid fields like cleaning, catering and childcare. Technology in particularly is a field built on exploration, trial and error, throwing out old ideas and chasing the next big thing. You don’t get ahead in tech by sitting pretty; you need a sense of adventure. You need to get your hands dirty, and that’s not very ‘ladylike’.

I don’t quite see how he fact that girls tend to lack “confidence in their mathematical abilities” is evidence of “gender bias.” Maybe it’s because, generally speaking, girls don’t have the same mathematical abilities as boys–because they don’t have the same facility at spatial perception. But you can’t say that. Maybe it’s because little girls and adult women are actually different from little boys and adult men. But it’s easier to blame all those adults who tell your daughter she’s pretty.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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