Sunday, November 10, 2013

But ...

I sat in the ER with my two-year-old daughter awaiting the doctor’s arrival.  The nurse had just been in to do a basic check.  Emily had a fever of 102.5, even after fever reducer.  Her hair was matted to her head, clinging to her forehead due to her profuse sweating out of her fever.   Her eyes were red and glazed over.  Her skin was pale and blotchy. She lacked the same emanating beauty and happy enthusiasm that she usually possessed.  Despite her miserable state, she listened wonderfully to the nurse’s instructions, and interacted with grace and intelligence. 
The nurse was so impressed with her behavior that he commented, “She’s only two years old, right? Wow, she is really a bright little girl.  Whatever you’re doing with her, keep it up.  We need more smart young people in this world.”  I firmly agreed with him, and was very pleased with his abundant praise of my daughter and my parenting skills.  PS – We read … A LOT. 
Then the doctor arrived.  “Well, Miss Emily,” he announced, “You’re not feeling too well, are you?”  Emily slowly nodded her head, completely devoid of energy.  I held her tiny hand as he inspected her to confirm the source of her fever. 

“I’ve never met Emily before,” he then spoke to me, “But I’m assuming she usually looks a lot better than this.”

I nodded in agreement.  My daughter was indeed a special little beauty – bright smile, lovely blue eyes, and silken blonde hair.  She’s a gorgeous girl – my beautiful and intelligent young girl.

The doctor, like the nurse, also commented on Emily’s bright nature.  However, there was something in the way he delivered it that disturbed me.  “You may not look very good now Emily, but you sure are a smart girl.” 

BUT.  He said BUT.  He said BUT as though his compliment was some kind of condolence for her current lack of beauty.  It felt like those “but she has a real great personality” comments you make to your male friend when you’re trying to set him up with someone you know he won’t find physically attractive.  It was like being intelligent was runner-up to being beautiful. 
Doesn’t society prioritize women’s worth that way?  Was it really something I should be judging this man for?  It was a compliment of my daughter all the same.  Yet, his BUT reminded me that women are valued first for their bodies and brains only become valued, almost necessary, where beauty is lacked.

It was determined that Emily had an ear infection, and she was prescribed medication that will help her get better.  What prescription should we give to society to help us be better?  We need to stop placing so much emphasis on beauty and start prioritizing intelligence, imagination, and creativity in young girls.  One simple word spoken in a hospital room helped remind me of this, and I hope my words help to now remind each of you to make intellect the highest measure of a woman’s worth – and not simply a “but” behind attractiveness.

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  1. Oh, does this ever touch a nerve with me. A good friend of mine has written a book called You're Not Pretty Enough on this very topic. So glad you're sending your daughter all of the right messages. You may not be the only source but you're the most important one.

    1. Thank you. I will have to check out the post. And how right you are that parents play the biggest role in the life of a young child.

    2. The book -- I meant check out the book. Too many days with a whiney, feverish child is making me lose my mind.

  2. I feel the same way about beauty pageants.

  3. I hope Emily is feeling better

  4. First of all, I want to kiss that face. Second of all, that hurts my feelings. A lot. I'm overweight. I'm pretty, but I outweigh my husband by a lot. I know people say things about that. Not my business how they feel about my thighs. My son is in middle school. Need I say more? They are all so incredibly awkward but to me each one is so beautiful whether they-or anyone else-realize it.

  5. "Its too bad she has such a pretty face..." I want to shoot people who say things like this...

  6. She is beautiful. Period. And I hope she feels better soon!

  7. Oh, poor little cupcake! None of us look very good when we are sick, but shouldn't the focus be on feeling better, not looking better?
    BTW, she is so adorable, I want to pack her up and take her with me.

  8. I, too, take a critical perspective on the messaging that is all around us, especially as it reflects and reinforces gender stereotypes. However, did the doctor mean she didn't look good in the sense that she was pale and listless?