Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and there are three mothers who have made headlines recently for their choices (or alleged choices) regarding their young daughters’ beauty habits.
First there is Lindsay Cross, who was featured on Good Morning America talking about the fact that she lets her 4-year-old daughter wear makeup in public. Though Cross doesn’t wear makeup every day, she does on special occasions — and young Brenna does too. And this isn’t a case of a little girl getting into her mother’s makeup.
“I save my make-up for family functions where I want to look nice or evening events that require a little dressing up,” Cross writes on Mommyish. “And now I’ve created a pre-schooler who thinks that special occasions always deserve makeup. As a mother with some feminist leanings, I’ve been worried about teaching my daughter that she needs makeup to be beautiful…it seems like makeup is counterproductive to any goal I have about her self-esteem and confidence. And yet… I keep letting her put it on.”
Unsurprisingly, other parents are pretty worked up about this. Not only are they accusing her of “inviting” pedophiles (because obviously every child who is a victim of sexual abuse was asking for it), but they are questioning what this will do to her daughter’s self-esteem.
Then there is Patricia Krencil, who was arrested after her 5-year-old daughter came to school with a terrible sunburn. A teacher overheard the child telling another student that she “went tanning with Mommy” and called authorities. Krencil was arrested and charged with child endangerment.
Even though Krencil is extremely tan herself, she insists that she never let her daughter in the tanning booth; she claims the sunburn came from the beach. Despite the fact that the owner of the tanning salon corroborates this story, the charges remain. Beyond that, she’s been mocked on SNL and more than one angry Internet commenter has said that it’s good that she was arrested because even if she didn’t take her daughter tanning “clearly something is wrong with her.”
Meanwhile, Dara Lynn-Weiss received backlash for an article in the March issue of Vogue wherein she talked about her 7-year-old daughter’s diet. “I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate,” Weiss wrote. She also detailed all the ways she fat-shamed her daughter in public and mentions her own struggles with body image and eating disorders throughout her life. Doctors and experts criticized Lynn-Weiss’ methods and the public’s outrage was swift and harsh.
While I appreciate that people are having discussions about how we influence children with our own beauty habits, these articles send the message that a girl’s mother is solely responsible for her body image. Never mind that children leave their homes every day and go into a world where they are bombarded with messages that they must be thin, beautiful, and tan if they are ever going to be loved (which, the messages make clear, is the ultimate goal). Never mind that these girls have fathers, along with friends, educators, and mass media, who might be contributing to their body images. It’s easiest to blame the mothers. A mother should know better, people think. But how? And why? And why don’t fathers have to know better too?
As the US prepares to celebrate mothers, I think we can do all mothers a favor and give them a break when it comes to the body image stuff. Before we criticize how other people (well, let’s be honest — it’s always women who are the subject of these stories) raise their children, let’s at least ask why a woman might want her daughter to wear makeup, go tanning, or lose weight. We should try to remember that these mothers are living in a patriarchal society that gives an unhealthy amount of attention to women’s looks, and we should ask who else — men, I’m looking at you — might be contributing to young girls’ body images. I’m all for having these types of conversations, but we can do it in a way that doesn’t give mothers one more thing to feel guilty about.