Stop telling me not to call my daughter pretty – she is.


I talk about feminism and gender bias or inequality quite a lot. I’m proud to consider myself a feminist and I really don’t care who knows it. I’ve changed a lot since having children, my views have flipped 180 on some topics, and on others they have stayed firmly rooted, I guess that’s just a part of growing up.

One thing I have changed a lot on is feminism and how I view it and feel about it. I do genuinely believe that we leave in a very patriarchal world where women are viewed and treated as sexual objects, often valued more for their looks and bodies than their minds. What I don’t believe is that girls and women should forget about the value of their looks and their body image, purely to create a more valued mind. Hear me out:

There has been a movement in recent times to try and avoid praising girls for their looks and body image in order to try and teach them the value of their minds. If you have a daughter or young girls around you, listen up when you introduce them to new people, they will receive compliments on their looks by way of icebreaker like, ‘Oh don’t you look so pretty!’ Or ‘Gosh, those pigtails are the sweetest, I love your hair’. By contrast boys will receive ice breakers like, ‘So what kind of toys do you like huh?’ Or ‘That was one of my favourite toys when I was a child too!’ This isn’t propaganda, there are enough studies to show you that, as a society we teach young girls, right from the get go, that what is in their heads really isn’t as important as what that head looks like.

My issue is certainly not with challenging those attitudes, I want to challenge those attitudes like crazy, and woe betide you if you come to my home and tell Edith she has a pretty dress on whilst asking Roo what his favourite superhero is. My issue is with neglecting to tell our children, both male and female, that image is important and valuable. Take for example pieces like this where the author encourages you to change the way you speak to a little girl, but then asks you to avoid ever saying pretty. Why? Why would we teach children that image isn’t important or valuable when it is? So now we should only be complimented on our mind, because to be beautiful or attractive is… Shameful? Unimportant? To have pride in ones appearance is to be unintelligent or uninspiring? How insanely archaic and illogical.

Here’s what I want for my kids. I want them to understand that there is more to a human being than the way they look or talk. I want to teach them that their minds are equal – Edith is no less intelligent because she has a vagina. It is not shocking if she chooses to be a scientist, athlete or trucker. It is also not unworthy or a lesser achievement if she wants to be a model or actress. And the same goes for the boys. In our home we tell Edith daily that she is beautiful, pretty, she has a lovely dress on etc, but we also praise her for being intelligent when she crawls or pulls herself up to stand. We tell her she is brave and strong when she falls and bumps her head. The same principles apply to my boys, they are so handsome, so clever etc.

To me, by ignoring the aesthetic in order to promote the mind is illogical. I want to teach my children that looks ARE important, but they aren’t the only thing that is important. They do not dictate what kind of person you are or who you will be, but there is value in taking pride in your OWN appearance. By which I mean, you don’t have to have societal approval for your physical beauty but you do have a have a personal value.

On a side note, as a mother of two young boys, I find it increasingly frustrating to see these articles about not perpetuating an objectification of females to young girls, but no mention of the objectification of men. Boys are in the same boat over here, ‘ ohh aren’t you a handsome young man’ or ‘Well you’re a strapping fellow!’ Is ok because they have a world that is predominantly aimed at serving males and their views? No. Neither is valuing only a mans mind.

Society we need to treat our kids as equals to encourage a future where gender sexism isn’t rife, not one where women have the upper hand and men don’t.

Harriet x


  1. Avatar January 10, 2019 / 5:53 pm

    I loved this post Harriet, and I agree with you on every point. How we feel about our appearance (this is of course for both boys and girls) as well as our confidence, achievements and abilities has SO much to do with what is instilled in us as we’re growing up. I remember reading once that Dawn French said she was always confident – never mind what size she was – because her father always told her she was beautiful. And she RADIATES confidence…!!

  2. Avatar
    Isaac J
    June 18, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    As I was reading this I was making mental notes on what my comments would be. But as I progressed you covered every point which leave me just to say, hear hear. Another great article.

  3. Avatar September 6, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    Great post – I couldn’t agree more! I tell my daughter all the time that she’s beautiful (and strong, brave, etc.), but I also try to teach her that beauty is more than about how she looks. Beauty is also kindness, love, intelligence… I’ve also made a concerted effort to expose her to positive talk and curb my negative (predominately self) talk.

  4. Avatar August 23, 2016 / 6:38 pm

    Nice post. I tell both my children they are gorgeous. As a mother I want to set them up in life thinking they are gorgeous before all those negative minded idiots start pointing out what they think are their flaws, which we all know will happen because most of us have experienced it. I tell them both when they do something clever or that I’m proud of them. To balance it out I tell them both when they’ve been idiots lol.

    • Harriet August 25, 2016 / 6:09 pm

      Thanks Rhi – that is my sentiment exactly!

  5. Avatar March 12, 2016 / 6:11 pm

    I constantly tell
    My daughter how beautiful she is but I also tell my baby so that he’s adorable and I am sure that will change to handsome when he is older. xx

    • Harriet March 13, 2016 / 1:34 pm

      Me too Charlotte, thanks for the comment H x

  6. Avatar March 10, 2016 / 10:08 am

    We actually find that at the moment Rowan gets a lot of positive comments about his appearance but I can see that changing as he gets older.

    I think it’s so important for children to learn equality and I realise that people always comment on your child and we’re going to ensure that we give equal comments to both genders.


    • Harriet March 11, 2016 / 10:18 am

      Absolutely Laura, I couldn’t agree more – we need to keep the compliments about a mix of things and for both genders H x

  7. Avatar March 10, 2016 / 12:30 am

    I think there is nothing wrong with calling your daughter pretty or your son handsome – everyone forgets beauty is in the eye of the beholder too!

    • Harriet March 11, 2016 / 10:22 am

      Thanks Mellissa H x

  8. Avatar March 9, 2016 / 10:55 pm

    I tell me daughter she is beautiful/ pretty every day, just as I tell my son he is handsome. I also tell them they are smart, and caring, and funny, and strong, because they are. I think to ignore appearance altogether is silly, as an adult I understand that appearance is not everything, but it is nice to be told I look nice sometimes, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t tell my children they look good. Great post.

    • Harriet March 11, 2016 / 10:27 am

      I think that’t it – it’s nice to be told you look nice, no matter what your gender H x

  9. Avatar March 9, 2016 / 9:00 pm

    Great post, think it’s god that you can appreciate both sides of the debate. I think we just need to teach our children to appreciate and understand others for themselves and for what they want to be/do and not for what they look like. Both girls and boys can grow up to be dancers/scientists/ whatever they want! Great post 🙂

    • Harriet March 9, 2016 / 9:09 pm

      Thanks Alice – exactly, but by the same token compliments on physical appearance are not mutually exclusive to that, I love to tell all the kids (male and female) in my life they look beautiful when they come and show me their outfits etc. Thank you for the lovely comment x

  10. Avatar March 9, 2016 / 7:25 pm

    Well said! Equality seems to be getting confused by people. If you are pretty or handsome it’s to be celebrated, it’s not something to be ashamed of and has absolutely nothing to do with what is inside. They’re two separate things not mutually exclusive

    • Harriet March 9, 2016 / 8:19 pm

      Absolutely agree there Fiona – realise that it’s important to come away from the pattern of telling girls they are pretty/commenting on the physical and crediting boys for their academic achievements but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do both to BOTH genders. H x

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