But that's precisely the point. These "weeks" and "days" have very little to do with celebrating individuality, especially not "Daughter's Week".
Currently doing the rounds on Facebook, from "Thinking Out Loud"Recently I wrote about Goldieblox, the new engineering toy focussed on girls in America and how I abhor the dumbing down of girls and the genderisation of toys. The issue has gathered pace and many have now joined to support the excellent work of the "Pink Stinks" and "Let Toys be Toys" campaigns. Rather than repeat myself I encourage you to read my piece, and visit those campaign pages - and not because this week is "Daughter's Week" but because last week was Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
I am not naive enough to think that encouraging pink and pretty causes Eating Disorders - and actually for the vast majority of sufferers neither does the beauty industry. What they do is legitimise behaviours which become entrenched and dangerous. Coupled with the often insidious world of Social Media - as I discussed here - anyone precariously balancing on the precipice is far more likely to descend into the depths of Anorexia or Bulimia. I should know - I've been there.
For me, Anorexia had nothing whatsoever to do with looks, beauty or even weight. Yes, really. For me it was a response to gastrointestinal issues (which may or may not have been similar to those my children have since developed) and most importantly, a means of exerting control in a world I felt I had little say in.
By losing weight, a girl loses her femininity. She androgenises herself. It is a deep and fundamental rejection of what is female and feminine, embracing the asexual and often masculine, whether intentional or not. Female hormones are no longer produced as body fat is depleted and curves vanish. Menstruation stops and the figure remains or returns to looking boyish. (This is explored in more detail in the novel "A girl called Tim") What is also extremely interesting is that there is considerable evidence of women deliberating doing this in history. Female "anchorites" in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period used self starvation as a means of gaining a foothold in a male-dominated world, their views and opinions were given a level of credence otherwise denied to women at the time.
I believe there is an element of gender in Eating Disorders - Anorexia in particular today. Certainly for female sufferers arresting female development is exerting control over one's body and for many teenagers, whilst this might have little to do with their personal views on their femininity it feels the only part of their lives they have any control over. It is also something which is constantly focussed on, commented on and highlighted by the media.
[There is also considerable credence given to the theory that girls with Anorexia often have Asperger Syndrome, which is more commonly associated with boys. Feeling out of control over their environment, struggling with sensory information they cannot process they attempt to exert control over their bodies instead. ]
The importance of image is everywhere today. And we start them young. Pink princesses, genderising toys and focussing on being "pretty" from the word go. My just-turned-eight year old already bothers about how she looks and one friend at school even watches what she eats. Later on there are the ubiquitous celebrity magazines which photoshop images, run headlines about losing weight, make up, plastic surgery, how to be more beautiful - as if it is as achievable and desirable as gaining a degree, a new job or learning a new skill. It is not. This focus legitimises the feelings a vulnerable girl might have, reinforced by friends who are all on the same conveyor belt of life.
I believe that by introducing this focus on looks and linking them with positive reinforcement we are setting our own daughters on that conveyor belt. We are telling them that being beautiful matters - and that it matters more than all the other wonderful skills, gifts, achievements and interests they have. Such a superficial focus is not only narrow, but destructive and not only warps girls' thinking but limits their horizons.
My daughter, with a dog she designed and made herself.
And yes, she's wearing pink. *sigh*
But what does "beautiful" have to do with success and achievement, happiness and identity? I am proud to say I have a talented, artistic, creative, feisty, generous and kind daughter. She is beautiful in my eyes - your opinion is only valued if it is on her abilities and achievements.
So this "Daughter's Week" compliment your daughter on her efforts and abilities, something she has a degree of control over and can healthily indulge in. DON'T make looks a focus. Goodness knows we have little control over how we look - and one day even the most "beautiful" person will fall prey to old age. "Beauty" is subjective, transient and meaningless.