The Problem with Pretty

The other day while making dinner I turned on Songza and chose an upbeat mix. Pearl was in her chair watching me as I made pizza dough and sang along to the songs I knew. This was how I came to hear Britney Spear’s new single for the first time. It’s called “Pretty Girls”.

It’s not the first song to celebrate girls being pretty and it won’t be the last. But as I listened to the lyrics and looked down at my infant daughter, the divide between what this song applauded and all that I want for my little girl as she grows up couldn’t have been larger.

First of all, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating feminine beauty. The Bible does this after all in Song of So fa. But that isn’t what “Pretty Girls” is about. I probably tell Pearl every day that she’s a pretty baby and I coo over cute she is. But I also tell her that she is strong and tough and brave. Sure she doesn’t understand these words yet but I want her to hear them. I want to be in the habit of saying them. I want her to always know that her value and power doesn’t lie in being pretty. And when I lay awake at night and pray for her, I’m not asking God to make her pretty.

A song like “Pretty Girls” celebrates only the physical aspect of girls. It applauds the power of getting boys to buy you drinks or getting to jump the line at a club. I have bigger dreams for my girl. I hope that one day if she influences those around her it’s with intelligence and compassion. I hope she learns to support herself and buy her own drinks. I hope she learns patience and how to wait her turn. And I really hope that she sees her own value and the value of others as creations of a holy God. Spears’ song reeks of entitlement and putting herself – as a “pretty girl” – above others.

I think my daughter is beautiful and I think I always will. But that isn’t an accomplishment. I would rather applaud the way she holds her head up all by herself, the smile she greets me with in the morning, and the sound of her chatter. And as she grows, I’ll tell her she’s beautiful but I’ll celebrate her accomplishments, not her looks.

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