I heard my mom’s laughter upstairs. “Michelle, come take a look at this!” I bolted up the steps and saw her pointing at the large stuffed animal mouse that stood in the corner of her bedroom. Its face was covered in lipstick, the red marks concentrated primarily on the lips and eyes. We considered the culprit – my little sister, who had just learned how to walk – and wondered how she’d managed to find a lipstick and create such a masterpiece during her short nap.
After some investigation, we figured that my sister had crawled over the guardrails on her bed, pushed aside obstacles that were supposed to keep her out of my mom’s drawer, picked out the lipstick and used it on the mouse, returned the lipstick in its rightful place in the drawer, and crawled back into bed as if nothing had happened. My mom tried to her best to reprimand my sister without breaking into a smile, and we both thought her plan was ingenious and adorable.
I remember marvelling at the keen awareness of a two-year-old. Whether she had seen my mom put on lipstick, me put on lip gloss, or a commercial advertising eye shadow, my sister understood the basic premise of make-up. While at her age it came down to mere curiosity and wanting to imitate the women around her, in our appearance-obsessed society there is a point where, for many young girls, curiosity can switch to insecurity.
During our documentary film tour this spring, I met someone who told me of a tactic that some traffickers were using in their area. They would go to a place where teenage girls were hanging out, like a mall or park, and strike up conversation. They’d find ways to compliment each girl in some way, whether it was about her hair, her eyes, or her body, and strategically gauge their reaction. Some girls would ignore them entirely. Others would respond with “thank you.” Some would immediately gush out “no I don’t” or “I’m so ugly,” and these were the girls that would be selected for the grooming process. A little attention goes a long way for a girl starved of self worth, and traffickers would merely pose as boyfriends, showering them with gifts, compliments, and affection, while gradually grooming them into a life of prostitution.
Those of us who are adult women have a responsibility to set an example for young girls. Are we masking our natural beauty because we are insecure? Do we complain about our bodies in front of our children, our nieces, our sisters? What are the possible repercussions of living out of fear? Let’s examine our hearts and our minds, so we can empower the younger generation to live with contentment, gratitude, and courage. It’s a subtle way to guard our children from predators seeking to exploit insecurity.
This video says it so beautifully: