Cats and Compliments

This feels like a completely insane thing but I think a lot about my hypothetical future children and I have this fear about warping their sense of self-worth through phrases that are built into my vocabulary and which I don’t even realize I’m using.

The thing is that I have two cats. They’re both girls. I say the following things on a regular basis:

  • Who’s the prettiest? You’re my pretty girl.
  • Are you a good girl?

WHY DO I ASK MY CATS IF THEY’RE GOOD GIRLS!? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ABOUT!? And more importantly… am I going to tell my hypothetical future daughters to be “good” girls? Because being “good” or “well-behaved” or “polite” or other synonyms for the same concept is pretty much the highest compliment our society can pay a girl and that’s really not okay with me and also something that I want every woman I know to fight against those tendencies.

Add to that my desire to tell the girls that they’re pretty (though if we’re honest I also tell my mom’s male cats that they’re pretty) and I have serious concerns about what’s going on in my brain. If I can say things like that unconsciously, as a feminist and as somebody who really doesn’t believe that a woman’s best qualities are her beauty and compliance, then what chance do our girls have in a society that’s always telling them these things in earnest, both through subconscious messaging and also through the literal use of those words and phrases?

So I’ve made a pact with myself to stop it. Quit saying those phrases. Call myself out on it when I do. Whether it’s to my cats or to other people’s children. Will you do it with me?


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