This is an opinion piece by Lindsay Powers, author of the forthcoming book, You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids, and the co-founder of the #NoShameParenting movement. Follow her at @NoShameParenting.
Leave North West alone!
In all seriousness, though, why do people feel like it’s fair game to mock Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s 5-year-old daughter? The kindergartner is routinely shamed for everything from her outfits or wearing a little lipstick to the way she dances at her parents’ weekly gospel-inspired “Sunday Service.”
Case in point: North was caught on camera dancing in a long-sleeved leopard print unitard over the weekend, and commenters on a fan Instagram account freaked out: “Why is NORTH working makeup at such young age. She have plenty [sic] to wear makeup when she 18. I feel that’s what wrong with the world we live in. Parents/mothers don’t allow KIDS to be youthful,” wrote one commenter. Not taking into account her father in the background and the fact that her mother was probably the one taking the video, another sniped, “North is out of control…too much money and not enough of parental supervision. After all she is only seven! [sic]”
Wrote a third on the spandex gymnastics-inspired outfit video, which has been viewed more than 22,000 times: “Is that a onesy sweat suit? Like babies wear? Kind of weirded out.”
Such harsh reactions are maybe why Kim (who was spotted in a matching leopard print outfit on the same day) didn’t post the video of her daughter on Twitter. Because just a week ago, when she tweeted similar adorable videos of North dancing, people had a lot to say about the girl’s spaghetti strap dress (“she’s adorable but why so teenage looking…”), black lipstick (“she has on too much damn makeup in My opinion”), and dance moves (a meme was posted that admonished, ‘Eh girl sit down’ and “Safe to say she didn’t get her dance skills from her momma.”)
Her favorite part of the week is dancing during Sunday Service pic.twitter.com/yhiDhBqBY5
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 17, 2019
Kim’s parenting was also called into question again: “OMG, with makeup on, and dancing. Yah she is learning your way, no talent.” Ouch. (Not everyone was such a bully. Wrote one woman: “Nothing about the way she looks is teenage looking she’s wearing a knee length dress and pony tail.. I didn’t know kids can’t wear lipstick???”) Bottom line: A lot of adults basically spent a long time discussing a 5-year-old.
North West has sadly joined the long tradition of famous little girls who are judged ruthlessly for the way they look and move through the world, with their mothers, of course, publicly blamed. Years ago, Katie Holmes was eviscerated when her then-3-year-old daughter, Suri, wore tiny high heels “as if she were a teenager,” wrote The Daily Mail. The actress was questioned relentlessly about the daughter’s shoes, and finally told Access Hollywood: “Like every little girl, she loves my high heels.” She added that the mini heels were actually ballroom dancing shoes for kids.
After Jessica Simpson posted a cute photo of her young daughter in a bikini, internet commenters also went nuts. Simpson was called out for “sexualizing” Maxwell, and then slammed for being a bad mom. “I would NEVER post a picture like this of my 5-year-old daughter! This is an account anyone can see. Jessica shame on you for exposing your daughter instead of protecting her!” wrote one angry commenter. “This is beyond inappropriate. … Allow her to become an adult and decide if she wants these types of pictures of herself online. But for her own mother to do this, is sick.” After the backlash, it appears that Simpson removed the photo. Farrah Abraham faced a slew of criticism for her daughter’s bikini, eyebrow shaping and more.
And if you dress your daughter in T-shirts and sneakers instead of spaghetti straps and bikinis? Well, you’re still a terrible mother, according to the endless debate over Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s apparent preference for pants over frilly dresses. “Is Angelina dressing Shiloh Jolie-Pitt like a boy on purpose?” blared one headline. When Shiloh was just three years old — the same age Suri was deemed too fancy in her shoes — another tabloid cover screamed, “Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy?”
Today, she’s still being questioned over her looks. On March 19, she faced a slew of mean comments after wearing a suit to the Dumbo premiere with some of her siblings and her mom. “k that just leaves Zahara as the only normal child, I hope Angelina doesn’t try to change her,” wrote one on an Instagram page dedicated to chronicling Shiloh-Jolie Pitt’s life. Another wrote, “Three boys and a girl,” referring to her little sister Vivienne also wearing a button-up shirt instead of a dress.
From North West to Maxwell to Suri to Shiloh, there’s a clear theme here that little girls — celebrity or not — are held to different standards than little boys when it comes to what they look like. If she wears spandex or spaghetti straps or lipstick or a two-piece bathing suit, you’re “sexualizing” your daughter. If she wears pants and a T-shirt, you’re turning your daughter into a boy. And you certainly don’t hear anyone calling out Brad Pitt or Kanye West for what their kids look like. Whether you’re famous and receive angry comments on Instagram, or not famous and hear judge-y comments at the playground — the implication is that it’s MOM’s fault her kid is somehow failing to live up to arbitrary expectations.
When it comes to judgment, “mothers are on the losing end of the rope no matter what,” Dr. Susan Newman, a psychologist and the author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Fathers are stepping up in many aspects of childrearing, thankfully, but what a kid wears is still culturally mom’s domain. Adds Newman, “The mothers are in charge, and therefore the mothers get blamed.”
And celebrity kids? Well, they’re just “easy targets,” says Newman. It’s easy to write a mean comment on an impersonal social media site, knowing that it’s highly unlikely Kim Kardashian will corner you at school pickup one day and ask why you’re being so rude to her daughter. And, famous or not, girls and women have always been held to unfair standards. “Because of the sexism we’ve had in our society virtually forever, females are almost always — up until the #metoo movement — the target for negative comments as well as negative actions,” Newman says.
Boys don’t escape criticism should they chose to wear pink shoes or anything else our society considers feminine (remember the hubbub over that J Crew ad featuring the son of Jenna Lyons wearing polish on his toenails?). But “they generally receive much less attention regarding their appearance,” psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, author of Kid Confidence: Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Girls, on the other hand, learn at a very young age that society thinks it’s important for them to be pretty…but not too sexy or they risk another type of criticism.”
So the next time you’re tempted to judge somebody — or, even worse, you are judged over your parenting style or something as silly as what your kid wears, just stop. Take a deep breath. Judging others reflects insecurity; it says so much more about the judger than the target. “There are always going to be people who believe their way is best and they will judge you and try to make you feel insecure and unsure of your decisions and/or guilty,” says Newman. “The trick is to call up your sense of humor and not be influenced.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• Why health insurance is not enough to save some families with sick kids from financial ruin
• Father angrily confronts school officials after daughter, 5, is left behind by school bus — again
• School investigates bus aide who pulled a MAGA hat off student’s head: ‘She threatened me’