Strong Is The New Pretty
"Do them a favor and remind these girls of their strength.
Remind each other of your strength. Often. Write it down if you need
to: the ways in which you are smart, the ways in which you are
qualified, the ways in which you are strong. Put them on your wall,
say them out loud--internalize them. Believe them. Don't let your
daughter, your niece, your sister, your cousin waste any precious time
wishing she looked like anyone else--she looks and acts and sings and
walks and talks and works and plays like herself."
If there is one book that I feel should be in the home of every
family who has a growing girl, it would be Kate T. Parker's Strong Is
The New Pretty. Every day our girls are bombarded with messages about
aspirations from those who do not have their best interests at heart.
Being pretty has to do with being almost impossibly thin and achieving
a degree of perfection even models (never mind soccor playing preteens
or teens balancing school, extracurriculars, and jobs) need photo
enhancement to achieve. One has to have all the pricey and constantly
changing garments and accoutrements. (Shopito ergo sum; I shop;
therefore I am?) Messiness is a total taboo. Strong Is The New
Pretty is a powerful antidote to this bombardment.
When she was seven (in 1983) Parker decided that her long hair
was too much of a time suck. Playing soccer was much more important
in her life. Fortunately her supportive parents didn't stand in the
way of her getting it cut as short as her brothers'. They empowered
her to be her true self, even when that clashed with the dictates of
the larger society.
As a parent, Parker encourages her daughters to be their
authentic selves. A professional photographer, she took lots of
pictures of her girls and their friends.
"...The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the
strongest images, the ones that resonated the most with me, were the
ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they
were messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept
shooting. I didn't ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I
wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were is
amazing. I wanted to continue capturing them in just that way--not
just for my sake, bit for theirs too."
Lucky for us, her project expanded. She travelled all over the
country, capturing the words and images of a wide diversity of girls.
Nearly 200 are beautifully portrayed in the book. Among the
youngsters you will be introduced to are:
*Emme (7) looking down through a leafy canopy
"We weren't supposed to climb this high, but the view is better up
*wheelchair athlete Jordan (15)
"Strong is putting all your heart, mind, and effort into what you
believe in. Your beauty will shine from this.";
*Cello player Nora (11)
"Through music I have the ability to make others smile and even cry
when I perform in a way that moves someone.";
"Cancer stole part of my leg, but not my joy. I choose happiness.
Being happy is my superpower.";
*Ella (9) represented by a hand waving a star topped wand
"I am magic.";
And so many more. Really drinking in the images and words is like
falling in love again and again and again...
Parker hopes that her book will inspire girls and women to be
and take pride in their authentic selves rather that settling for
"...I worry about what my girls and their friends are exposed to
and how their opinions of their bodies and selves are being shaped by
the Internet and TV and magazines. I want these images to combat
those negative voices that tell us we're not good enough or thin
enough or whatever enough. Because we are FAR MORE THAN ENOUGH!
(reviewer's emphasis) I wanted these girls to hear their own voices
through these images, and to inspire them to use them and continue to
use them. Loudly."
Amen to that!
If you have a daughter buy this book and put it where she can
turn to it for inspiration often. If you are female (CIS or trans) or
gender nonconforming/fluid buy this book and put it where you can turn
to it often for inspiration. Those messages don't go away; and for
the over fifty set (of which I am a member) they take on a
particularly lethal quality.
In fact one of the projects I have put on my list is to do a
similar book featuring grown women further along in the age
continuum. I know some amazing ones. I've already started a list. I
love writing. I love photography. It's time to discover my inner
photojournalist. I plan to begin with the story of how I became a
drag king at the age of 63.
On a personal note, my Thursday was incredible! I started walking to
Orono only to get a ride from a friend who is about to vaca in India.
I arrived in time to help weed in the children's garden before the
library opened. I shelf read and scored more books which you will
love my reviews of. I went to a frozen yogurt place in Bangor with
one of my very best friends. Don't you love to discover a new yummy
eatery? I gave her the purple flower "weeds" which she finds
beautiful. I had an Ending Violence Together meeting. I saw a
picture that I believe will be made into a mural. I'm in it wearing
my blue butterfly wings. Across the street from my home was a little
girl in a stroller. I gave her a rescued picture book with electronic
sound effects. The smile that lit up her face was priceless. I had
salad with local veggies for supper and read with Joey cat. I love my
Oh, yeah, I finally discovered a way to read more books. About time,
right? I can read and walk at the same time. YAY!
A great big shout out goes out all who shared the amazing day with me!
Sent from my iPod