There has been recent controversy over a simple T-shirt sold by Next, emblazoned with the quote “Happy Girls Are the Prettiest.” People took to Twitter to complain about the T-shirt, suggesting that the message implied that not being happy made you ugly. Further, the mental health charity MIND urged its supporters to complain about the T-shirt, and ultimately, Next pulled the shirt from their lines.
This absolutely befuddles me.
As a teenager, I struggled with my self-image and felt so much pressure to look a certain way. I spent years fighting depression and eating disorders and always vowed that I would raise my own daughters to feel good about themselves, inside and out. Now as a mum of three girls, I’m so conscious of building their self-esteem, making sure they know how wonderful they are, that they can do anything that they like, and that just because they are girls doesn’t mean they have to be judged by how they look.
Girls growing up in the twenty-first century are constantly bombarded with images of society’s ideal of beauty. My daughters are growing up with a crazy amount of pressure on them, and it’s no wonder that rates of depression and anxiety have increased among teenagers by seventy percent in the past twenty-five years, and two in ten girls say they’re affected.
The controversial T-shirt slogan in question is taken from an Audrey Hepburn quote which in full reads:
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.
Personally, this is one of my favourite quotations and I think that the quote is actually a positive message to send to our children. I believe happiness does make you pretty. A smile brightens a face, and when we are happy it makes us glow from the inside. To me, the quote is telling our daughters not that being pretty makes you happiest, which is the message that the media give us, but that being happy is what makes you pretty.
Prettiness comes from within us; it is not what features we were born with. I think that is a great message to teach our children, and one I hammer home every day.
I think that the feminist brigade has gone too far on calling for this to be pulled from shelves. The top doesn’t insinuate what its image of pretty might be; it didn’t come with a perfect image displayed. So to say this top is harmful is ridiculous. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When my children are happy, it shows in their faces, and yes, I think they look the prettiest then, regardless of whether they have brushed their hair, whether they have dirt on their faces or scruffy old clothes on. Seeing the joy radiating through their eyes makes them look far prettier than anything else at all.
I’d be more than happy to let my daughters wear this top, and it’s a message that I’ll be making sure they receive. Let’s promote happiness, not beauty, and let our daughters grow up without the pressure to conform to society’s view of what is “pretty.”
Image: Getty/Troy Aossey