The role of aunt or uncle is often the ideal sweet spot of responsibility.
You get to be an impressive, trusted role model in the life of a child, and yet you remain distant from all the baggage of parenting, like discipline and grocery shopping.
But sometimes things can become complicated even for those occupying the cool aunt role.
One woman encountered this recently after she babysat her couple nieces. The fallout was so striking that she was forced to ask for feedback on the “Am I the A**hole (AITA)” subReddit.
The Original Poster (OP), known as yakkyjakky on the site, captured the thrust of the issue in the post’s title:
“AITA for telling my nieces that how they look IS important and something they should care about?”
OP began with an outline of the end and the beginning of the whole ordeal.
“This has caused such an uproar in my family and I feel like I’m going crazy over here. Like, don’t-come-to-Christmas uproar.”
“About three weeks ago, I was babysitting my nieces. They’re 9 and 11.”
Then she offered some context.
“My sister is a big feminist (so am I) who always makes her feminism a huge part of the way she’s raising her kids. Like, talk about raising her kids at all, feminism comes up.”
“I was playing dress up with the girls, and the older one mentioned that she thought the game was silly because ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.'”
A back and forth ensued, and gently escalated.
“I told her that we didn’t have to play anymore, and asked her to tell me more about the ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like’ because I would like to learn.”
“She happily told me all about how caring about your appearance is ‘vain’ and people shouldn’t care about what you wear, how much you weigh, what color your hair is, etc.”
“That girls who are really into fashion or makeup had bad parents who should care more about making sure they’re smart and do well in school.”
“Then she asked me why I cared about things like that because she always thought I was ‘too smart’ for that.”
OP decided to speak her truth.
“Maybe this is where I f***ed up, but I had to be honest with her?”
“I told her that I care what I look like because I want to be respected by others, I want others to be attracted to me, and that no matter what we tell ourselves, society does care and does judge men and women for how we look.”
“I tried to explain that sometimes society cares too much, but that grooming ourselves, wearing well fitting and clean clothes, etc are things we should all care about.”
“I also said that being interested in fashion and makeup don’t make anyone less intelligent, that they’re both ways of expressing ourselves and can be very artsy as well.”
It didn’t take long for word to travel.
“11 year old seemed really bothered by this and told me that she couldn’t believe I was ‘one of them’ and then made a weird comment about how her mom said that’s why I don’t have any books.”
“My sister called me, furious about how I was poisoning her daughters by forcing unobtainable feminine beauty ideals on them.”
OP closed with her own take on it all.
“At no point did I say that they had to maintain a size 2 figure, shave, have long hair, spend thousands on designer clothes, etc.”
“But she’s making it out to seem like I babysat her kids and now they’re destined to become Serena Vanderwoodsen.”
“AITA? My family sure as f’k thinks I am.”
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked to provide feedback by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
While there were responses across the board, a clear majority of Redditors assured OP that she wasn’t the a**hole.
Some agreed with her prioriites.
“NTA, I agree with you. Putting some effort into your appearance is expected in our society. Clean clothes that fit is minimal but it’s good advice!” — Few_Story3588
“NTA. First, feminism isn’t one standard. It’s just about basic gender equality.”
“To say a woman who cares about her looks, or cares about anything your sister disagrees with, is not a feminist IS the antithesis of feminism.”
“Second, you are right. Personal grooming does reflect a level of self respect.”
“A better lesson is to not compare oneself with others to the point one feels less than. But self respect does not include degrading others for their choices.” — oceanblu456
Others didn’t like the clear side effects of her sister’s parenting.
“NTA. It sounds like your sister is going too far in the other direction, but the result is still the same: the girls have learned to be judgmental of others’ appearances.” — AndromedaGreen
“NTA – her approach in instilling feminism into her daughters is making them judgmental and frankly rude.”
“She has made her daughter’s judge all people that care about their appearance as unintelligent bimbos and that’s not a fair or correct assumption for any of them to make.”
“It’s perfectly ok to care about your appearance for yourself and not men [for fu**in sure].” — Sooz817
“NTA: your sister is making them very entitled.” — MagikTheMage
Some, though, invoked the “ESH” acronym, criticizing both OP and her sister.
“ESH. Your sister is an a**hole because she’s teaching her daughters to be judgemental and rude snobs.”
“However, you’re also an a**hole. You know your sister makes a point to teach her daughters a certain way so you probably should have kept your mouth shut and brought it up with your sister instead.”
“You tried to undermine her as the parent, and nobody takes kindly to that.” — MaddynamiteJ
“ESH. ‘I want others to be attracted to me’ really stands out here.”
“Your sister has some good ideas twisted into some weird ones, but so are yours: it sounds like you told your nieces just to accept being judged because that’s how society is.”
“This was an opportunity to tell her that taking care of HERSELF for HERSELF to respect HERSELF was important, and you made it all about how she’d look to other people. You f***ed up.” — annarkea
But even the “YTA” prefix came out as well. These few Redditors called OP the a**hole for not considering her niece’s ages more closely.
“YTA. If she still strongly held these views at 16, and had negative experiences because of them, then I think it would be okay to tell her.”
“But they’re too young IMO. Let them be confident in their own bodies first, and know ultimately how they look isn’t important.”
“Only then should they know of societies expectations of how we present ourselves.” — MaxSpringPuma
“YTA. They are kids. They’re little girls. They are going to get told FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES how important their looks are to everyone.”
“You couldn’t just let them have a little time before they have to start worrying about that sh**? It honestly sounds like you were mad that a little girl called you vain and you snapped back.”
“I think you should grow up” — PurpleDot0
“YTA. They’ll learn that when they’re older, anyway. Why ruin their fun now? You have no right to judge your sister for her parenting style and I wish I had grown up thinking looks don’t matter.”
“You did a shi**y thing for no reason.” — poetictumblrname
Only time will tell what OP’s status as babysitter will be in the future.