Saturday, July 27, 2013

I'm Conventionally Beautiful......And I Hate It

By society's definition, I am conventionally beautiful.  I'm a white woman.  I'm young.  I possess a body type that is coveted in our society.  I've been told I have a great smile.  I don't possess any physical disabilities or disfiguring characteristics.  Of course, that should be important right?  What is a woman, if not beautiful?

I friggin' can't stand it.

First of all, my physical appearance is something I did not attain.  It says nothing of who I truly am or have become on the inside.  One can have straight teeth, perfect skin, and shiny hair and still possess an evil soul.  Further, we portray beauty as something that can be attained through discipline and hard work.  While exercise, healthy food, a carefully selected wardrobe and the right hygiene products can help a person feel good and can lead to improvements, it cannot guarantee that we will attain the looks so coveted by society, which segues into my next point.

Beauty is very narrowly defined by our society.  The attractive woman is always white, with very few exceptions for women of color-usually when they want to portray someone as "exotic" (and they still largely have European facial features and straight hair).  She always has a tiny waist and hips, with minimal body fat, yet manages to carry a large wrack.  She never has any physical disabilities or experienced disfiguring effects of a disease or accident.  When was the last time you saw a woman with a wheelchair on the cover of Vogue?  Or a woman with a missing limb? Yeah, that's right. Never. Maybe once. In addition, she is always young.  Why else do middle aged men, with wives of the same age, feel so free to joke about wanting to make it with a teenager?  Once you hit forty, you may be the mother of a beautiful daughter, but you're no longer beautiful yourself.

Why is it so problematic that we have such a narrow definition of beauty? The problem is, while men are valued for what they contribute (particularly if they're white/Christian/straight/middle class/able bodied and minded), women are solely valued for looks alone, followed by fertility.  Our destiny is contingent solely on having the ability to get people to want to glance at us. Our ability to have a fulfilling career, a loving partner and a happy life is contingent on people not being repulsed when they see us.  

But, I benefit from it.  Why should I hate it?  I hate it because I know I'm a pregnancy/car accident/illness away from losing my ability to be seen as a human being.  I don't want to be known for my looks.  I want to be known for what I do.  Why is that so hard to understand?

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