I’m not going to try and cheer you up by telling you you’re good at all those things you feel like you’re not good at right now (even though you are very good at them). That never works—not for me, at least. Instead, I’m going to engage you one of your favorite things: good, old-fashioned feminist theory: pop-culture style.
I’ve been thinking recently about the nature of beauty, especially as it concerns our bodies. (“Our bodies” as in EVERYONE’S bodies, not just “our bodies” as in yours and mine. Cuz everyone knows yours and mine are smokin’.)
Undoubtedly you’ve heard about Samantha Brick, the crazy British woman crying about being so damn pretty. (If you haven’t because you’ve been buried under a pile of your own clothing, here’s the link. ) I don’t want to defend her. If you read her piece, I’m sure you’ll agree that she’s a little delusional and whiny and perhaps a bit too eager to be the “Internet sensation” this has made her. Her point in that way-too-long article is that being beautiful is not all it’s cracked up to be, and she has all these trials and wah, wah, wah. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
On the Today Show the other morning, Ann Curry asked Brick point blank if she realized how arrogant she sounded in her article for calling herself beautiful. And though I am usually a fan of The Ann Curry, that bugged me. (Not as much as it bugged me to see a clip from The View—which, for the record, always bugs me—in which Barbara Walters, like a bratty teenager, remarks that Brick isn’t beautiful at all.) Both of these instances involved empowered, educated female journalists saying things that seemed… I don’t know… lame?
I don’t know when it became arrogant to view yourself as beautiful. If you think you’re smart or capable, that’s not necessarily arrogant. Parents teach their children confidence, smart self-talk, and kind words for both themselves and for others. But if you think you’re pretty, and you actually admit it, you must be a total bitch.
There is some part of me that absolutely rails against this. Lots of parts of me, actually. The high school teacher part. The writer part. The woman part (we’ll just agree that phrase sounds funny, have a little giggle, and move on with being serious, okay? Cuz this is serious and we are all serious people here, not immature junior high kids who will laugh at anything. Especially “lady business” jokes. Right? Did you see that episode of Up All Night?). The mother part. The Christian part.
I was taught to believe that I was made in the very image of God. And then I turned on the television, or went to school, or started talking to people, or glanced through beauty magazines, or basically went through life in this world. And the idea that I was beautiful up and disappeared.
I think I’ve gradually gotten it back. Partly. I try not to be really, really hard on myself, at least.
The problem is that beauty, in the way our culture perceives it, is a game that no woman can ever win. Some people aren’t pretty enough. Some people are too pretty. Some people are probably only pretty because they’ve had work done. Some people are not pretty enough because they don’t work hard enough at it. Some people are pretty, but only because they work too hard at it. Some people need to wake up and realize that being pretty is what it takes to succeed in this world. Some people age gracefully, but they still look old. Some people grow up too fast. Some people are so pretty that it’s probably bad for their health. Some people look so bad that it’s probably bad for their health. What a nightmare.
Here’s an article by Ashley Judd who is, I think most people agree, at least some degree of beautiful. It’s a thoughtful post. It has to do with how our standards of beauty and our measurements regarding the worth of a woman are way the fuck off. (Sorry I wrote fuck, Mom.)
But all anyone has been talking about is whether or not Ashley Judd should whine about being judged for her puffy face. And then they go back to wondering if she’s really had work done or not. Ironically, these discussions prove her point.
I don’t want to go on too much longer, even though there is much much more to say. Perhaps you have thoughts? I’ll end with this:
Genevieve has always been in the 95th percentile when it comes to weight. She’s six months old and is already larger than at least two one-year-old boys in my circle.
When people hold her, they often remark on how chubby she is. This is okay with me. In fact, I love all those rolls and dimples. I sink my face into them and pretend to eat them and massage them when she’s on her way to sleep.
A few people will remark on her chubbiness and then apologize. This makes me sad.