Beauty Politics

 

Please explain why we can accept it when a person says “I’m tall”, “I’m overweight.”, ” I have a MBA” or “I’m a lazy underachiever.” but when someone says “I’m attractive”, “I’m handsome”, or “I’m pretty” we get our panties in a bunch?
Why is it such an affront to praise ourselves for our looks? Why is it met with such hostility? Even many people that find us attractive, like our mothers, lovers, and friends… may turn against us if we dare to praise our own beauty. They will respond with “Don’t let it go to your head” or “Aren’t we full of ourselves today?” (Whom else should we be full of, pray tell?)

Goddess forbid we do it in public…”I think I look amazing in this dress!” is bound to have staff girls rolling their eyes, and other patrons talking behind our backs. I’ve watched it happen, and it’s incredibly sad. We have also been brainwashed to believe that there is a hierarchy of beauty, that if we’re a runner up to “Ms. America” , we may as well stay home, that we must compete with our beauty.

Lupa got me thinking…about self reliance. I got to thinking about what I go to others for the most, and reassurance is one of those things. Physical reassurance, certainly is. Am I pretty? Does this make me look pretty? Am I attractive to you? Do I meet your expectations of friend, lover, daughter…

It occurred to me that when I and people around me praise our own beauty, and it isn’t generally met with agreement or acceptance. Its usually met with hostility. Interestingly, we’re reacted to differently, if we say how we feel, it’s a simple change in the point of view, but:

“This dress makes me feel pretty.” receives quite a different response than “I look pretty in this dress.”

Oshun

Oshun

To be frank…my beauty/attractiveness is confirmed nearly everyday. I have attracted men and women in all states of made up and not made up, pregnant, menstruating, and even a few times, even while crying (I’m a crier) . I am also told by parents and friends that I am lovely. My fiance calls me “Beautiful” no matter what state I’m in, sometimes even in his sleep.  When I left my ex-husband, he told me I was pretty on my way out the door.

Is this, I wonder, part of the overall anti-Aphrodite movement? Is this bit of hostility I have noticed a part of the affront on her, and what she represents? Is this why, she was demoted to “daughter of Zeus and Dione”, and married off?

You do know, of course, that the reason Catholic females had to cover their hair is because uncovered female hair was thought to inflame Angels with lust. Because instead of these divine harbingers of God, wither feeling lust and enjoying it, or expressing or dealing with it, women should cover up their Lust Inducing Hair!
Beauty is so personal and so effective. Like an orchid,  I am not every man’s idea of beauty. Some prefer roses, some daisies I can accept that I am beautiful to myself and others, but I can also accept that I’m not beautiful to everyone.
A friend of mine was recently reminded that she was beautiful. It is lovely to watch her unfurl in that like a flower in the sun.
Another friend recently learned that her beauty can attract things she doesn’t desire. Boundaries, love, boundaries.
Beauty can be problematic in other ways, as well. My father, upon finding me chatting with some male, used to think I flirted inappropriately, when truly, I hadn’t looked up from my Bronte at all. Boyfriends became annoyed, jealous, and manipulative when other men hit on me while they were in the men’s room, girlfriends, and a cousin, became so insecure that they cast me out of their wedding parties.
A man who dated in his words “homely women” on purpose, began dating me and said to me: “I don’t date great beauties, I don’t need the pressure. I don’t need the rejection.”

I am visible, I am noticeable. I get attention.

Shouldn’t the goal be to always look the best we can, on any given day? To always be the most we can? To enhance some features while hiding others? Isn’t that what we do with our personalities/homes/resemes/children? Why is it so different for physical appearance?

Beauty is like an ingredient we all have. You have yours, I have mine, in different measures according to what’s treasured in our society, or what eyes are seeing us. No one else can carry your beauty. Society turns against us if we use it to our advantage, we are cunning or deceitful. Its just an asset, like any other. Assets are meant to be taken advantage of, no?
If you don’t believe that you are beautiful, I ask you how can you trust your impression of yourself? You are unable to see yourself entirely at once. You can see parts, you can see pieces in a mirror, you can see photos. How can you trust your flawed description of yourself as “not beautiful” when you can’t even look thoroughly? How can you correctly define yourself as “not beautiful” when your definition of beauty came from modeling agents, or the media, or your crush who only liked athletic blonds?

Let’s widen our definition of Beauty, shall we? Let’s define it for ourselves. Let’s divorce it from its cruel spouse: Perfection. I remember a profound exercise I did in a creative writing class, we were given photos of people, all races, all nationalities, and of places, everything from public toilets, recycling centers, and vistas, and we had to find something beautiful in each of them, and write a three line blurb.
It was a challenge. What’s beautiful about a trash bin or an airport luggage conveyor? Believe me, it took a long time, but slowly beautiful took on a new meaning. Maybe it was the reflection against the steel. The way the stray dog crossed his paws, or the pattern of wrinkles in the old woman’s face. Perhaps it was the glory of the hair left on the bald man’s head, its sheer determination to remain in defiance of heredity, or the crooked smile of a shy 7 year old.
J Ruth Gendler:”Who gave you your eyes? Who taught you to see? Who taught you what to see? What not to see? What is beautiful to you?”

Empedocles:”Aphrodite fashioned our eyes out of the four Greek elements earth, water, air, and fire, fitting the together with rivets of love.”

Rumi:”Borrow the beloved’s eyes. see through them, and you will see the beloved, everywhere.”

Long live Beauty and its healthy pursuit.

2 thoughts on “Beauty Politics

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