Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Beauty

A little slow on the uptake (hey, I have classes to not-go to, and papers to write at the last minute), but I wanted to comment about the body-talks going around the blogsphere. Some of my favorite are
  • here
  • and
  • here
  • . Feministe and Alas, A Blog, also had some good ones.

    This is one of those "Can't win for losing" things the patriarchy gives us so many of. Beauty is something women are "supposed" to have, and yet, we are shallow if we work at it. Not only are we supposed to be beautiful, it's supposed to be hidden. I've heard many a guy complain that their girlfriend, or sister, or friend who's a girl took too long to get ready.

    They don't seem to understand this: beauty is a talent. Like any talent, it takes some level of potential, but mainly, it's learned. Just in case this wasn't pointed out to you, women aren't born with the ability to slather goop on our face or taunt, tease, and tie our hair into whatever the current social trend is. We had to learn how to do it, (much like a guy in theatre had to learn it). It is a skill. We also had to learn what combination of colors, styles, and cuts were considered beautiful, attractive not too-slutty, too-prudish, too-whatever.

    Talents take TIME, EFFORT and MONEY. If someone is busy being beautiful, they're not busy learning how to speak a foreign language, learning how to draw, learning a sport, or any other thing.

    Then you get the whole "women are shallow and vain thing" that devalues that talent. The one talent that women are DEMANDED to have, no matter what, and it's not even appreciated like it should be.

    Also, the standards that women are held to are not the standards men are held to. Men are not socially coerced to scrape the hair off half their body, and in fact aren't really compelled to shave their face (the whole "rugged" look). Turn on the tv: it's full of men who run the whole gambit of "attractiveness", but women who are pretty much held to the "pretty-thin" model.

    Then there's the moving goal-posts thing: not only do you have to look "attractive" but since attractiveness varies from environment and in fact person-to-person, and you can't be what you as YOURSELF considers attractive, you have to squeeze, tuck, pluck, and paint to meet this hazy definition of what is acceptable to OTHER people, and then have to deal with people openly ogle you and then say "well, when you look like that, what do you expect? Shut up, it's a compliment".

    The truth of the matter is beauty should be its own little talent, not a base talent that every woman is supposed to cultivate. Beauty doesn't have anything to do with many other talents: in fact, acting towards what is normally considered beautiful is constraining to many other talents and just general movement. Heels, for instance, are hard to walk in (especially if you are not used to it), harder to run in it (if you wanted to play a game of football, or something, or if you needed to flee an attacker) and next to impossible to fight in. Tight shirts make it difficult to have proper breath support to sing and speak in. Short skirts and tight pants make sitting down an exercise in and of itself, to not flash anyone and not to press too much against your stomach, not to make any pudge appear, and everything else you need to worry about. Being skinny and small makes it difficult to be intimidating, makes you appear much more insignificant, and makes it harder for you to stand up to people.

    Especially around here, fashion is asinine. It's North Dakota, it's COLD here. Short skirts, tight clothes, halter tops: these make no sense to wear in an environment that routinely goes below freezing. High heels? Those, being backward in the best of times, are downright DANGEROUS when there's ice on the roadways.

    Yet, I see women who wear these things right through January. My guy-friends castigate the women, going so far as to as to laugh at a sorority girl who face-planted on the sidewalk when she slipped while wearing heels. I must admit, it would be very easy to just go "stupid girl" and laugh along with everyone else. I am so much more superior than those stupid sorority sluts, going along their way sucking up to the patriarchy.

    Except...I'm not. That could have EASILY been me, had I not run across some feminist reading, or had any number of random occurrence that lead me to adopt feminism. That could have been me that hurt myself, denied myself, and considered myself less-than in order to get the crumbs thrown by the patriarchy. That could have been me slipping on the ice, with my skirt flown up showing my undies, my nylons ripped and my ankle possibly twisted: because I know that when I look pretty (as I'm sure this female did) people treat me nicer. I'm noticed by guys, other females give me compliments and jealous looks, people look at me when I speak, doors magically open, people act like they're listening to what I'm speaking. Those are all real fucking benefits.

    And on the other side, I'm sure she knows that if she DIDN'T act pretty, she'd get nasty comments, and would have to assert herself more to get noticed and listened to. Doors would stay shut, and she may find herself alienated with people talking to her.

    She probably knows, as do I, that if she goes to a job interview and does not look "good" she will probably not get the job. Or, if she's going the other route, she probably knows she needs to look good to attract a husband.

    If beauty is not important to someone's job, it should NOT be considered as a factor when hiring someone. Period. Unless your a model, or a pageant contestant (which I have problems with anyway) beauty is almost entirely superfluous. It's like telling a pilot that they have to be able to play the piano: it has NOTHING to do with the job.

    I'm sure anyone who reads this is going to say I'm just sour grapes: I'm not beautiful, I'm not a model, I'm just jealous. Let's attack my motivations, not my argument, that's not a logical fallacy or anything.

    And maybe my motivations are skewed. I mean, I'm not conventionally attractive: I never wear makeup; my clothes tend to be jeans, or stretch pants, baggy shirts and sweaters. I don't ever do anything to my hair short of comb it. My 5'4" frame weights, right now 170 pounds. I would like some of the benefits of being conventionally attractive on occasion.

    And yet...I was a model when I was little. I did beauty pageants when I got slightly older (and won them). While I'll never be a size one (even if I starved myself, my frame's too wide), I was down to a size 6 at one point in my life.

    And you know something? I didn't like it. When you are tiny, it's hard to be taken seriously. You don't get people to think you are intelligent, you're "cute". It's hard to be intimidating when the person outweighs you by a good 500-150 pounds. It's hard to throw your weight around when you are 110 pounds. I get taken seriously now, and I don't worry about taking up space. This is MY space, it's mine. Not to mention, although being noticed is nice, most of the time, it isn't. I'm relatively invisible right now, when I was "pretty" I was ogled, stared, and leered at. I didn't like: it made me feel un-human. Now I'm just a face in the crowd, unless I do something about it, which feels much safer. And I STILL don't have trouble finding a guy to like me, or find me sexy: the quality of guys has in fact gone up.

    I'd like to be able to do more physical activity, but honestly, I don't give a flying fuck about losing a single ounce. You can't win when you play the patriarchy, you can only win if you play your own game.

    2 Comments:

    At 1:31 PM, Blogger The Happy Feminist said...

    Whoo-hoo! Right on!

    It would be very interesting to hear about your pageant experience.

     
    At 4:20 PM, Blogger Old MD Girl said...

    BTW, one of the things that sucks about being pretty is that you never know if your superiors think you're competent, or if they just want you around because they like the way you look.

    Ironically, this became a problem for me with calculus. I kept getting A's even though I was doing a shitty job. *I* think it might have been because the professor thought I was cute. There were certain things he did and said that made me think this. Of course this did nothing to help my confidence in math, and I dropped the subject as fast as I could. I was afraid that my "luck" would run out, and he'd start giving me the B's I deserved.

    Looking back I realize that was SO STUPID. I could have easily earned the A's I got. But it destroyed my confidence for several years. Seems silly to complain about really -- most people would be like, "Poor you, you got A's without doing any work," -- but it really does suck if it deprives you of an education.

     

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