While discussing women’s education and why it’s significant, a third grade student said, “Girls need to learn, too. It’s not just about our looks. We’re so much more that.”
Smart kid. This is the type of thinking I wish the media would adopt.
From birth, little girls are dressed in frilly pink dresses. The first compliment we hear in life is that we are pretty, cute, precious, sweet, or angelic.
We are taught how to apply makeup, and the media pushes their definitions of “beauty” in our faces throughout our entire lives. As girls, and later as women, we are taught that our beauty comes first.
Photography student Hannah Altman, currently attending Point Park University in Pittsburgh, recently did a photo series depicting the dangerous and impossible standards of female beauty. Through photographs of women splattered with glitter to represent blood, tears, and vomit, Altman shows how negatively “beauty” affects women if the fascination with it becomes an obsession.
From birth, our outward appearance is obsessed over so much that many of us internalize these values. We must be pretty first, and that is more significant than being smart. Our appearances win dates, not our brains.
The first comments we usually hear from peers relate to our looks.
“I love your makeup!”
“You have beautiful hair!”
“Your teeth are so white!”
The leading phrase regurgitated during those breakup pep talks our friends give is almost always the well-meaning “You’re a pretty girl. Guys will be lining up for you.”
Our bodies are what most guys notice first, and are the subject of the first comments they whisper in our ears (or send in random Facebook messages).
Compliments are usually meant to bring us up. But when the first things we hear are related to beauty, we are expected to believe that looks are the most significant part of us.
According to the media and society, it’s about WHAT we are, not WHO we are.
If you want to argue that men struggle with this pressure too, I beg to differ.
Most of us don’t ever hear men meet and say things like this to each other:
“Your hair is so hot!”
“Your muscles look great!”
“You’re so tall!”
“I wish I had your chest!”
When men go through breakups, they don’t usually hear from their friends, “You’re a hot guy, bro. Girls are gonna be lining up for you.” More often, they tell each other to just get laid. It comes back to women being beautiful objects.
As we age, we strive to look as if we AREN’T aging. Diets, lotions, makeup, even surgeries, all marketed almost 100% for women to stay “beautiful.”
Why does it matter?
Seriously, think about it. The compliments, the pep talks, the ideas men have about us, the consumption in which we partake for society’s perception of beauty.
Beauty: who cares?
No matter what dresses we are paraded in as kids, no matter how many compliments we are fed, no matter how many pep talks we hear, no matter how many products we purchase, none of that makes us any less empty.
Beauty means nothing when we break it down. Sure, it means trillions of dollars to companies all over the world marketing their narrow idea of “beauty” to female consumers.
But to us?
In terms of substance to our lives, it means nothing.
The idea that we are THINGS could mean eating disorders, depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and other dangerous obsessions with our bodies.
That’s what obsession with beauty gives us. Impossible standards, unhealthy and neurotic obsessions, and the false belief that our beauty matters.
No amount of foundation will assist me in publishing a novel I haven’t yet written.
No amount of starvation for the perfect weight could erase painful memories.
I would risk seven, 14, 21, even 28 years’ bad luck to smash every mirror I own. To prove to myself that what I see means nothing.
Who cares what I look like? As long as my clothes are appropriate for the occasion, nothing else should matter.
Yet to this society, it does.
I am what people see. The first compliment out of anyone’s mouth is, while well-meaning, related to looks.
“You are pretty.”
Beauty doesn’t hire me. Beauty doesn’t erase the last train wreck relationship. Hell, beauty can’t keep a guy faithful to me.
However, my definition of beauty has nothing to do with a human’s physical appearance.
By my definition, beauty is art. Nature. Poetry. Music. Film. Books. Mediums of inspiration.
Physical beauty is shallow, and for many women, only leads to dark journeys from which they don’t always escape alive.
Generation after generation has been devoted to defining what is “beautiful,” and it’s an easy way to rip women apart. Women haven’t been able to decide for themselves what is beautiful; it has been dictated to them.
My reflection in the mirror is not WHAT I am. I am not a what. I am more than what I see. That is not who I am.
I am more than my looks. I am so much more than that.