a beautiful letdown

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.


17 thoughts on “a beautiful letdown

  1. It’s interesting how mothering a girl changes your perspective on beauty! I’ve found that I WANT to focus more on my own beauty, in order to model that for Lily. She has been on the opposite end of the weight scale and I’ve grown to hate the way that people size babies up in a glance! As she grows, I so want for her to know how beautiful she is, inside and out, and to live out of that beauty.

    • Lauren, I think you’ve hit on it absolutely. If I want Genevieve to believe she is beautiful, I’ve got to believe that I am beautiful. I think you do a great job of modeling that for Lily. She’s lucky. And she’s beautiful, too!

  2. There is nothing more repulsive to me than a outwardly beautiful woman who is ugly on the inside! I know a few!!

  3. Thanks for linking to the Ashley Judd article. It’s so good to know there are intelligent celebrities out there who are willing to fight against the misogyny they experience in the media and their daily lives.

    As for Evie, I agree that it’s sad that people apologize for remarking that she’s chubby. What’s sadder is that many parents feel that apology is necessary. I have offended a lot of parents upon remarking that their babies are chubby, even though, in my mind, I equate “chubby baby” with “cutest kind of baby.” Perhaps I should start carrying around my own baby pictures (because I was a CHUNK of a child) and showing them when I remark on chubby babies so parents will know I am actually complimenting their children.

    On the other hand, why are parents (mothers, usually) so offended when their babies get called chubby? Has our societal need to conform to an ideal pervaded as deeply as that? What happened to a chubby baby meaning a healthy baby? Do parents assume once chubby, always chubby? Have these parents forgotten their own roly-poly pictures and selves? I’m glad it makes you sad when people apologize for calling your baby chubby. It makes me sad too. Your baby IS chubby, and I for one love it, and she’s beautiful.

    And I am confident that she will remain beautiful because, with a mother so intent on helping her understand the feminist issues she’s up against, she’s going to have a fighting chance of believing in herself, in her capabilities, and in her own inner beauty. Thanks for sharing, Katie.

    • Thanks for the kind comment, Audra. You’re right about it being nice to hear something intelligent from a celebrity. I like Ashley Judd, and I like what she’s trying to do by responding to all the speculation.

      And I love a chubby baby, obviously. But I also love string-bean babies and tiny petite babies and super tall babies. I love how different they all are, how their bodies do what their bodies do to be healthy and thriving.

  4. Evie is chubby. And totally lovely. I think it’s interesting that when we look at infants we see cuteness wherever we can find it. We don’t ‘know’ the person very well, because they are a baby and we just look at them and squeeze them and interact with them to figure them out. I think we enjoy all shapes in babies and this is good and how it should be. I wish we could continue enjoying all shapes and features as we age, though. I just know that eventually Evie and Kensley will both be expected to look smokin’ in the same pair of jeans…… I hate it, though. I doubt they will
    look flattering on either.

  5. Evie is adorable and her rolls are something to be admired. I have a good friend whose 3 year old son recently grabbed her belly rolls (because us moms ALL have those) while wrestling. And said something like I love your squishy rolls mommy! She was is shock, as I would be, but then proceeded to think of all the times she had squeezed his little chubby legs. It was moment of love for sure. I often think (maybe too much) about how to raise my daughter, now 4, to love her body. I think she should be appreciative and think she is beautiful but not to focus on that as her main asset. We have the exact same body type. Im sure she will deal with the same issues I had and I will hope to be there to assure her that she is perfect. And like JC said, “both be expected to look smokin’ in the same pair of jeans…… I hate it, though. I doubt they will look flattering on either.” If someone would have told me that! Or maybe someone did- I was just too 13 too think twice about it!

    • Shell!!! I love that story! Thanks for posting, and for your thoughts about raising daughters. I think you put it perfectly.

  6. Pingback: what is it with the tampons? | [writing] between friends

  7. Pingback: the beauty-thing, part 1 | [writing] between friends

  8. Pingback: FAQs, first quarter | [writing] between friends

Add to the discussion! We read and appreciate EVERY comment, though we aren't always able to reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s