What does beauty cost?
Isn’t it odd that the way someone looks leads us to make so many assumptions about who they are and how their life is?
There is an assumption that beautiful women must have it easy. Because of their beauty, things come naturally to them. Problems are solved for them.
I do think good looks can open doors, but which doors are opened because of looks? And which doors are closed?
Beautiful women are commonly type-casted as stupid or vain.
Women are routinely praised on their looks, with looks becoming a woman’s defining feature, at the expense of other praises.
Society makes grandiose claims about how beautiful women should look, act, and think.
Pop culture contorts and controls beauty standards, forcing women to jump through hoops to mimic these ever-shifting standards in order to be considered a ‘beautiful woman’.
Women are taught that passive is pretty. (Men are taught that success means wealth.)
Women receive praises on their looks; men on their qualities.
And what happens when she wants to be a difficult kind of beautiful?
A Different Perspective On Female Beauty
I spoke with my friend Cathrine from Norway recently.
She told me that, as a child, no one ever praised her on how she looked; she was only ever told that she was a “good kid”. She played sports and loved math because she was naturally inclined to these activities; she said she felt wholly uninhibited by her beauty. Yes, uninhibited by her beauty because it was not the central focus of who she was. She did not realize she was a “beautiful woman” until she studied abroad in the United States. It was here, in the city of San Diego, that her looks were focused upon for the first time in her life. And she noticed that, in general, beauty was what was the most focused upon in San Diego.
However, Cathrine could not be lured by this newfound fixation. Instead, she turned her math interests into a finance career. She became a dancer and a skateboarder, she learned the guitar and learned how to pole dance — all out of enjoyment for the activities.
Now in her 20’s, Catherine is aware that her looks hold power, but she is aware that it is not her only power.She was taught that she was more than how she looks, so she became more than her looks.
She learned to embrace both the power of her mind and the power of her appearance, but was never ensnared by either.
Half Of Our Population
Refocusing on American culture, we see a large distinction in how we educate our youth. We are teaching half of our population that their most valuable contribution to society is their appearance.
(And, in my opinion, we are feeding young men a similar story about wealth and power.)
By making physical beauty a young girl’s main concern, we have created women who focus solely on looks and beauty at the expense of other pursuits.
This fixation on physical beauty is taught at such a young age that it is impossible to fully escape and to see beyond.
The ‘beauty is everything’ message is plastered on magazines, in music, and throughout pop-culture; this message is in classic literature, plays, and family dynamics. (And for young boys, the messages are power and money.)
Female beauty standards influence how today’s powerful women can act and appear. A woman’s looks remain the main focus, with TV news hosts focusing almost exclusively on an actress’s outfit, a female politician’s “ugly” appearances, or a female musician’s diet regime. Even as women strive to be something more, the world is placing them back into the beauty box and telling them to remain there.
The women who do strive for something more, like the first female politicians and business leaders, have had to negate the entirety of their femininity by wearing men’s suits and mirroring men’s behavior in the workspace.
Beauty or brains — you had to pick.
Intelligence does not mean denying one’s beauty, it means seeing both one’s mind and one’s body as components of who a person is.
You can tend to your looks and care for your body without allowing the process to consume you — just as you can accumulate influence and money without letting the aquired power define and control you.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is famous for her embracement of femininity and her “take-no-prisoners” approach to politics. She recently shared her beauty routine on Vogue.com and signed off with this statement:
“The key to beauty is the inside job…Let’s go seize the day and fight the power.”Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Young women can be taught to embrace both their femininity and their power. Instead of labeling beauty as an external, physical trait, we should be teaching as a holistic, multifaceted human quality, not to be denied and not to be idolized.
And, in the end, embracing the entirety of one’s being is the most beautiful thing a person can do.