It seems we live in a society obsessed with beauty – the market is flooded with ‘beauty products’ and every woman, no matter how secure, holds just a little internal doubt if she isn’t the perfect 10, or has a couple of grey hairs or ‘laughter lines’ (AKA ‘crow’s feet’). But does it matter?
I know it used to matter a lot more to me. I used to believe that someone who was born beautiful was born with one huge advantage in life because having a pretty face would open doors without the need for a brain or a talent.
I still think that, to some extent, there is a psychology behind this. The more attractive you are (in the widely accepted social definition of what is ‘attractive’), the more other people will be open to having you around, whether that means giving you a shot at a highly sought ‘media’ job, or allowing you to pick and choose from a wider gene pool of potential partners.
But I know that the key element within beauty – which goes hand in hand with knowing that you have a physical advantage – is the confidence that brings.
I’ve known people (women) who would not be classed as ‘pretty’ who have done incredibly well for themselves through sheer force of self-confidence and self belief, and equally I know very pretty girls who are terribly insecure and full of self-doubt. So this obviously isn’t true in all cases and confidence certainly isn’t exclusively held by the beautiful ones.
Reading back through this it also occurs to me that we are almost exclusively talking about women – men go through life being judged and rewarded on a totally different set of criteria.
The unfortunate side effect of our society’s obsession with how we look is apparent when you look at someone like Katie Price or, just lately, Tulisa Contostavlos – people who were so unsure of their own natural beauty (or unsure of their ability to maintain standing in the media circus) that they opted for surgeries that have added nothing that was either necessary or successful, in fact Tulisa looks downright odd in my opinion – like a completely different person and in no way any more attractive than she was before.
Recently I happened across a mention of a woman who is known as ‘The Living Barbie’ doll and, after seeing a picture which I’d assumed was some sort of manga cartoon and then finding out that this was a real person, I did a bit more searching out of sheer car crash mentality. Here is the picture:
She denies having surgery other than a boob job but her waist is so thin that one interviewer described it as ‘a sock of skin wrapped around her spinal column’. She also wears ‘doll effect’ contact lenses which lend a plasticky or alien air to her being. There are plenty of articles out there musing on what this woman says about society, or what she thinks society wants or needs to see – mostly that she has attempted to adapt herself to fit into a hyper-sexualised, cartoonised male fantasy, that in reality isn’t what men want to see in the flesh at all. Massive eyes and bizarrely adjusted proportions on a woman actually seem more alien than attractive to the average man apparently.
There is also the fact that she seems miserable. Just Google ‘human barbie doll’ go to images and look through the page – barely a smile even hinted at – but come on, even Barbie smiles!
I’m kind of glad that I don’t have daughters to help navigate through those murky teenage years when they are at their most impressionable. My mum always drummed it into me and my sister that we were perfectly fine as we were but I never really agreed and always wanted to dye my hair blonde or improve on my disaster of a chin! I think my mum implied that, as we were a little physical reflection of her and my dad, it would be a bit insulting to them to want to improve on that!
I think my sister is doing a grand job helping my (14 and 15 year old) nieces to discover and focus on their passions rather than their looks – at least that is how it appears from being around them. I think that’s great and that’s how it should be but I think back to Kirstie Allsop’s recent controversial statement on the subject of mothering girls to focus on marriage and babies ahead of career goals and it makes me wonder whether she would then concentrate on making sure her daughters always look right, pretty enough, to catch a man, setting them up for a life of preening and narcissm…
So does beauty matter? Of course it matters when you think of it in terms of beauty in nature, and the pursuit of beauty in art and literature – but lets not allow society to mould the next generation into confused, dysmorphic young people who can’t see the wood for the trees.
Linking up with Sara over at Mum Turned Mom who’s prompt this week was the word ‘beauty’.