Sunday, February 16, 2014

Real Beauty

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s - young enough to have benefitted from the women's movement, but old enough to remember a time when women were very much at the low end of the social pool. I can remember, as a child, thinking that it would be fun to be a stewardess (which we now call flight attendants). I wanted to be a stewardess, but I knew that at the time airlines had specific standards for their employees - and I knew I wasn't pretty enough. At the time, this did not strike me as an injustice - it just was the way it was. But looking back, I am outraged for that little girl who didn't think she was pretty enough to work on a plane and serve people drinks.

I am not what you might call a classical beauty. Some might argue that I'm not beautiful at all. I have a round face, a long pointed nose, and I'm 25 pounds overweight. Despite my husband's insistence that I am gorgeous, I have never really felt physically beautiful. Even when I was running 10 miles a day and weighed 125 pounds, when I had a body that some might call "rockin'," I did not think of myself as "hot."

So why are we so critical of ourselves as women? Why do we have a hard time seeing ourselves for the beautiful women we are? The way women are portrayed in the media has a lot to do with it. Tune in any television show on any channel, and the women are slender and gorgeous, with high cheekbones, tucked tummies and gorgeous long legs. Most television shows are centered on male characters, with the women playing supporting roles. The same holds true for movies. Although there are a few outstanding exceptions, like "Thelma and Louise," how many women action heroes do you know?

In magazines, the "cover girls" (why don't we have "cover boys"?) are Photoshopped within an inch of their lives, taking off pounds, removing blemishes and imperfections until they attain an unreachable - and unreasonable - standard of beauty. This video from Buzzfeed takes four normal women and gives them the star treatment - complete with Photoshopped beauty. Their reaction is interesting. One woman sums up the experience like this: "Once someone else has done your makeup, and someone else has done your hair, and then take away your imperfections, then there's not much left of who you really are."

And that is what we need to remember. Our imperfections are part of what makes us who we are. Nobody meets the standards of beauty expected by the modern media - not even the models who adorn magazine covers. So it's time to redefine that beauty. It's time to embrace our whole selves, complete with flaws. It's time to recognize that true beauty is a whole package.

The following are links to a couple videos that deal with women's body images. The first is the Buzzfeed video I referenced earlier. The second is a rather startling video from Dove about how women describe themselves. We are too hard on ourselves. Let's work on being a little kinder!



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