I recently read an article on allowing oneself to feel pretty in defiance of societal norms, which, even while admiring the kick-ass attitude of the writer, I found very poignant, because although I’m human and as such still subject to bias towards the aesthetically pleasing, I’m a conscious sort of person and therefore I absolutely question the belief that anyone attractive has more inherent value. Not that that is what the writer was conveying; quite the opposite. But the very fact that a kick-ass article has to be written by a woman with attitude to give girls permission to feel pretty is a response to a mindset which shouldn’t exist.
On one hand, humans have decorated themselves and their environments since prehistory, which is only one piece of evidence indicating a biological urge towards the beautiful, by which I don’t mean only sexual attraction. But on the other hand, anyone who thinks on a regular basis must see that there’s something deeply wrong with the lengths to which our society has taken this bias. Decorating oneself is one thing; vilifying people according to imposed standards is a another.
I watched Dead Man Down the other night. Central to that story is the scarring of the female lead’s face in a car accident. But I found it very hard to buy into it as motivation for her desire for revenge, given that the damage was relatively superficial. The depiction of the youth of the area hounding the poor woman with medieval intensity for minor disfigurement was disturbing, but more disturbing was the premise of the film itself that the scarring would be enough to drive a normally kind-hearted character to murder by proxy. The fact that for the film to be successful, the character would need to be depicted as still attractive enough to garner the sympathy of the audience is only another facet of the same infection and doesn’t account for an attractive young woman being portrayed as a ‘monster’ for the purposes of the story. How much belief are we required to suspend, in an era when computer graphics realistically supply proper monsters?
I once said to a (very ex) husband that wasn’t it funny how all my friends were attractive – upon which he gave me an incredulous look. (He was a very superficially driven human being.) Maybe I’m abnormal in seeing beauty in the people I like, but if that’s abnormal, it’s a shame it’s not contagious. I can’t even blame the media for bombarding us with artificial images for the past decades, since women have evidently been discriminatory bitches since at least Jane Austen’s time.
The difference today perhaps with marketing pressure is that with all the pressure to look pretty, even with all the access we in the west have to pretty things with which to adorn ourselves, very few are actually feeling pretty.
How does anyone challenge this tide? I guess if you use tidal analogies it seems futile, so maybe I should take that back, because I have two daughters, so I am very much invested in preventing my girls from getting that crap in their veins.
I feel like this has all been said before, and that it’s self-evident anyway, so what is the point of adding more words to the discussion. But I suppose more words still keep the conversation going, and keeping the conversation going is the only way to change a thing.