Am I pretty? Really? You sure?

Girls (Photo credit: Jungle_Boy)

I want to move to another planet, preferably one about 12,000,000,000,000 light-years away from this one — where all people do is focus on women’s appearance.

Rant alert.

I sincerely, truthfully, non-provocatively do not understand this utter obsession with the skin/breasts/hips/hair/legs/waists/lips of girls and women and why it matters a damn to anyone beyond their physicians, whose job it is to help us stay healthy. Yes, I am fully aware of the media, cultural pressure, blablablablabla.

Do we not — ladies? — have our own minds?

Here’s a recent piece from Time on the sad, sorry, miserable trend of teen girls staring into their webcams and begging total strangers to tell them they are physically appealing.

This makes me want to throw furniture.

It makes me want to grab every one of these girls and ask: “Seriously?”

It makes me want to ask their parents what the hell is happening in their home that their young girl-child is so desperate for 1) attention; 2) validation; 3) validation from total strangers; 4) has no idea that predators love this stuff.

I grew up with bad skin into my mid-20s, rarely wearing make-up because I didn’t want to attract attention to my looks. I was thin and pretty enough to have tons of college boyfriends.

But I never — thank God for the 1970s, when I came of age and Ms. magazine was flourishing — spent a ton of energy freaking out all the time over my looks. I was smart, educated, confident and talented and knew that was what I really needed to get going professionally.

Yes, being pretty helps. I get that.

But pretty-and-shallow, pretty-but-stupid, pretty-and-mean, pretty-and-lazy — won’t get you too far.

Our skin will mottle and wrinkle, Botox and surgery be damned. Our breasts will change shape, size and altitude. (Sherpas no longer necessary!) Our bones may become more brittle, our gait a little slower.

But our hearts, minds, intelligence and courage need never flag.

There is no woman uglier — on my perfect planet — than one lacking compassion.

Are you as appalled by this insanity as I am?

30 thoughts on “Am I pretty? Really? You sure?

  1. If only young women could see that they are all beautiful just because they are young. I didn’t realize this until I was in my 50’s and then I could see how all the young women I met were pretty. Still the constant striving for a contrived, media driven perfection of beauty erodes the natural confidence that should come with youth. Truly, as you point out, nothing is uglier as the lack of compassion.

    I went through a little grieving process in my mid to late 50’s for the loss of youth and beauty. Now, on the other side of that and about to turn 60 I feel like I am stepping into my own deep beauty without the constraints of Madison Avenue attire with which I used to adorn. Translation: I will never again wear contact lens, panty hose, underwire bras or foundation make-up. I joyfully embrace elastic waste bands and sensible flat shoes. My best features are my smile and my eyes and I don’t care that my chin is getting a little saggy.

    Women by their very nature are all pretty. Sometimes we just don’t see it until we are more we are more wrinkled! 😉

  2. Seriously, the first words that came to mind when I finished reading your post was, “Right on, sister!” (Don’t ask me why those particular words but they fit.) My mother’s frequent comment to my sister and I as we were growing up was “Pretty is as pretty does.” I always took that to mean that being a good person and making smart decisions literally made you appear more attractive because people who are content with who and what they are, look it. Happy people = pretty people. What stage of “pretty” you’re at depends on you, and it has nothing to do with your bra size, hair color or fashion choices.

    Another great post – keep ’em coming. kt

    1. Kelly, thanks! I wish more and more and women bloggers (ladies?) were ranting as loudly and often….there is such tremendous energy, talent and time wasted fussing over our bodies instead of…I dunno….winning better wages for all of us or getting more women into elected office or fighting for our political rights.

      You know….solidarity?!

      Focusing on our bodies is NOTHING more than an insane distraction. (beyond health issues, of course.)

  3. Interesting, and thanks for sharing.

    I politely disagree that young = pretty as it so often means narcissistic and image-obsessed; girls and women like that are forever repellent to me. I also strongly disagree that confidence is the sole province of the young! My granny drove a sports car (as did my Mom) into her 60s and 70s and I hope to do likewise…also enjoying (for pleasure!) girly stuff like jewelry or pretty clothes.

    My mother was, briefly, a model and one of her mottos was “no elastic waistbands!” — because you can so easily gain weight and not register it. Everyone is different, but I have seen this in myself and now need to lose a LOT of weight. Sigh.

    I have been wearing flats since 2010 because of my painful hip but am counting the weeks/months until my gait is sturdy enough to wear heels again, even if only occasionally.

  4. The ugliest people I’ve ever met were, by all means, physically/ outwardly beautiful. I’ve never bought into the idea that shinier hair or glossier lips or bigger boobs or a smaller waist really mean that much in terms of how good a person I am. It makes me so sad that there are girls and women who exhaust themselves to reach an imaginary perfection.

  5. The Market (whatever that actually is) has, as a fundamental aim, the self-serving need to create dissatisfaction and then promote endless fantasies for people to literally buy into. Instead of ever finding satisfaction people go around in circles and remain at the mercy of marketing trends and fashion. Beauty is not truth, it is a massive industry driven by massive profits with the general public played as suckers. Self-help books, diets, gym memberships, talk shows, designer clothing brands, pop music stars and on and on each play a part in influencing people. If the only thing a society reinforces are unattainable ideals no one should be surprised to find most people feeling inferior despite their own inherent splendor.

    1. You are 100% right. But…

      Surely (!?????) women have minds of their own, and, as mothers, have the ability and responsibility to make sure their daughters aren’t suck(ered) into the toxic quicksand you describe. Just because all those forces exist does not mean we can’t muster up the cojones (mixed metaphor) to disdain and ignore them!
      As I write this, the March cover of Marie Claire sits beside my computer — with a gorgeous Eva Mendes on it. BUT…her skin tone is so oddly even that it’s pretty damn obvious to me she’s been both highly-lit in studio and/or Photoshopped to “perfection.”

      I no more expect my (very good) home cooking to meet restaurant standards than I do to resemble the anorexic and airbrushed girls and women presented to me as “role models” by the mass media. I was the subject, last summer of a magazine cover shoot, which was a lot of fun….but it took 5 skilled professionals (!) and 4.5 hours’ posing to get the final image. Illusions gone!

  6. Oh jeez, I’ve seen this recently and it bugs me like nobody’s business. I have a daughter who’s just getting to the brink of what they’re now calling “tweendom”, and this type of thing is incredibly pervasive in her age group. Luckily she’s not too worked up about it yet, but the more cognizant she’s becoming about such issues, the more I’m hoping she’ll learn to dismiss them. She’s talented and smart, but as we can see by these incredibly sad videos, sometimes that’s not enough for these girls. I’m doing my best to help her keep an even keel, but with all this nonsense floating around, who knows what she’ll get into her head when she’s with her friends.

    1. At least — yay you!! –you’re on it and aware of it. The fact she’s both talented and smart (one hopes) might help to inoculate her (and that’s the right word) against this crazy pressure. In high school (yes, decades pre-Internet), I was much more concerned about getting good grades to make it into the college I wanted and having some dear friends than..omg…what I looked like. I dressed well, and with style, but my appearance wasn’t, ideally, my main focus of attention.

      Girls need to be told over and over and over that “pretty” is totally subjective; character matters!

  7. Beauty truly comes from within. I’ve met lots of women that would fall into the ideal of beauty, and I do not count many of them as friends, because their personalities turn them ugly. The most beautiful women I know shine with strength, courage, wisdom and confidence. I won’t lie and say that I have never succumbed to trying to fit in with the image of beauty, but I have slowly learned what is truly beautiful. I only hope that I can teach my daughter to value the true beauty, not the external one.

    1. I have no doubt that you will teach her well…as you are aware of this and unimpressed by the notion of “beauty” being something attained (only) through a gym or in a bottle of makeup.

      I am in no way opposed to enjoying dressing up, make-up, jewelry, whatever a woman enjoys…but NOT at the expense of neglecting her most essential emotional and intellectual qualities. I do not see a dichotomy, but the conversation has to be held.

  8. I absolutely cringe when I see the models jerking along the catwalk on their stilettos. These anorexic, over-painted and, to my mind, ugly examples of womankind. I hate it that girls are constantly told they are nothing unless they plaster on make-up, wear the latest fashions(ugh!) and the highest orthopedically destructive heels.
    I cannot understand the mentality of parents, especially mothers, who encourage this attitude to acceptance and so-called beauty. In my more than 60 years, I have never been caught in that cycle, thank goodness.
    Sometimes, I am thankful I didn’t have daughters (only 5 sons), but I now have four (soon to be six) granddaughters, and I just hope their parents have the sense to avoid the pitfalls laid by grasping fashionistas et al, who advertise beauty as a surface issue only.
    We all should know that beauty is much, much more than that!

    1. Congrats on all those grand-daughters!

      I think so much of how girls think of themselves — even when surrounded by a toxic beauty culture — comes from how their parents and friends think and behave. No one I know was every truly obsessive about looking like a Vogue model, even if we read the magazine. I read all the women’s mags and enjoy looking at fashion but don’t feel compelled to own it — can’t afford designer stuff and am about 6 sizes too large right now anyway. If a girl is taught (often) how terrific she is for her personal qualities, she can enjoy her physical attributes (as well) but not go nuts about it.

      I was always athletic so my relationship to my body is very different: I care about being strong, flexible and ready to do my sports, not prance in stilettos.

  9. Pingback: Finding Queen Esther in Myself « Woman Wielding Words

  10. free penny press

    As a Mom to 4 daughters I knew I had a huge responsibility to assist these young girls in building a strong sense of worth. By sheer good fortune i read a great book many years a go called “A Woman’s Worth” By Marrianne Williamson. To keep this comment short, it reaffirmed what I already knew that our worth was not in the exterior but our interior. While my daughters are physically attractive females, I never bought them the latest fashions, allowed make up, etc. Not to be controlling but to allow their own inner light to strengthen & grow.

    An example. My one daughter is an aspiring film maker. I asked her, Are you moving to LAone day? Her reply was , never.. The people are fake and the ladies never want to get old.
    I myself am 50 and yes, look for signs of that young woman but know she is in a better place, not on my skin but in my bones, my heart, my soul.

    Thank you for this “rant”.. I look around at our society’s young girls and am rightly pissed alot of times at their attire, attitude and demeanor. The media is out of control and the parents need to start when their girls are young stressing and reafirming their daughter’s true worth..
    (I hope this made sense, typing in between meetings….)


    1. Thanks for weighing in! LA has real people, too. 🙂

      I was really lucky to be spared a family or friends pushing me to BE anything other than my quirky, creative self. Because that’s who’s still thriving at 54, not FREAKING out because (ugh) I have gained weight or a few crow’s feet along the way.

  11. I really liked this post. It’s a really honest and-I think-seldom seen perspective to this whole problem of young girls (and sometimes not so young, believe me) garnering attention online in a wide variety of ways. As a man it’s really hard to comment about this trend without appearing to be an angry, chauvinistic, demeaning monster.

    And what did I mean with seldom seen perspective at the beginning? It’s simple. I think that, in recent times, people have gotten wise to this whole act of the really gorgeous girl who somehow thinks she’s not that good looking. Sure. I admit sometimes it has been satisfying to see a lady playing herself to be a diva turned down because of her attitude, but then I know I’ve failed to see the other side of the problem, women who have been truly indoctrinated into thinking that, unless they follow the same kind of plastic, collagen mold everyone follows, they will be alone forever.

    1. Thanks!

      The good guys — and I married one — certainly appreciate a woman who’s attractive and cares for her health. But it’s not their exclusive or primary focus when choosing who to date and certainly not whom to marry. Girls have to learn better ways of thinking; women need to remember them and cultivate strong friendships with other smart women…and the guys in their life need to NOT buy into the toxic notion that only skinny girls with huge breasts are worth their attention.

      Whew. 🙂

  12. As a mother of a 4 year old girl I dread this topic every day….and it is ridiculously shocking at how young these girls start adolescense these days. And not much shocks me. Great post!

  13. I completely agree with you that beauty is not about the outside of a person. Poor behavior looks bad on anyone!

    A happy woman who loves herself and is kind and fair to other people is one who shines with radiance, that radiance being identifiable as love.

    There’s really no reason for men to lecture women on this trend- that would encourage an oppositional mindset, and I think it’s a good idea to work together. I see every reason for a guy in a personal situation where his girlfriend or friend asks “Am I pretty?” to say “Despite your good looks, I really value you for your personality.” If the common goal is for women to feel good about ourselves, let’s think of positive ways to encourage it without focusing on physical appearance!

    In order for a mother to pass on confidence and inner peace to her daughter, she must possess it herself, yea? If we are willing to sort through our mental junk, we can heal. It’s all about healing the inner self.

    Thanks for your entry! I enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Thanks!

      All well said. I am lucky my husband is not someone obsessed with looks. I look good and dress well, which he appreciates, but he has told me many times he loves the me inside every bit as much, if not more.

  14. YES. Abso-&^#&*#^$ing-lutely. Damn this obsession with looks, and that it’s used to measure of a woman’s self worth! Good on you for ranting. Mention of this sort of thing enrages me so much that I am rarely ever able to speak with any rationale at all about it (spitting swear words does not count 😉 )

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