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Beauty, self esteem, and bullying

http://www.thenation.com/blog/169208/upside-ugly

I'm not crazy about the title of this article ("The Upside of Ugly"). It talks about a girl who was bullied for her looks, and whose cosmetic surgery was funded by a nonprofit organization that helps children with facial deformities. There's a before and after picture of her. In the before picture, her ears stick out and in the after picture, they don't.

I feel angry about this, but I think it's misdirection to feel angry at the girl for wanting the surgery or her mother for seeking it or the organization for funding it. I am angry that my society promotes the idea that the girl in the before picture is "ugly" and the idea that the best way to address bullying is to change the traits that are the target for bullying.

I somewhat like this quote:
There may be a bit of head-shaking over young girls going to drastic measures to feel beautiful, but we never seem to question the idea that feeling beautiful is a worthy goal in the first place. We should tell girls the truth: “Beautiful” is bullshit, a standard created to make women into good consumers, too busy wallowing in self-loathing to notice that we’re second class citizens.

Girls don't need more self-esteem or feel-good mantras about loving themselves—what they need is a serious dose of righteous anger. But instead of teaching young women to recognize and utilize their very justifiable rage, we tell them to smile and love themselves.
However, I don't agree with the "one-true-wayism" of the quote. I think it's fine to have "beauty" as an interest or hobby. Where I do agree with the quote is that I think pursuing beauty should not be a requirement.

I feel like I'm swimming upstream though. I fear that most people and societies will always rank attractiveness and will always be more accommodating to people who are perceived as more attractive.

(And just to completely negate everything I wrote other than the penultimate paragraph: I think the girl in the before picture is more attractive.)

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/784191.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments. I prefer that you comment on Dreamwidth, but it's also OK to comment here.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
sabotabby
Aug. 11th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
So let’s teach girls to survive a misogynist culture with a fist, not a smile.

Love this quote. And the article.

I can't fault the girl one bit—I'd have jumped at an offer like that in my youth, feminism be damned. But I do fault the organization, and yes, the mother. They're adults, and part of the culture that foists an unattainable beauty standards on girls and women. I'm sure it must be hell as a parent to have your child bullied, but it's your obligation to stick up for her, not to cave into the bullies' demands by permanently altering your child's looks.
houseboatonstyx
Aug. 11th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
"There may be a bit of head-shaking over young girls going to drastic measures to feel beautiful, but we never seem to question the idea that feeling beautiful is a worthy goal in the first place. We should tell girls the truth: “Beautiful” is bullshit, a standard created to make women into good consumers, too busy wallowing in self-loathing to notice that we’re second class citizens."

This was said a lot by feminists in the 60s and 70s, very well, worth repeating. But they emphasized the "good consumers" part: label some natural thing as ugly, then sell some product to hide or change it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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