There is a catchy little tune right now called “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” which includes the lyrics “You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful.” This puts into sharp relief an amorphous and pervasive idea, at least in American culture, of the girl who is (the cultural stereotype of) beautiful but doesn’t know it. I think that this is harmful in a lot of ways.
First is the idea that it’s a good thing not to see yourself as beautiful/to never affirm that you believe you are beautiful. This would seem to suggest that low self-esteem, or at the very least the faking of it, is something to strive for – and claiming or acknowledging your own beauty is undesirable. (bullshit)
Next is the idea that beauty is about what other people think of you. That you’re not supposed to know that you are beautiful until someone tells you that you are. Conversely if you don’t get outside confirmation of your beauty then you have to accept that you aren’t beautiful. (bullshit)
Then there’s the fact that this dynamic is almost always between a woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful and the man who affirms her beauty, reinforcing the notion that women’s beauty is only achievable through the approval of men. (bullshit)
Finally is the issue that this is all based on a completely arbitrary, artificial standard of “beauty” that is unattainable by almost everyone.
The truth is that the only limit on what we see as beautiful are our own limitations of perception. If you can’t see the beauty in someone and you think that the issue is with them, then you are working on the wrong end of the problem.
It’s not surprising that we get confused about this since the beauty and diet industries make tens of billions of dollars a year by artificially narrowing what we see as beautiful so that we will buy their products to fix our “flaws” and spend time and money chasing an unattainable, photo shop idea of beauty.
Imagine how different the world would be if we took all the time and energy that we currently spending judging people as beautiful or not, talking about what’s beautiful or not, reading articles about the best and worst bikini bodies etc. and re-purposed all of it trying to expand our idea of what’s beautiful. Looking at sites that have people of all sizes shapes, colors, gender identities. What if instead of saying that someone is unattractive we asked ourselves “what prejudice to I hold against someone who looks like that and how can I change it?”
Finally, there’s you. You are the boss of your underpants. You are the only person who is in charge of how you feel about yourself. Nobody else can possibly do that. You get to decide if you believe you are beautiful or not, nobody can take it away from you. If someone suggests that you aren’t beautiful, you can consider how sad it is that they have such a limited view of beauty, you can consider how unfortunate it is that they have such an exaggerated sense of self-importance that they think you should care about what they think. You can also choose to realize that it has nothing at all to do with your beauty and everything to do with their limitations.
I think it’s a good thing to know that we are beautiful if we choose to see ourselves that way and say it out loud if we feel like it I don’t know about you but I definitely don’t want to spend my time with someone who wants me to be unsure of my beauty and look to them for confirmation.
Still Time to Register! The Happy HAES Holidays workshops continue tomorrow. Listen online or dial in. Registration is name-your-own-price, and all of the calls have been and will be recorded so that you can listen to/download any that you missed or want to hear again. Workshops by: Marilyn Wann, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie, CJ Legare, Tanisia Smith, and me!. Full details and registration here! Tips, tricks, ideas and support to have you sailing through the holiday season and into the New Year.
Like the blog? Check this stuff out (purchasing these helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order
The Dance Class DVDs: Fun classes for all levels! Click here for the details
Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year. If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.