Body Positivity and the Ubiquity of Beauty

I woke up today, cracked open my laptop, and started having a wee morning read of a few blogs I follow to get me ready for my day. I’ve been doing this nearly every morning for a few weeks now even before Facebook and Twitter, a novel concept for my social media-tethered self.

Well today, this post by FeministFoundation came up, and it got me thinking about the concept and validity of “beauty”.

I feel like the term “beautiful’ is overused, to the point the omission of it almost is taken as an insult. So much emphasis is placed on perceived beauty that we have become lazy in how we try to support and encourage one another. I’ve often wondered why I hear so much of “she’s such a beautiful girl” or “she is stunning” and so much less of “she is super intelligent” and “she’s so kind to others” between women. Why are intelligence, caring, compassion, empathy, ambition, and success less valued than aesthetics?

It doesn’t just happen when men describe women; in fact I actually think it speaks more about the relationship between women-to-women than the male-female dynamic. What was once a compliment or a remark on the extraordinary is now not only expected when describing any person, but has lost its specialness in the process. Just to be clear, I am not implying that anyone should ever feel they are not amazing, I just don’t understand why we think something that is so arbitrary is so important to our self-worth? The insinuation that beauty is paramount is a damaging concept to teach children because it devalues their other standards of self worth.

My parents always encouraged me academically, to have goals and aspirations, and to be a better person. Be a good friend, be kind to strangers, and don’t litter. Subconsciously I think I have surrounded myself with good friends who were raised to value every aspect of a person rather than assume everyone needs to be given a “PRETTY” sticker.

A few years ago, I briefly shared a flat with a girl who, though very intelligent, had been told by her parents that her best qualities were her looks, and her blonde hair. I am not joking; though her hair was pretty spectacular, to place such importance on it and value it as an aspect of her personality was negligent and cruel.  She was home schooled, and had little experience with her peers until she was an adult.   Her father refused to speak to her for a week as a teenager because she rebelled and got a haircut. Her value as a human being was measured by whether her parents considered her to be suitably attractive on the surface, but she was not rewarded for wanting to devour books or go to college.

Why does body positivity need to be linked to self-perception of beauty above all else? Can a person not be happy with their own sense of self without the need to be considered aesthetically pleasing? Though we may feel we are just being nice, maybe this need to classify everything and everybody as beautiful is doing more harm than good.

9 thoughts on “Body Positivity and the Ubiquity of Beauty

  1. I agree with you totally but on the flip side aren’t these qualities you’ve mentioned: intelligence, caring, compassion, empathy, ambition, and success – beautiful?. It’s stunning to have a women carry all these traits – no? …. I do get what you saying in terms of body and image etc but the word can never be overused in my opinion especially if someone has the qualities you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aye, I entirely get what you mean, and those qualities should be valued more than they are. When used in that context the concept of beauty (as a person rather than a reference to someone just being aesthetically pleasing) is an awesome way to describe someone. I just worry that we aren’t using it in a way that’s beneficial or empowering. Thanks for commenting! :-). X

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  2. Very thought-provoking post–thank you!

    On a very basic level, I think beautiful gets thrown around so much because it’s the easiest thing to judge. Can you know someone is smart, passionate, kind, etc, by just looking at them? That generally requires more interaction–but if you’re looking to make a statement about someone based on a superficial interaction, looks are (unfortunately) the go-to response.

    I agree with Sheena–I have to wonder if it’s not the use of the word beautiful or beauty that’s the problem, but that society has a very homogeneous definition of beauty tied simply to looks and a certain type of looks, at that (i.e., your old roommate). I think being body positive and considering yourself beautiful isn’t actually a bad thing, especially if it means that you’ve created your own definition of what beautiful means.

    Again, thank you for a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! It brings to mind an old cheesy pickup line…”I noticed your great personality from across the room and just had to come speak to you!”

      Body positivity is one of the most important things I think we can pass on to kids (or anyone for that matter!), not only for how it affects us personally but also how it affects how we think about or treat others. Attractiveness is/should be mostly subjective, as though society has set an almost arbitrary set of standards of what is considered “typically beautiful”, these standards change with trends (ie body shape) what we individually find appealing differs from person to person. The fact we all now feel the need to justify this is something I can’t get my head around.

      Thank you so much for commenting! X

      Liked by 1 person

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