Why it’s Totally Okay to Want to be Beautiful.
It seems these days you can’t say anything with out hurting someone’s feelings and getting told that you’re out of line. Especially when it comes to women and beauty.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the media portrays an idea of beauty that is, for the most part, unattainable to most of us regular folk.
But does that mean the beauty industry in general is an evil that must be destroyed? I don’t think so. Here’s why:
1. It’s fun.
So I have a guilty pleasure. I enjoy logging onto Pinterest and browsing pretty make-up techniques. I do this because I am a fan of pretty colours and painting my nails different ways and I like accentuating my lips or my eyes with special liners and balms. This isn’t to prove my self worth or to make me more attractive to men- it’s purely because I find it a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend my time.
2. It’s a confidence booster.
My grandmother, who may have come from a generation of women with far less rights than my own, still taught me that as a women I should always look presentable and never leave the house with at least some make up on. Yes, I can hear the feminist’s throwing their hands up yelling “This is terrible, outdated advice!” and maybe to a point they’re right- in 2014, and I am by no means obliged to wear make up or look pretty when I leave the house. But do you know what? When I leave the house looking frazzled and unkempt, I feel less confident, and less proud. It’s not because I have low self esteem or because I value appearances more than I should, it’s because I know I could have put more effort into myself, but I didn’t. Wearing a bold rogue, or styling my hair nicely makes me feel confident because I am telling the world “Hey! Look at me! I’m fabulous today!” even if it’s just at face value- as far as I am concerned it still counts. The person sitting opposite me on the bus isn’t going to notice my personality, but they will see the confidence I exude by being dressed neatly and the pride I have for putting effort into my looks.
3. Flaunting your looks is not an invitation for predators.
I recently got into a row with a good friend who said that flaunting any form of sexual appeal was not only setting women back but also superficial. I argued that there is nothing wrong with sex appeal. She argued that sex appeal is what has created a rape culture in society. Let me make one thing extremely clear: It is not our fault that rape is prevalent. No matter how we dress, how we flaunt our assets or assert our sexuality, we are not asking for, nor are we condoning rape in our culture. Rape is prevalent because men are living in societies where they struggle for any form of control- hence why it is more common in poorer countries that are struggling economically, or in places of war. It’s even common in fraternities and sports groups because the men that are placed in a lot of these environments are put under enormous pressure to be masculine and more often than not have little control over what they can do with their lives- so they seek control in the most primitive and basic way- sex. Rape has absolutely nothing to do with how a women chooses to dress. It is about time we stopped playing the Blame the Victim game.
4. Androgyny is boring.
I am a woman. I have curves. I have cleavage. I have pouty lips and big eyes. I have flowing long hair. I am proud of these things, because they are what makes me a woman. I do not want to hide these assets, because as far as I am concerned that means I am ashamed of them, and I most certainly am not. Being a woman, and having a figure and physique as such, is something I take pride in. I will wear make up that accentuates these things. I will wear clothing that highlights these parts of my body. It boils down to confidence, once again. When I dress well for my shape, I feel amazing. Kind of like saying “I am WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR”.
5. Being beautiful often means being healthy.
Yes, there is too much fat shaming and skinny bashing going on these days, particularly online. But we shouldn’t be condoning unhealthy body imagery either.
For example, when I was growing up I was quite slim. Whenever I went out anywhere to eat it was always the same ridicule: if I chose something healthy off the menu, or maybe voiced my health-conscious choice, people would always say “Oh, don’t be stupid. You’re already thin, eat whatever you want. You’re probably starving yourself, aren’t you?” Quite offensive and yet somehow completely socially acceptable things to say. BUT if someone obese walks into a restaurant, suddenly everyone is quiet. Nobody says “Maybe you shouldn’t have that, here’s a healthier alternative…” nope. That would be unacceptable.
Our generation is hell bent on not saying anything confrontational to anyone overweight, and it’s actually doing them a disservice. Being obese is not okay. It’s not only unhealthy, it’s deadly. Obesity in children is even more of a growing problem. We should be teaching them healthy and realistic ideals, but instead we’re saying “It’s okay to be fat, be proud of yourself, eat that carb-loaded burger, you deserve it!” We’re passing on bad eating habits and low self esteem. Overweight children miss out on so many activities and fun parts of growing up. They’re being held back, and for what? Because we were scared we’d hurt their (or their parents’) feelings by instilling healthier ideals?
6. The Media only has power if you let it have power.
When I was growing up my mother taught me to take everything magazines said with a pinch of salt. She said that I should always trust my own instinct above all else. I grew up loving fashion and girly magazines just like most girls, but I didn’t let the articles and editor’s tell me how to live my life. As far as I am concerned, fashion is something you use as a useful guideline or tool. For me, I enjoy reading Cosmo because they sometimes have interesting ideas about styles or trends. But more often than not I don’t like most of the trends entirely. I take the idea, shift it and change it and see how it works for me. If it doesn’t (for example, jeggings) I discard it and move on with my life.
See, the media can tell you to be skinny, or to dye your hair and stick your tongue out a lot (thanks, Miley), but it’s entirely up to you to decide if you want to or not. That’s the beauty of living in 2014. What you do is entirely up to you.
Instead of blaming the media for creating our insecurities and unrealistic expectations, we should be using our own will power and teaching young girls to embrace their freedom of choice. We should be teaching girls to be powerful and independent and strong enough to decide for themselves what they want to take from a magazine spread.
When I see an article on beauty I don’t think “Oh, I don’t look like that model, my life sucks, I wish I was her,” I think “Neat. Polka Dots. I like those.”
7. You can be smart AND beautiful.
Too often do I hear us call one another “bimbo” or “tart” if we see someone that appears too into their own looks. But as Legally Blonde pointed out, you can be pretty and smart. Of course, you don’t have to wear a Barbie pink wardrobe and get a law degree either. When I was in university a lot of my so-called “forward thinking” female friends bashed anyone that wore make up or dressed pretty. To them these girls were ditzes and idiots. Oddly enough, some of the smartest girls I met on campus also happened to be some of the prettiest. I’m not sure why society has raised us to believe that you can either have books or looks, because if you work hard at it, you can certainly have both. Wearing a bright colour or looking ravishing in a great ensemble does not make you less intelligent. If you ask me, the girls that say snarky things about pretty girls that are at university- they’re either conceited or jealous. AND neither of these traits are something to be proud of.
Basically, liking beauty products and fashion and a healthy lifestyle is something we shouldn’t be ashamed of. All women are beautiful in their own right, but if they want to use a nice product or a pretty colour to enhance or flaunt this beauty, then we shouldn’t condemn them for doing so.