A Question of Beauty

 

image

After a conversation I had with my friend in the pub, started by the fact that he was lusting after one of the barmaids, I started thinking about the idea of beauty.

imageSamantha Brick made herself a household name in the UK a few years ago by claiming that she was victimised for being ‘too beautiful’. Consequently the backlash that she received was immediate and on an enormous scale – some chastised her for being arrogant, others accused her of not being anywhere as beautiful as she felt she was, while some simply assumed it was an April Fools joke. She made the headlines earlier last year again by proclaiming that her eating disorders had allowed her to remain skinny and that her husband would leave her if she put on weight.

I read the article and I must confess that I was among the people who, when they saw a picture of Samantha, responded with ‘really?’, – in my opinion she isn’t a particularly attractive woman (both inside and out after reading the awful things she’s written), but it did get me thinking about the role that beauty plays in our lives.

image

As a woman I believe that we are under a lot of pressure to be ‘beautiful,’ despite the fact that nobody really knows what the absolute definition of beautiful is. However, I do feel that beauty is often directly linked to weight, and as women I think we put a lot of this pressure on ourselves. We can blame magazines for projecting the image that skinny is best, and yet we still continue to buy them. We idolise celebrities who are skinny, with the exception of a few, and take great delight in ripping them to shreds if they gain even a few pounds. Kim Kardashian is the perfect example of this: when she was heavily pregnant her increasing body size and shape was the subject of daily ridicule on the Internet. The poor woman must have been feeling awful about herself as it was (although I could argue here about being fame hungry and the perils of achieving it).

image

I always wonder who it is we are trying to look beautiful for. I suppose, essentially, we try and make ourselves as attractive as possible for the purpose of receiving attention from potential mates, like many different species do in the animal kingdom. However, I think we as women have an unrealistic view in our minds as to what men want. Ultimately, yes, most people instantly are attracted to looks, but not all men want a skinny girl with big boobs and false eyelashes. The majority of my male friends and The Bloke want a ‘girl next door’ look, and their girlfriends are natural looking women who take care of themselves but don’t look ‘plastic fantastic’ when they leave the house.

I’m not beautiful, but I don’t consider myself to be hideous either. I’ve never been fashionable or interested in following trends, and I prefer to spend my time in jeans and hoodies. At school I wasn’t one of the popular ones – I remember that the person in my year who was considered ‘attractive’ was the opposite of me-short, skinny, brown curly hair that was moussed to within an inch of it’s life – the boys practically jumped on her whenever she walked into the room. When I went to Sixth Form I started to get a little bit of attention from the boys, but nothing of significance.

image

It was only when I went to university that I started to become aware of beauty and looks. I lived with a girl who was on a fashion course. She was generally considered to be a beautiful girl – fairly short, very skinny, always wore fashionable clothing etc… And the boys loved her. She couldn’t walk down the street without someone whistling at her or stopping to stare or try to talk to her. I remember one night, as poor students, we went clubbing with Β£5 between us. We returned home hours later with Β£20, we were drunk, we’d eaten, we’d been into several clubs and we’d had a taxi home paid for us. All she did was to smile and talk to men, and they fell over themselves trying to offer her free stuff. She was gorgeous, but she knew it, and had developed the art of using her beauty to exploit men into getting her what she wanted. Her beauty afforded her an easier life than some – she bagged several rich boyfriends that paid off her debts and living expenses, and she was often given presents.

I read an article by Sidney Katz, who explored the idea that beautiful people have a better quality of life simply because of their looks. After spending time with AG, I can believe it. It leaves me questioning my own beauty and how it affects my life. For example, I’ve noticed that when I go shopping I will be treated differently depending on the way I’ve presented myself. If I’m wearing a hoodie and jeans, I’m ignored. If I go in ‘suited and booted’ with good hair and make-up on the shop assistants won’t leave me alone. I’m still the same person with the same salary, but it is assumed that I can afford more if I’m smartly dressed.

However, the issue of weight with regards to beauty is always a contentious one.

image

Lots of ‘plus sized’ and curvier women naturally get very defensive about the subject of weight because of the stigma that surrounds it. I have often heard it proclaimed that there is ‘no excuse’ for a woman gaining weight, and this isn’t helped by the fact that many high street stores make it difficult to buy clothes in adequate sizes, despite the fact that the average UK size for women is a size 16. I have gained 60lbs in the last few years and cannot shop in the same stores that I used to, simply because they don’t make items of clothing that fit me comfortably, and have been demoralised when I have found a beautiful outfit that would suit my figure perfectly, only to find that the sizes made are two sizes smaller than my own. I have had comments made by people that I know, and have even been asked ‘when the baby is due.’ The truth is, I don’t consider myself to be fat, and have been embarrassed when it has been suggested that I am. The fact that I am embarrassed seems to prove to me that fat is deemed to be a negative thing.

Similarly, my naturally skinny friends have often had to justify themselves for their weight. One in particular once told me that no matter how much she eats she can’t seem to put on weight, and has been upset on more than one occasion by being informed by complete strangers that she needs to ‘eat a cheeseburger.’

Would I be living this life if I was skinnier or more attractive? Would I have a different career? Different friends? At least I can be sure that I have what I have because of me, and not because of how I look. The Bloke has seen me at my absolute worst, and still wants to be with me. And more importantly, while I would like to improve my fitness, I can still look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.

When it comes to beauty, I think that it is far more important to value your opinion of yourself than that of others. We’re all unique, and we all deserve to celebrate our lumps, bumps, small boobs, big boobs, big booty’s, skinny legs and flat butts without feeling that we aren’t good enough. I’ll leave you with a quote from the fabulous Marilyn Monroe:

image

What do you think? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Do women create false expectations for themselves?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

 

32 thoughts on “A Question of Beauty

  1. Whoot – love Marily! I grew up in the 60s, Twiggy was in and everybody was emaciated. I was curvy, rounded, luscious …… I belong in a Raphael or Renoir nude and I don’t CARE. I am 62 and I’ve been mistaken for a 30 year old regularly, I carry weight, but I look fine AND I’ve never had a guy problem from being voluptuous ………..

  2. Very nicely said, Suzie! And yes, I agree wholeheartedly. We women do put ourselves under unreasonable pressure on account of other people’s opinions. And ditto on the supermarket scenario. Being a girl who was plagued by insecurity in my youth – heck, through most of my adult years – I do try to look “put together” when I leave the house for exactly that reason. People treat me differently if I take a bit of care with my appearance. Definitely. As for the weight, I can relate. However, I find living in fatphobic England is actually better for my health. I put on 40 pounds in 4 years living back Stateside, simply because I was considered on the small side by comparison to many friends. My knees suffered, my back suffered, my blood pressure went through the roof… Keeping the fat under control is for me not so much a fashion statement as a necessity of health. πŸ™‚ I will never, with this figure, be a skinny mini. Ever. My Bloke loves me curves and all… but he will love me longer if I don’t drop dead of a diabetic coma… haha! πŸ™‚ Great article. MH

  3. This is a very difficult subject for me (as it is for others) but i will say when the article first came out about the “don’t hate me because I am beautiful” it never occurred to me to see what the person looked like right away. I was too put off by the attitude which probably carries over into how she conducts herself. I had not heard the latest about her eating disorder diet plan, and I am very glad I didn’t see that before.

    A lot to think about, for sure.

  4. I’m definitely of a mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I think is beautiful the next person may not. Also, when I think of a beautiful person, I’m not referring solely to one’s physical traits. When I think of a beautiful person, I think of how they look inside and out. I’ve known many women who are absolutely gorgeous, but turn ugly the moment they upon their mouthes and say hideous things. I don’t care how attractive you may be, if you have a horrible personality you’re ugly to me.

    Frankly, I think we, as a society, need to start minding our own business. It is absolutely NOT okay for someone to come up to me and tell me I need to exercise or for someone to tell your skinny friend to eat a cheeseburger. Anyone making inane statements like that without knowing a person’s struggles is ignorant. Let’s judge each other on character and not appearance, mkay, people?

  5. I think stereotypical physical beauty will only carry you so far. It’ll never compensate for lack of personality, or sense of humour, and it fades eventually.

    I lay much of media-obsessed talk of female perfection, and corresponding slagging off at the media’s door. There’s an assumption they give us what we want, but I don’t feel this is the strictly the case.

  6. Thanks for your article. I’ve experienced all of this as well here in the U.S. and I’ve blogged on it. It is a serious gender/power issue to me. One I will continue to blog on. I find the biological/animal perspective on this to be of interest and hope to bring some rational perspective to it in the future. The subjective opinion on “size” in the U.S. is phenomenally irrational and creates far too much tension, I feel, in our society. Fortunately, many surveys have been done and the physicians in the U.S. are now aware of the HUGE bias right in the office from other healthcare workers. For instance, no one freaks out as far as a self-control or “value” issue if someone is tall or short. Size is vertical as well as perpendicular. Why do people freak over an increase in perpendicular size and not vertical? LOL!!! It’s this kind of subjective human behavior that I hope to understand further.

  7. Reblogged this on That's Original and commented:
    I just read this wonderful blog. She made some great points. And just now, I realized that when I’m faced with a freaking horrendous, irrational, societal injustice that is just totally freaking full of crap…I put on my rational hat. I put on my analytical cap. I seek to be civil. I put on, “let’s figure out these monkey mind humans” hat. BECAUSE…these HORRID, stupid attitudes about women’s bodies (and mens!) needs to stop. People just need to STOP making comments or having opinions on someone else’s choice to be whatever size body they choose to be in the moment. Why? Because you are hurting others and your position is irrational. Children are hurt, women are hurt, some men are hurt and obviously, if you have to have an opinion on someone else’s size, YOU need to face your own SELF BIAS and stop passing it along. Beauty is not just about size. Period. Sheesh.

  8. I have grown steadily larger with every child (four in all) and learned to loathe myself in the process. Why? Because other people expect me to look a certain way. When I try to lose weight, I fail. Why? Because my weight doesn’t bother me, only the opinions and ridicule of others botehrs me. No more. Yep, I’m overweight, but I can wallk fast, climb steep hills, spend all day on my feet, keep my house clean and my family fed and I have decided ‘F**k the lot of ’em. I’ll be me and they can butt out of my business’ *wink*

  9. Beautifully written article on a subject that stigmatizes women around the world. Unfortunately some of the animal aspects of attraction will always be a part of who we are but there are many women including yourself who have learned to live wisely with thethe reality and derive life’s true joy and love which is much greater and deeper than this shallow aspect. I have very different tastes having lived through the sexual revolution. Here’s a funny story. A young lady at my job was wearing jeans and a plaid tannish shirt with a checkered pattern, very comfortable, very 70s, minimal yet visible makeup. I was all over her mostly with my imagination and with my eyes. She was so hot in my view. The next day she comes in all decked out, dressed to kill in a short skirt, bright red lip stick, panty-hose seeming to pinch up her legs, ready for Fashion Week. This did far less for me and the hose made her beautiful legs an eyesore. During NY’s recent Fashion Week, some of the more desperate models posed riding controversial horse and carriages, sparking demonstrations. When I got a look at these models, it looked as though someone manufactured them in a plastics factory. The only thing real about them was the unhidable embarrassment and tension in their faces as they were confronted from the street below. But to me, it was some of the protestors who were hot and irresistible, everyday women with a conscience and determination. I have wrestled all my life between love and sex, like most men, coveting the lives of the few who were lucky enough to get into bed with more than a few petite curvacious women. But, maybe perhaps more so since my wife walked out 3&1/2 years ago, the happiest people are neither the plastic beauties or tall-muscled hunks but ordinary people who.have given themselves and their.partners a chance to experience real connection, real love. And it is so much better. You get a “hottie” for a night, maybe a month or 3 if you’re lucky, and the sex is good.but then what? For me, if her mind–AND HER HEART–is somewhere else–which it has to be because she’s probably been with many men and I’m just a passing interest of little consequence, how can it be what I (and I believe every other man–and woman) truly want? Though I’ve beaten myself up for just sitting there and not being more aggressive in the past, I’m now really beginning to see how ridiculous that is and fulfilling it would have been only up to a small point. And I have found that sex is so much better when there’s real connection and love and that such can always be rekindled after a difficult time (almost always). Because what we truly desire is to be loved, and while we (especially if we’re attractive and lucky enough) thrive on those who give us that love, it’s tons better when the love is mutual and we’re sharing something wonderful that only spending time and smiling and enjoying yourself can bring. I find a woman who smiles at me tons more attractive than a woman who’s got a perfect body but sulks. And of course the sex is so much, so, so much better with someone with whom you have a real, meaningful connection. If you’ve suffered in life, you’re more likely to find this with someone else who also has struggled through hardship. We want an ally, a comrade, a partner in the true sense. If you’ve been alone, a partner who has also been alone and appreciates you even more as you do her (or him), is so much more fulfilling.

    The bottom line is looks are a tool to sell things, to get money out of you. Once you realize that all the fretting you may have been doing (not you personally, Suzie) over not being “pretty” enough or slender enough has never been about you or for your sake but so some bloke (in the real sense of the word) can fill his pockets so he can avoid hard work and struggle, then this no longer has to be an issue dogging you and separating you from your happiness (which doesn’t lie on the other side of that equation anyway). I know you already know and treasure this point because of your loving relationship with your husband.

  10. So many issues, so many answers. And the sad fact is that beauty really comes from the soul, and needs to get to the outside through so many barriers. One phrase I like is “the most beautiful curve on a person is their smile”. And a true smile is truly beautiful. There is just so much cr*p put in the way. So complex. Keep smiling, Suzie, and keep challenging people to think. One smile can change the world. Have a great day.

  11. Suzie, I loved the honesty of your post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. The story about you and your friend partying without expenses made me smile. I also have such a kind of friend. Whenever I’m with her, we get some attention. She’s more the natural type though and doesn’t act in any particular way, at least not on purpose.

    I guess beauty is linked to attitude. If you believe you’re beautiful, you will start sending that message. That’s why smiling happy people generally seem to be considered more attractive than sad frustrated ones. So our happiness shouldn’t depend on our beauty but our beauty depends on our happiness, if that makes any sense. πŸ˜‰

  12. I really enjoyed reading your article, I have also often thought about the privileged life of the beautiful because of their looks so I read on with enthusiasm πŸ™‚ I also think as others have said that beauty comes from within. If someone’s personality is awful then I see the person the same way on the outside no matter how “beautiful” they may be. There is also another problem as you age and not so beautiful is becoming invisible after the age of 40 but that’s for another post? Thanks for your always engaging posts πŸ™‚

  13. We live in a culture which celebrates the opinions of others over the opinions we have of ourselves. Beauty is just another way for people to put others into boxes. We do it for everything – not just physical appearance.

    I do find Marilyn’s quote at the end ironic, however, considering her pursuit of the never-ending superficial, and have this to say: You are beautiful, regardless of what society or your scale says. But, then again, don’t take my word for it…

  14. Wow. You certainly hit a lot of hot topics in your post! Aging is one “negative” aspect of beauty that I have had to confront personally. I really don’t like what happens as I get older: the aches and pains, the slow healing, the thinning hair. But I saw a well-known, 80 year old actress on a talk show whose face had been lifted and stretched so many times that she looked really odd. I guess it is hard to resist this culture of youth.

  15. Shame on you for not calling yourself beautiful. You certainly are. Women are crazy with their beauty beliefs. My wife will never get how beautiful I think she is because she doesn’t believe it about herself. I have no idea why. I tell her, look at your three kids, dear. They are really really gorgeous kids. They don’t get that from their dad ya know?!!! Lol. Anyway, beauty is subjective. I like me a woman who struts around in blue jeans and a tank top while holding a Budweiser. Tres beautiful.

  16. Its great that you put Marilyn Monroe in the post. Last week a Facebook friend posted a picture of Marilyn Monroe in a bikini and she did not look like today’s bikini models. She looked like a very normal woman physically. I agree that society as a whole drives everyone crazy with what is popular in the media. I’m a guy on the wrong side of 40 and I’m still worrying about my abs.

  17. Thanks for this post. You and the other commenters said it all. I cannot add anything, except that those people who make comments about and to others are only showing you who they are, and they are not someone you would want in your life or whose opinion you should value. They are knocking your head off to feel taller.

  18. Pingback: Poem / Poetry – “Love Who You Are” | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  19. Great post! One of the reasons I love living in New York (City) is that, here, there are as many kinds of beauty as there are kinds of women: old, tall, short, small. It’s all in the Attitude.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s