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.
Samantha 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.
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).
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.
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 £5 between us. We returned home hours later with £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.
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:
What do you think? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Do women create false expectations for themselves?
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