The ugly side of “pretty”

  Today is another one of those editorials.  The ones I worry are going to have my readers shaking their heads and wondering what on earth I’m doing discussing this sort of thing on a family crafting blog.  I get it.  Handmade wreaths and adorable baby clothing are more fun than hashing out the serious stuff, but I like to think that most of us are crafting and creating in an attempt to be smarter, to bring higher quality and more meaning into our lives.
  As tempting as it is to hide behind our yarn stashes, we can’t get to that better place if we don’t look at the bigger picture.  And as I’ve already said, I think taking these issues into account is incredibly important when it comes to raising our children.
  So if you want to know why I’m so up in arms this week, here are a few of the things I’ve been reading:
  If you don’t feel like reading through all that, the long and the short of it is that there are a lot of really horrible things going on.  A large proportion of them have to do with women’s rights and the lack of respect society as a whole has for us.  The sentence from all of those articles that summed it up for me was this:
“Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths,
 to have value, to be a human being.”
  If you think that’s a little dramatic, think of the number of times that it has been assumed you (or your mother or sister or wife) don’t know what you’re doing, simply because of gender.  When people were shocked when you showed yourself capable.  When you just let something go because it was easier than being shouted down.
  Now to shift tracks (just a little, stay with me), I want to talk about beauty.  In this day and age, appearance is important for everybody, but I don’t believe anyone will argue with me when I say that it has been, and continues to be, much more emphasized for women than men.
  Women are expected to be sexy (but not too sexy), polished (but not high maintenance), fit (but not too muscular) and somehow, magically, un-aging.  With all that going on, when on Earth is a girl supposed to fit in her knitting, let alone her reading?
  And maybe that’s part of the perception problem.  Because where I’m trying to go with this is what a double edged sword beauty can be.  Everyone wants to be beautiful.  Of course they do!  There is all sort of science saying that there are huge biological and social benefits to it!  But unfortunately, it often comes with the unspoken rider of incompetence.  
  Women are the ones bearing the bulk of the expectation when it comes to beauty and so it seems women are the ones being branded as nothing but beauty.
  When my freshman year of college I severely cut my face, I was reassured by the doctors and nurses in the ER that I had nothing to worry about, because I’d “still be a pretty girl”.

  When an ex-boyfriend was ending our relationship, his attempt to soften the blow was to tell me that he still found me beautiful.

  These are just a couple personal examples.  People who I’m (fairly) certain had good intentions, thought they were being flattering or simply didn’t realize what they were saying, who essentially reduced me to nothing more than my appearance.

  The doctors and nurses in the ER meant well I’m certain, but whether I would still be a “pretty girl” or not was the least of my concerns.  My injury was during finals week and I was in the ER at 2 am.  I was worried about the sleep I was losing, the studying time I was losing, if the cut would get infected, trying to remember if I was up to date on my tetanus shots…

  The boyfriend was trying to be kind (maybe), but anyone who stopped to think for a moment would realize that being told that “you’re beautiful, but I can’t stand the personality that comes with your face” isn’t exactly a compliment.

  Of course, people aren’t always trying to be kind.  For example, when I ran for city council this past summer several of the derogatory comments about me were based around the idea that I was too young or pretty to be taken seriously.  As if the shape of my face determined anything.

  Most people mean well when they tell women and girls that they’re pretty, but when the term is thrown out without thought, it can lead to the bigger issues in the articles above.  Women treated as objects.  Voiceless.  Opinion-less.  Decorative.

  We need to be aware.  To recognize the impact our words, even seemingly complimentary words, can have on other women.  On friends, on sisters, on daughters, on wives.  We have to make certain that in our attempts to be kind, we aren’t simplifying wonderfully complex human beings into single facets.


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