“You don’t know you’re beautiful. But that’s what makes you beautiful.”
BULLSHIT. Could I be rolling my eyes any harder?
Today’s rant is about why our culture seems to think it’s so bad for a woman to know that she is beautiful and to be confident in that beauty. I’ve been reading a couple YA books lately, all of which I’m thoroughly enjoying, but one thing that gets on my nerves to no end is that almost all of the teenage female protagonists are insecure about the way they look, but they feel beautiful when their significant other tells them that they are beautiful.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this is how most teenage girls feel; it’s certainly how I felt as a teenager: insecure, unattractive, tubby, gross, unlovable. That’s largely part and parcel of being a teenage girl. However. That doesn’t mean that our characters have to share all of those traits with us. Sure, characters aren’t supposed to be perfect, but why is feeling insecure/unattractive always the go-to imperfect trait in fictional teenage girls? What about rage? Oh that’s right, anger is unfeminine if allowed to go past a certain point. What about gossip? Oh that’s right, that would make her a bitch. What about being bossy? Oh that’s right, that would also make her a bitch.
Obviously I don’t think being prone to gossip or being take-charge or losing one’s temper makes one a bitch. But I don’t think I’m too off the mark to say that our society does. After all, would this Beyoncé GIF be quite so powerful and amazing if it wasn’t also something we’re not used to seeing?
We shouldn’t be surprised by this, but part of its power comes from its being unexpected. A woman in charge (of anything) should be just “the boss”- she shouldn’t have to explain herself or worry about others perceiving her as “bossy” or “bitchy.” But she does.
Characters should above all be honest, but what I can’t stand to see is when a girl feels beautiful only when someone else tells her she is beautiful (usually this is spoken by a teenage boy, because God forbid another girl tell her she’s pretty in more than a “oh no girl, you’re like so pretty, I can’t believe he didn’t call you” way). One, until a girl or woman feels beautiful for herself and by herself, it doesn’t matter how many other people (friends, family, significant others) tell her she is. No right combination of words will make her truly believe it until this knowledge is internalized and she knows it to be true on her own. Two, that doesn’t mean you should stop telling women in your life that they’re beautiful; definitely keep doing that, but understand that you don’t get to decide what makes her feel beautiful. Whether she feels beautiful wearing makeup or none at all, dressing up or not at all, etc, etc- that’s her decision.
Three (and back to the One Direction song lyrics I started with), what the hell is wrong with a woman actually KNOWING she’s beautiful? That is some leftover patriarchal bullshit that has no place in today’s world. I could easily paraphrase the lyrics so they read: “You’re only sexy because you don’t know how pretty you are, so let me tell you how beautiful you are so I can define your beauty for you and you will subsequently want to sleep with me.” Or equally as valid: “Damn girl, if you knew how fine you were, you wouldn’t be nearly as sexy. Also I probably wouldn’t have a chance in hell with you because you’d be so confident and badass.”
People always say that confidence is one of the most attractive things in a man. The same should be true for a woman. A woman who is confident in herself, who knows she’s beautiful- this same woman is often labeled “vain” or “shallow” or worse, a “bitch” because her standards are too high and she has too much self-worth to sleep with you in order to validate herself.
Your standards don’t define me. I’m beautiful, bitches.