Of Female Beauty

August 13, 2011
By , Westfield, MA
Since the age of roughly eight, teachers, mothers, doctors, friends, coaches and sisters have told me that I am only beautiful if I am beautiful on the inside. By this, I am assuming they mean that the way you act creates beauty as opposed to way you look. Because women are often objectified by their physical appearance in society, there has been great focus on girls discovering other things that make them “beautiful” in the past few decades. Songs, books, and movies tell us to love ourselves for who we are, not how we look; “Who says you're not perfect, who says you're not worth it, who says you're the only one that's hurting? Trust me, that's the price of beauty, who says you're not pretty? Who says you're not beautiful?”(Selena Gomez)

It is all well and good to teach girls to have a high self esteem in health class or at practice, but what about the skyrocketing obesity rates in our country? Teachers and counselors are fighting the good fight, trying to teach girls to love and respect themselves…but not too much. What I have taken away from my various middle school health classes is; love yourself, but don’t be snobby, love your body, but don’t get fat, respect your body, but date nice boys. These double standards are what women are faced with every day. Not to mention, the reason all of this “love yourself” business has started is a growing push for sex appeal in girls of younger and younger ages. The common assumption is that every girl wants to be thin, but with large breasts, wants to be sexy, but not “easy”, smart but not nerdy.

Clearly, these attributes are usually not attainable at the same time. The girl either does not do enough, or does too little, therefore she always feels inferior. She’s pretty, but not smart enough, very studious but not feminine enough. “Well, if you say you haven't, you're a prude. If you say you have, you're a s***. It's a trap. You want to but you can't, and when you do you wish you didn't, right?”(The Breakfast Club)

Not only are girls faced with these contradictions, they also soon realize they have to choose one of these distorted ways of life. When I was in sixth grade, I was always in awe of the eighth grade girls, with their long hair, womanly figures and braces-free smiles . I once overheard a conversation between two eighth-grade girls in the bathroom go as such:” Well, since my boobs are so big I’ll never have the waif look, so I guess I’ll just be the school slut forever”. Pick your poison, so to speak. “Of virgins for virginity's sake.'/ Be certain some such pact's/ Been struck to keep all glory in the grip/ Of ugly spinsters and barren sirs/As you etch on the inner window of your eye/ This virgin on her rack She, ripe and unplucked, 's/ Lain splayed too long in the tortuous boughs: overripe”(Sylvia Plath). Society does not want us to be too sexy, and they do not want us to be too prude. They do not want us to be too voluptuous, but they do not want us be too thin either. Eventually though, we have to be something. Even the “beauty is only skin deep” preachers have to admit that. We cannot go through life neutrally, society simply will not allow it. Every girl becomes something, under the impression that she is making the choice.

I chose to be thin, or so I thought I chose. I chose anorexia. Perhaps anorexia chose me, I will never know. To me, it seemed like I was taking control of the propaganda about women and girls that was thrown at me every day. I thought that if I controlled my body, my intake, my beauty, then my inner beauty would be visible. I thought people would see that I was strong enough to overcome the negative body image messages, I was loving myself because I was in control of my body: “I don’t care if it hurts, I want to have control. I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul”(Radiohead). Little by little, the image began to consume me; that which I had controlled began to control me. The assumption that I was fighting against popular culture, that I would not succumb to the media’s projection of a woman, became precisely what I was doing. However, instead of just succumbing to the media, I also gave in to the voices in my head telling me “thin is good, thin is control, thin is showing that you choose your body and the media’s propaganda does not”. I was under the impression that I was showing inner beauty through my outer beauty; my ability to abstain from food and my self-control.

“I heard you’re losing weight again Mary Jane, do you ever wonder who you’re losing it for?”(Alanis Morisette). I constantly assumed I was losing it for myself. The same teachers, mothers, doctors, friends, coaches, and sisters told me I had a disease. I told them it was a way of showing off my inner beauty, my ability to control my body.

Women are disillusioned if they believe they have any choice in how they want to express their beauty. Beauty is defined specifically as: a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that please the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. How can inner beauty matter if its not even visible? If it is not visible, it is not technically beautiful, according to the definition. Beauty does not refer to a girl’s personality; therefore preaching inner beauty to young girls is only confusing them. Inner beauty does not exist. Inner happiness, however, may exist, if a girl can learn to love herself whether she is beautiful or not. It is only setting a girl up for disappointment if you tell her she is beautiful, when she is clearly not pleasing to the sight. One can be extremely talented, smart, innovative and clever, but not beautiful. By telling girls to love themselves for their inner beauty we are only reinforcing the fact that beautiful is better. Once we learn to teach girls that “beauty” is not the highest power, they will learn to love themselves regardless of their outward appearance. They will not be confused, as I was and still am rather often, that your outer appearance is a reflection of your inner appearance.





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Express-- This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm
So beautiful and truthful. I am in recovery from anorexia, as well; I don't believe you chose such a horrible disease, I don't think anyone chooses it. I haven't been able to write about my experiences with the disease yet, and I'm proud that you could.
 
AnnaStrz replied...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Thank you so much, I've found it is really helpful in my recovery to write about it. 
 
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