Has too much time passed since my last blog post for me to just share something without an explanation of where I’ve been? Likely, yes. The short answer is I started this blog for a very specific purpose and I felt the blog fulfilled its purpose. So I stepped away. Yet I found myself very much missing the space the blog provided, an opportunity to share and learn from others as we all participate in this process of engendering equality. So I plan on coming back here more often and sharing and learning with you guys once more.
I came across the article from Jessica Valenti that I thought was really interested. In it, Valenti talks about the practice of trying to raise the self-esteem of those young girls who are often criticized for their appearance. Valenti doesn’t believe this to be a worthwhile practice; she thinks this gives too much validity to the idea that trying to achieve beauty is a worthwhile exercise. Valenti explains, “the problem isn’t that girls don’t know their worth—it’s that they absolutely do know their value in society. Young women know exactly how ugly the culture believes them to be. So when we teach girls to simply “love themselves”, we’re implicitly telling them to accept the world as it is. We’re saying that being beautiful is something worth having when we should be telling them a culture that demands as much is toxic.”
Valenti is making the case, as I understand it, that in a culture obsessed with looks and attaching value to them, to simply try and tell women that they are beautiful just as they are is to tell them to buy into the system that puts their physical appearance at the forefront. I found this to be a refreshing viewpoint, one that I don’t see enough in the media. Enough of the focus on self-esteem and attributing beauty with physical attractiveness. Those are such simple solutions to much more complicated problems. Telling women they are beautiful just as they are isn’t going to stop the focus on the physical. Helping women, and men, recognize that our society is set up to value the physical above all else, to the detriment of everyone, is more valuable. And thinking of methods in which to move beyond this is much more worthwhile.
Valenti ends her piece by saying that we need to help women survive misogynist culture with a fist rather than a smile, and I can’t really follow her down that path. I don’t think anger is going to get us anywhere, as I’ve explained before. What we need is to use our brains, and our natural impulse to want to do better, in collaboration with others, to think of alternatives to the status quo. One that recognizes everyone’s capacities and abilities.
Just the same, Valenti’s piece is a much more interesting conversation about women and the beauty myth.
Check out Valenti’s piece here and let me know your thoughts!