There’s an empowering movement, one I’m quite passionate and grateful for and it’s called Beauty Redefined. It calls to light some of the hideous cultural messages we send girls and women and sets girls up to feel less than worthy based on just their looks. It’s time to stop it because it is an insidious and harmful message that females are just objects that need to look pretty in the landscape of life to be of any worth.
My own experience began in my own family. Being the youngest of 4 daughters (no boys), I chose to take the role of the tomboy and was by my father’s side at every opportunity I could. I also had a preference for short hair, pants and clothes I could get messy and run around with the other kids in. Dresses weren’t my thing until I hit my teenage years and the hormones helped me reconsider. Then I started developing breasts that could not go unnoticed and along came with that was the attention from the boys in a way I’d never experienced before because I always had played invisibly in the crowd or on the edge. My first dance and my mother took my sister and I shopping and we got very similar clothing, a dress shirt and skirt and we got dressed up and put on make up. My father was over the moon and dragged us out for photographs (a painful slow experience as he was not great with camera’s). It was during this experience that my father decided to share with me why I had the nick name of “Mudy” most of my life…. it was because it stood for My Ugly Duckling Youth. BANG! I remember the shock I felt hearing that… my own father had thought I was ugly… my own father only equated my value with being beautiful (as I was now with my new clothes, my hair done and makeup plastered on my face). From that day forward I wasn’t seen without makeup and I took greater attention to my clothing. I even began working part time jobs to fuel my clothing purchases. It took me years before I was comfortable being seen by my husband without makeup. I never missed a day of work without it on… not one day. And I grew into a parent showing this belief to my own children.
Now I don’t hate my father, I loved him (he passed away 8 years ago) and I know he believed in me an a strong capable person. He was just brought up in the era where women were valued for their physical looks and not their abilities. This belief was instilled by his culture, his upbringing and by the media that has fed this to him from an early age.
Now I want something different for my daughter. However, it’s really been only the last 8 years that I have steadily realised how hard we, as women, have to overcome the belief that we are not valued if we don’t have the right body, hair style, looks, colour, skin type or any other physical attribute. I just haven’t really stopped to take stock how much it has affected my life and yet it has… I have fought tooth an nail to prove my worth in male dominated environments and even female environments. I’ve fretted, like most women, over the smallest of details of my physical appearance, struggled with diets and had to wean myself off treating myself as the own worst enemy (thankfully I found tapping and other modalities to help heal me). I don’t want that for my daughter and yet I know it’s already happened. I don’t women’s magazines or even watching shows that promote the physical is more important than your ability, strengths, character and whether you’re a nice person! And yet, just recently a new layer of awareness came up when the Twitter’sphere of #AllWomen went crazy in response to a young man killing young women (and other men) because women wouldn’t sleep with him… like it was his right. I read some of the most amazing tweets about how women coped with unwanted attention from men, how they reduced the likelihood of attack and also how culturally it’s accepted to harass women and girls. One tweet really shocked me saying “Because men never have to text their friend to say they got home all right”. That’s so true… culturally we set our girls up to fear and protect themselves from the actions of men… we blame the girls for the attack… what she was wearing, why she was their in the first place. It’s crazy! We set boys up to be perpetrators and girls up to be victims culturally.
It starts early… even with a simple book like “The Ugly Duckling” which teaches our children that you can only fit in if you have the right look…
It’s time to have our Beauty Redefined
So what’s the answer? Education! Open discussion! And we need to do it from a very young age. Beauty Redefined helps give women and parents the tools to raise the discussion with our children (boys need to be educated too!) and to help women also rediscover who they are beyond the physical, objectifying media that is pushed into our faces everyday. So I’m urging you to support the movement and begin helping your children (from as young an age as possible) understand that women and girls are more than decoration.
A fantastic talk highlighting some of the issues up for discussion is below: