The Beauty Is

I’ve seen a lot, these last few days, about women, beauty, fashion, bikinis, models, advertising, and curves. And I’ve got a lot of thoughts. And well, since this is my space to share, today’s topic is slightly less philosophical (although we’ll get there my friends, don’t you worry).

If you have yet to be inundated with the media frenzy over a size 14/16 model appearing in an advertisement in Sports Illustrated, as well as a size 12 model appearing within the content pages of the magazine itself- welcome to the circus.

For lack of a better thesis, here, in some semblance of order, are my collected thoughts:

*As far as I can tell from my Facebook feed, men find these models attractive. This proves what men have been telling women for a long time- they don’t need a woman to look like a model in order to think she is beautiful or sexy. (Although they do find models beautiful and sexy as well.)

*Sports Illustrated, at least in some way, shape or form, is taking a step toward inducting plus-size (not my term) fashion into the mainstream. By which I mean- magazine covers, billboards, and other forms of advertisement. For what it’s worth.

*It is impossible to please everyone. Also, no issue, whether it be feminism, body image, poverty, war, or mental health, is simple. I have read a lot of backlash stating that these models are too thin to truly be considered plus-size. They represent approximately the size of the average American women (though not the average American model).

*This is a valid point. Two models in one of the most female-objectifying publications of the year does not a feminist revolution (nor a body image revolution) make.

*At the same time, I feel confused by what the critics want. I read an article that theorized that using a model such as Tess Holliday, who is a size 22 and has been vocal about being body-positive, would be the way to really make a statement.

*Is that a statement Sports Illustrated could reasonably be expected to make?

*In fact, given what the swimsuit issue stands for, could Sports Illustrated truly EVER “do this right” in terms of making a statement about women, body image, and beauty standards?

*On both sides of this discussion, I note that women are still ultimately reduced to their measurements (36-30-46, or Size 12) and then evaluated upon them (Does that even count as plus-size?! or That’s so daring and brave of SI!)

*Is it that we can’t decide if we want to allow all women (all people, really) to be beautiful, or if our bigger concern is chafing under the constraint of having to live up to a standard of beauty at all? If it’s the latter, especially in a conversation about plus-size models, plus-size women, and even average women in this country, what are we telling those women implicitly when we throw standards of beauty out the window? Is it possible the message they receive when they hear “It’s what inside that counts” is “Your outside will never be good enough?”

*Because, frankly, I want both. I’m all for saying f*** the patriarchy, they can take their beauty standards straight to hell. But I want to feel beautiful- ultimately according to nobody’s standards except my own, and I want that for other women too. Granted, this is not simple either. It's possibly terribly naive. Maybe I don't live in a world where I can even conceive of what beauty looks like outside of the conventional measurements. But I am stubborn enough to try to imagine it.

*I also want to feel appreciated and respected for more than what I look like. I want to be acknowledged for my warmth, my caring for others, my intelligence, my creativity, and my excellent guacamole. Ultimately, I want and believe my sheer existence as a human being is enough to warrant respect for me and every other human being out there.

*I am stubborn enough to believe that those two things are not mutually exclusive.

*But seriously, I am so stubborn.

*Maybe it is time we stop letting our media speak for us. Time we stop expecting corporations, whose end goal is to make money (often by playing up insecurities rather than assuaging them), to show us who we are. Let’s instead tell each other. Let’s instead show ourselves.

*If something is ugly, and then you love it, does it become beautiful?

*Or is that still some kind of beauty standard in its own right?

*I’m going to go with no. Maybe it needs a different word (a little help here, Japanese? German?) because beauty has become one so fraught with frailties and too caught up in its own narrative. (But alas, for now it will have to suffice).

*In that case, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

*As darkness is an absence of light, is ugliness an absence of love? Or, rather, is beauty a way to describe the way something appears in the presence of love? Or again, is beauty love made perceivable? Not just seen, but smelled, tasted, heard, touched, and sensed?

*If beauty is a quality which we have the power to bestow- where and how can I do my part to create more of it in this world?

(Told ya we’d get there :) )

Be well.