Regular subscribers to my Twitter/blog will have noted that I, perhaps unexpectedly for a body confidence campaigner and card-carrying feminist, support The Sun’s Page Three.
Such it was that I found myself at the University of Warwick a few weeks ago being shouted at by two hundred and fifty angry students, all frothing at the mouth and red about the gills, such was their indignation at my calm acceptance of what they perceived to be an inherently sexist and therefore evil institution. One thing I said in particular riled them to the point that I found myself thinking how pleased I was that no one had bought eggs/tomatoes to lob in my direction :
“Natural beauty is just a gift, like anything else you’re born with, that you can use if you chose to”.
Now before you screech “fetch me my pen of rage!” and start lambasting me in snarky comments below the line, let me explain. One of the founding principles of my body confidence campaign is that we do not patronise people and we do not judge their choices.
If we acknowledge that conventional beauty is at least 80 per cent socially constructed (amateur anthropologists I refer you to the vastly differing beauty paradigms throughout history and in various cultures - now sssshhhh, and pipe down please) and then further reconcile ourselves to the idea that you are either born with a degree of it or you’re not we actually…wait for it…diminish its importance. If we can say “yes, that’s all very nice and lovely. You are gorgeous and nice to look at. Good for you. Now I shall turn my attention to something truly important”, then we make our choices from a headspace unthreatened by other people’s degree of perceived good-looking-ness.
We are then free to focus on the things which REALLY make someone beautiful, in the actual,proper sense of the word – kindness, talent, dedication, philanthropy, intelligence, humour, uniqueness, quirkiness, resilience – all that jazz finally comes to the fore and has its long awaited moment.
If only everyone had listened instead of bellowing “no! We are ALL beautiful! I WANT TO BE BEAUTIFUL TOO! Waaaaah!” then perhaps we would not have been subjected to the heart-breaking spectacle of Rebecca Adlington, gold medal winning Olympic athlete, sobbing on our television screens last week because of feelings of inadequacy arising out of the dual factors of being targeted by vile Twitter trolls and being stuck in the confines of a small jungle camp with the reigning Miss Universe, Amy Willerton.
If you have been living in a hole and somehow managed to miss the story – in an episode of ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity’ last week, Rebecca Adlington repeatedly broke down in tears after admitting she is very insecure about her looks, for which she is targeted daily on Twitter and that having to look at fellow contestant and model Amy Willerton for several hours a day was exacerbating the issue. Cue mass media outrage and analysis of why someone who has achieved as much as Rebecca in her career could ever be made to feel inferior, which was fair enough and much Twitter indignation which seemed to centre around the idea that in order to support Rebecca it was necessary to slag off Amy, which it wasn’t.
What we have here is a case of two bodies with two very different functions. One of them is arranged in a way we find attractive. The other one can master incredible feats of human endurance – Just Add Water.
For the truth is we do not need to metaphorically gouge our own eyes out and deny that Amy Willerton has all the physical traits that make a person beautiful by Western standards in 2013. She very clearly does and uses that in order to earn a living, as is her prerogative. Brilliant, well done. Rebecca’s body, on the other hand, is the result of hard graft, of something she wasn’t handed at birth and which she has gone on to do amazing things with. Which quite clearly means more, to anyone with any sense.
Battle of the bodies put to rest, we can then just watch the programme and decide which of them we like the more, based on what actually comes out of their mouths, like we are supposed to.
What’s happened is simply that we have allowed conventional beauty to get too big for its Christian Louboutin boots. We’ve secretly valued it above and beyond everything else whilst publically bitching about anyone who happens to possess it, thus validating the idea that we’re all jealous harridans and perversely increasing the value of beauty even further.
Why don’t we try turning to face the beauty culture we’ve created, acknowledging it in all its lunacy and then concluding that, in the scheme of things, it really isn’t that important? Let glamour models and Miss Universes do their thing and look nice. Now go and do your thing, whatever that might be, content in the knowledge that you are just as amazing.
Now, doesn’t that feel better?
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