Being Ugly and the Power of Beauty

I’m an ugly girl. 

That’s right – I said it. The big “U” word. The word that people run away from, or try desperately to cover up with make-up, compliments and pseudo-self esteem. Call yourself ugly, and you’ll be under the barrage of:

1. Beauty is subjective! Isn’t it in the eye of the beholder anyway?!

2. Everyone’s beautiful! You’re beautiful!

3. *Lists a bunch of reasons why you can’t POSSIBLY be ugly*

4. Says you’re delusional/insane (re: being completely dismissive)

Part of this problem is that people tend to imagine in extremes. Ugliness is defined as horrific – like Hunchback of Notre-Dame type stuff – so if you don’t look like Quasimoto, then you can’t be ugly. This is irrational. NO ONE looks like Quasimoto, except for him, and few people would go around calling survivors of accidents with physical deformities as ugly. So basically, ugliness is reserved for fictional beings and monsters – which humans are not.

Granted – I understand it, really I do. With great beauty comes great power; to be called a model is probably one of the highest compliments a person can receive. Humans are so fixated on beauty that whole enterprises have been constructed in order to dismantle fabricated beauty (ie: Hollywood stars, magazine covers, etc) in exchange for “natural beauty” (ie: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way type stuff).

And I can understand the sentiment: everyone (well, most of you!) want power because power makes things easier. Money is power, but not everyone has money, but  nowadays anyone can be beautiful, right? I remember my friend, who is from Appalachian, telling me about how beauty pageants were one of the few ways to get out of their town.

So yes – I deeply understand the influence being beautiful has over people – even those who wish to bunk beauty standards. Not so that they can be ugly, but so that they can be beautiful in their own way.

This is all well and good but ignores the truth: not everyone is beautiful (and in some cases, don’t want to be!). I’m not a beautiful girl. Most people focus on my personality, and what’s going on in my mind, not so much my body.

Being ugly, and being willing to call myself that, is always tricky business. When you’re conditioned to believe that ugliness is bad and prettiness is good, well, most people will do anything to show you how “good” you really are. But here’s what I’m here to say: being ugly isn’t a death sentence, it doesn’t say anything about your character (any more than being pretty does) and it’s not mutually exclusive from being awesome. 

Yes – I am a ugly girl but so what? Why do I need to soothe myself with compliments in order to make myself feel better? Why is happiness so directly related to “feeling/being beautiful”? Why can’t I be ugly AND happy, successful, accomplished and unafraid? Why is ugly such a dirty, fucking word? 

Ugliness is a descriptor, like anything else. Being ugly doesn’t make me less than. It simply is. 

Even in the quest to “re-define beauty” why is beauty even a necessary part of the equation? Why force people into believing they’re beautiful? There is power in all things, including ugliness. Many people are terrified of being ugly, but if there’s power in exactly who you are, that includes being ugly too.

 

People are often quick to prove you’re beautiful, even if it’s just one feature.

Why do you think that is? Why can’t people be both ugly and happy?

This is definitely a discussion I want to have with as many people as possible. I really want to understand – why do you want to be pretty so bad? And why are you so quick to downplay people’s assertion of their own looks – which has NOTHING to do with you?

Preferences and Prejudice: Which Is It?

Is it classist to reject someone because they don’t have a job? 

Most of us know that it’s fairly racist to reject a potential partner based on race or on the color of their skin. Many self-identified feminists mourn the perceived standards being projected onto the female gender, and there is more than enough discussion about how people feel in regards to women having short hair or natural hair. (Unfortunately, I am not as well versed about the criterium projected onto same sex/alternative couples, so if you know any – feel free to list them in the comments for added discussion!).

A great deal of people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove to others (and themselves) that we’re each unique individuals and aren’t required to abide by arbitrary beauty prerequisites.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the concept of beauty and whose opinion matters the most. When I was a Senior in high school, there was this guy, CJ, that I liked. He was a white boy; tall and rail-thin, and I remember chatting with him online. In my usual style, I told him I liked him and he responded with: I only date white girls.

Most people would respond with complete disgust over this – How dare he!? That’s so racist!  I lived in a racially diverse area where a myriad of people attended my high school, so you would think that most people would have a more “open” view of who they’d like to date. But -

My whole life, I’ve never really been attractive enough for anybody:

1. my skin wasn’t clear enough

2. my breasts were too small

3. I wasn’t perky enough, hood enough, outgoing enough… the list continues

Of course, our choices aren’t made in a vacuum. Do many white people reject black partners out of some racist agenda? If we had a more egalitarian media (since television and cinema influences many people’s understanding of relationships and who they’re attracted to) – would more people be interested in dating outside of their race, economic class, sex, (etc)?

Many women (and perhaps men too) spend a lot of time looking at how they’re not represented in the media, and how this somehow suggests they’re not attractive by conventional standards. I’m not exempt from this; I spent a few minutes on Twitter yesterday lamenting how small breasts are rarely touted as being signifiers of attractiveness. Essentially, large breasts are considered more “womanly” and “feminine” than having a “boyish figure”.

This is a complex problem: on one hand, the world is giant mirror, reflecting back to us what we believe about ourselves and the world at large. On the other hand, I see this as a type of Second-Hander rhetoric – where I long for other people to give me validation about myself in some capacity. It’s almost like I don’t exist until someone else decides I exist. All of this pertains to self-esteem, and the value being placed in one’s own ideas and opinions.

I don’t want to be a Second-Hander, and have other people’s prejudices and preferences dictate Who I Am.

 

What About You? What are some of your preferences or prejudcies? 

As anyone said you weren’t enough because of the way you look?

#YesGayYA – LGBT Novels

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loathed YA. At least since high school, which tends to be the demographic for Young Adult. I loathed the lack of black characters, and how all the characters seemed to be clones of each other in some way, shape or form. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of diversity – in any respect – and generally, YA had become the bane of my literary existence. With one exception (the Uglies trilogy) – I avoided YA with fervor.

In addition to my YA ban, I’d also renounced a lot of reading in general because of the lack of POC and LGBT characters specifically, since these are things I look for. So for several months, I read only non-fiction, but it’s not as satisfactory as a good science fiction or fantasy novel! While I go back and forth with my dislike for YA with the fact that in general, many mainstream novels lack any kind of decent representation.

Recently, someone linked me to Malinda Lo, a lesbian YA writer, who has two books out with lesbian lead characters. Ms. Lo wrote a post detailing the amount of LGBT books being published each year, and thanks to some links on twitter, I came across an extensive list of LGBT YA books available. Some of the books have LGBT leads, while others have LGBT supporting characters. Additionally, much like my previous post on POC authors, there’s a list of books with POC characters too.

Thanks to the wide world of blogging, there are sites dedicated to exploring diversity in books and being aware that we need to bring more attention to books written by POC.

There’s no telling how difficult or easy trying to get your book published might be. Often times, it seems, a book’s success demands on a mixture of marketing and pure luck. Who would’ve guessed that Harry Potter would’ve become as popular as it did – though it took awhile before it finally took off. I remember being in the minority when HP originally came out, and it wasn’t for several years until I met other HP fans. So I would hate for anyone who is interested in publishing a book with LGBT/POC characters to feel dissuaded.

Often times, representation is difficult to come by. Our experiences regarding our race, gender, sexuality, class (etc) colors our perceptions of the world, and often times in many niche environments (ie: blogging) certain types of people are going to be drawn to that place. It can be hard to create diversity when your experience is both knowingly and unknowingly excluding other types of people and their experiences. Books are definitely no exception to this – and more work definitely needs to be more inclusive.

What kind of representation would you like to see more of? Not just in books but in movies, comics – any kind of media you consume on a daily basis (including blogs!).

As a side note, I’ve entered into a giveaway with a chance to win an ipad 2! I’ll link to it here, in case you’re interested in winning one as well. The contest ends September 30th and by October 2nd, you’ll find out who won! LAMFinances – giveaway

Guest Posts!

Hello readers!

How are you?

I’ve got a guest post over at Julia Tarquinio’s blog – she talks about her one year teaching experience in Costa Rica as well as her observations about life (in a nut shell). My post is about how to stay involved emotionally with your blog! Check it out:

Are You Staying Passionate With Your Blog?

Have fun! :]