I’m currently reading The List by Siobhan Vivian, a YA novel that focuses on beauty and how we look. At Mount Washington High, every year a list is released, naming the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade, and we follow the eight girls listed over the course of a week, seeing how they are affected by being given their titles.
It’s a really interesting, subtley feminist novel, and has got me thinking a lot about beauty and what it actually means. I’ve come to the conclusion that beauty doesn’t actually matter.
In The List, the students at the school would probably say I’m only saying that because I’m ugly, and I wouldn’t say it if I was beautiful. But I’m saying it because I believe it to be true: being beautiful doesn’t matter. It’s simply not important.
Beauty is a social constuct, one the media enforces with it’s impossible beauty standards, standards we try to fit. But, as the cliché goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I might think someone is beautiful, and you might disagree, or vice versa. Or to use another cliché, one person’s treasure is another person’s trash – though obviously people are neither treaure nor trash. Who can say what “beautiful” actually is when we all find different people beautiful? And that’s exactly why those beauty standards just don’t work, they constantly contradict themselves: you should be slim, but you should also be curvy; the natural look is best, but you should have the perfect smokey eye.
And really, it’s not important to be beautiful. There’s the idea you need to be beautiful to attract a partner, so you can then get married and have children, and continue the human race. But not only is that a heteronormative idea discounting people who don’t want to get married and/or have children, it also isn’t important for our own individual survival. We don’t need children to live, we don’t need a partner to live, we don’t need to be beautiful to live.
There are those, myself included, who would say they don’t actually make an effort to look good for other people – to attract a partner or otherwise – but for themselves, to look good for themselves. I don’t doubt it, but there is still this idea that being beautiful is important. You must look good enough, you must be slim enough, you must be curvy enough, you must, you must, you must.
Actually, no you don’t.
I’m not saying we should all throw out the nice clothes and make-up. Of course not. All I’m saying is, if you did, what would it matter? Society dictates that we should always look our best, so you might be on the receiving end of looks and comments and gossiping – of judgement. But if society didn’t place so much importance on looking good, not looking good wouldn’t affect us at all. Can you imagine a world where we didn’t strive so hard to look perfect? Where we could just relax and be content, without worrying about our frame, our age, our wrinkles, our hair colour, the size of various parts of our body, etc? Wouldn’t that be just wonderful?
I, like everyone, like to look good. I like wearing nice clothes, I like liking what I see in the mirror and feeling good about myself. But I’ll still be judged no matter how I look, so, really, what does it matter?
I think I’m fairly pretty. Not stunningly gorgeous, but a nice kind of pretty. I sometimes have days were I think I look plain and ordinary, but that’s fine.
I’m not beautiful, and I’m perfectly OK with that.