Own your beauty. Everyday tip #27

Image: Afghan lady in Kabul via Wikipedia

I've been thinking about this powerful post by Finslippy for a couple of days now. You should read it, and the comments, as well. The comments are almost as good as the post.

This post isn't really about Alice's post, which is self-explanatory and nails something I've been thinking about for a while. What I want to talk about is something I read into in some of the comments. A few women mentioned how they've made themselves less attractive on purpose, to protect themselves from unwanted lecherous male attention.

I know that the conversation engendered by that post is from women who have had to deal with what I will euphemistically call traumatic experiences. I have had a few myself, so I know how it is.

But the conversation got me thinking about the power of female beauty and who owns it. Let's not kid ourselves: Beauty, especially female beauty, is incredibly powerful -- and we, men and women alike, fear it.

I believe that lecherous old men, harrasers, abusers, criminals, psychopaths and jerks of all stripes do what they do because they fear the power of female beauty. They abuse and harass as a way to control it. Advertisers, trade show organizers, politicians, fundamentalists do what they do as a means to control the female beauty that they fear.

We are given a false choice, that you can be pretty or smart but not both, because society fears the power of a woman that is whole.

It's exhausting. I can understand the desire to give up.

But when a woman makes herself unattractive to protect herself from all these forces against her she is covering herself in a burqa of her own choosing.  She is just as powerless as the teenager that dresses like a slut to please boys.

I know that many women couldn't care less about makeup and hair and fashion. I'm not talking about that. You like what you like. (No one can convince that skiing is fun. You can't make me. I like what I like.) But denying yourself the pleasure of expressing yourself through your appearance, the pleasure of taking care of your body and skin and the playfulness in decorating yourself as you choose isn't the way to go either.

Now, it's easy for me to say this because I'm a grown woman. How do you help a girl figure this out? How do you teach her fight back against the forces that want to control the way she looks -- whether by turning her into a bimbo or forcing her to cover up, either literally or figuratively?

I don't know. The only way I can think of is by example.

All this to say, enjoy your power ladies. Don't give it up. You don't have to please anyone but yourself.