I made that headline up, because sometimes it’s hard to realize how deep sexism goes. It’s a weird headline, right?
I recently posted on stats from Dove that only 11% of girls are comfortable calling themselves beautiful. But just asking that question shows a distorted view of female worth mangled in the language of beauty.
I wrote in my post that “feeling beautiful has come to mean feeling good: comfortable, powerful, competent.” But that doesn’t go far enough.
Years ago, getting better from an eating disorder, I had to learn to decode what “feeling fat” really meant. It was like becoming bilingual. Fat is not a feeling, I was told. It’s not? Thin isn’t a feeling either. Who knew? Fat, I finally learned, stood in for all kinds of emotions including anxiety, shame, panic, hopelessness, on and on. Thin included feeling excited, inspired, or happy.
I remember how in the 80s, Gloria Gaynor’s hit “I Will Survive” was supposed to be this anthem of female independence. But I couldn’t imagine a man belting that out and feeling empowered (do men even get “empowered”?). It would be funny, right? Or I think of all the modern day princess movies where the protagonist is so independent she actually chooses who to marry but the whole movie is still all about marriage. Or, as I wrote about the movie “Ratatouille,” the female chef is given a monologue where she complains about sexism but the cartoon itself had no female star. When the framework itself is sexist, it’s practically impossible to break out of the dogma because you’re trapped inside of it. Studies like Dove’s are important because they show the trap but they don’t point the way out.
Last night, my daughter drew two princesses, and she said, “There’s a brave one and a pretty one.” (The princesses, by the way, looked exactly the same.)
I said, “Honey, can’t the brave one be pretty too? Being brave makes her pretty.” Which is the case with men, their attributes make them attractive. But of course, that’s all too cerebral for a 5 year old so I told her a story instead (about a brave princess, loved and admired by all.) I keep thinking that’s the best way to change the world.