"Every woman is beautiful" and feminism

(41 Posts)
OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Fri 29-Jul-16 16:55:25

Lately I've been frustrated at the line "every woman is beautiful" that's being held out as something that's really ground breaking and aspirational but I have this really negative reaction to it.

I see the Dove adverts promoting beauty in all shapes and sizes and all I can think is it's just the tyranny of a looks focused culture. Am I being a total cynic? I can't quite articulate it, but it almost seems to me that the message is "Every woman CAN be beautiful and therefore every SHOULD prioritise being beautiful. Being beautiful is important."

I remember as a (gangly and awkward) teenager my DM saying "Well looks aren't everything" when I was upset about not being glamorous and at the time it was SO hurtful, but now I think she may have a point. I can't imagine the advertisers would go for it, but surely the message is some people are beautiful and others aren't, but everyone is important / worthy of respect / of value?

I'm really not articulating it well, but does anyone else get what I'm trying to say? Why is being beautiful the most important thing?

plumdriver Fri 29-Jul-16 16:59:01

I don't like it either I think it's patronising and puts too much emphasis on looks.

No, every woman is not beautiful but that's ok because a woman is worth more than her looks

FreshwaterSelkie Fri 29-Jul-16 17:15:24

I get what you're saying.

The benchmark is still beauty. It's only what qualifies as beauty that's changed, rather than saying "beauty as a benchmark of a woman's worth is horseshit". Not very progressive at all, when you think about it.

But they have to sell stuff, and they probably wouldn't get far by telling everyone it's OK to be a minger grin

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Fri 29-Jul-16 17:17:21

You've already helped me get my head around it - thank you. Also, could you imagine an advert aimed at men saying "Every man is beautiful" it's just not a thing, is it? Advertisers talk to men without any of this patronising (thanks plumdriver) twaddle!

msrisotto Sat 30-Jul-16 06:51:50

Yes, they might as well say "Every woman is beautiful WHICH IS GOOD BECAUSE THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS".
Funny how there isn't a similar campaign to reassure men that they too are all good looking. No, because we don't hold me to the same standard. There are far more ugly male actors, successful males in the world because we don't value their looks as the most or only important thing about them.

There has been research that says that complimenting someone actually makes them feel wore because they are reminded that something that is largely out of their control is a very important thing. If we complimented them on their achievements or hard work, it might be different.

allegretto Sat 30-Jul-16 07:00:45

I agree msrisotto - that's why I think it is so dangerous and horrible to comment on women's looks - especially if they are say sportswomen or writers or whatever. I am NOT good looking and I remember as a child wanting to be a writer and hearing someone comment on a female writer (can't remember which one!) as not being a looker. I can remember getting a sinking feeling and thinking "oh, you actually have to be beautiful to do anything".

NeverEverAnythingEver Sat 30-Jul-16 09:22:01

If you bring this up in the company of men though they will tell you how they are pressured into having a body like that diet coke advert man etc etc etc... Obviously NAMALT etc etc but it is tedious to the extreme.

FreshwaterSelkie Sat 30-Jul-16 09:40:26

There has been research that says that complimenting someone actually makes them feel wore because they are reminded that something that is largely out of their control is a very important thing

Oh, this. My husband like to tell me I'm beautiful. I'm quite torn. On the one hand, I think it comes from a good place, and I don't want to be a miserable cow about it.

On the other hand, I've asked him not to do it, because I really don't care much about my appearance. He says the fact I don't care is what makes me beautiful. But he still does it, though I ask him not to, so he's not doing it for me, he's doing it for him, IYSWIM? I wish he'd tell me I'm funny, or clever instead.

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Sat 30-Jul-16 10:06:54

The thing is, I can buy that men may have look pressures put on them in the dating arena and I do not think it is positive that we've moved to a world where men are increasingly concerned about looking ripped.

However, what this majorly misses is that women are expected to look good ALL THE TIME, whether or not they want male attention and there is no opt out.

So at work it's not enough to be smart, you have to look polished, you can be made PM but people will be focusing on what you're wearing as much as what you're saying. Hell sportswomen can literally be breaking world records but heaven forbid they sweat, or get muscled or look less than dainty to do so.

Men just don't get this constant pressure of looks and the Diet Coke comparison just proves how blind they are to it.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shaggedthruahedgebackwards Sat 30-Jul-16 10:11:16

I agree with you OP

Insisting we are all outwardly beautiful is implying that 'beauty' is essential for happiness, success etc

I haven't got a problem with emphasising that beauty comes in many forms but I don't like being told that I need to believe I'm beautiful to feel valued

UnikittyInHerBusinessSuit Sat 30-Jul-16 10:20:02

I agree. If a woman in the public eye is being body shamed then well meaning women on MN and elsewhere will always dash in to "defend" her with "but she's not fat, she's a perfectly healthy normal size!" "She's a beautiful older woman with lovely eyes" or whatever. I absolutely hate that because it's so totally missing the point. Especially if as usual the woman in question is in the public eye for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with her appearance. If (say) the Booker Prize winner is fat then she's fat. If people are having a go at her for being fat then the correct response is "Fuck off, she's a novelist not a jump jockey". The correct response is not "oh don't be mean, she looks like a perfectly healthy size 16 to me." If someone says that, say, Steve Buscemi looks like he's slept in his face then crowds of people don't say "don't be so mean he's really handsome in a real world way!" Because he's allowed to be a good, well paid, in demand actor regardless of his looks.

(Caveat, I admit that the weight thing is a bit more complex than that - if the glossies are having a go at Kate Moss for having 25 grammes of visible stomach fat if you enlarge the photo and use a microscope then that's genuinely unhealthy for all women).

SueTrinder Sat 30-Jul-16 18:30:42

FreshWaterSelkie I suppose what he's saying is a variation of what I tell my DDs when they ask if they are beautiful (don't get me started on what I think of the world that makes a child ask that question), I tell them that the people who love them will always think they are beautiful. They find that quite unsatisfactory but I really want them to think of beauty as being in the eye of the beholder rather than a particular physical appearance. I do spent a lot of time telling them how funny and smart and creative and hard working they are.

But completely agree that when you have asked him not to say it he should try and stop.

I like the reverse sexism for people who think it's the same for men but I'm not sure how much of an effect it has, maybe chips away at the block a bit, e.g. David Cameron's shoes. Makes me laugh anyway, not least because it appears David Cameron only has two pairs of shoes.

ChocChocPorridge Sat 30-Jul-16 20:45:36

My only way to deal with this is to try to balance by telling my kids how beautiful they/parts of them are (beautiful curls/eyes etc) - they're both boys, and it's not the only thing, but I don't want them to hear girls getting all this particular type of praise and thinking that only girls get it (this may be backwards thinking - I don't want them under any pressure, but I also don't want them thinking that prettiness is the most important thing for a girl to be).

And that bloody diet coke advert - 20 years ago and people still go on about it - didn't the new series they tried to push about 3 years ago turn into a giant flop? I live abroad alot, and in the UK watch my TV on demand, so I don't know (and don't really hang out with people, so I don't know what other people thought)

Helmetbymidnight Sat 30-Jul-16 20:51:49

Sue, yes my Dd, (7) is very very interested in the way she looks- way more than anyone I know. Argh.

She says 'am I beautiful?' And I say 'you are more than beautiful- you are hard-working, kind, funny etc...'

(She's like 'yeah, mum, but do I have pretty hair?'...)

Felascloak Sat 30-Jul-16 22:23:59

Did you read the dove advertising call on here? It was hilarious. Sadly deleted though.
I'd take Dove a lot more seriously if they actually had some normal people on rather than beautiful women who just don't quite fit our stereotypical version of "beauty"

WilLiAmHerschel Sun 31-Jul-16 08:47:53

I hate that advertising campaign. It's still saying women's looks are the most important thing, above everything else.

The fact is, it's a marketing plan. They want to sell products. Dove aren't there to make us feel good - although they are trying to make us feel good and to think that Dove cares so we go out and buy Dove. It's just a superficial advertising campaign aimed at selling us stuff.

WilLiAmHerschel Sun 31-Jul-16 08:49:07

The fact that Dove are owned by Unilever who sell skin bleach and lightening products in other parts of the globe...well that's just not relevant. wink

ForTheLoveOfMod Sun 31-Jul-16 08:56:17

Definitely agree - on one level it sounds very feminist, "oh there's beauty in everyone, look beyond the looks etc etc" but then below that is the undercurrent of "everyone must be beautiful to be happy, don't even think about being intelligent/kind/powerful/good etc but repulsive to look at".

Becomes quite uncomfortable if you replace 'beautiful' with another positive trait - "every woman is intelligent", "every woman is capable", "every woman is worthwhile"? Suddenly sounds anything from 'mansplain-y' to quite sinister but it's supposedly ok to say we all need labelling with beauty?

Mjingaxx Sun 31-Jul-16 08:56:41

I totally agree

It's just a big fat lie. Not all women are beautiful. What is beautiful?

MrsKCastle Sun 31-Jul-16 09:05:00

I agree with everyone here. I just think that 'beautiful' is a useless description, it shouldn't even be a consideration really. I hate anyone commenting on my appearance, either positive or negative, because I feel that they're just looking at/considering my body, not the real me. Like judging a book by its cover or a new item by its packaging. Why would I care whether or not you like the packaging? Especially when men overwhelming get judged on their personality and achievements, NOT on their packaging.

ForTheLoveOfMod Sun 31-Jul-16 09:05:24

I irritate my dd, but hope I'm not inadvertently damaging her self esteem, because I refuse to discuss whether she's beautiful or give any compliments to her on her looks at all because I think it's so damaging even if it's positive. It probably sounds too 'right on' written down but I've talked to her a lot about how her body is there to perform functions not to look good and if she's helping it perform as well as possible great - beyond that is pointless to think about. I do praise her like mad for achievement, effort, kindness etc though in case I come across as cruel!

VestalVirgin Sun 31-Jul-16 10:34:50

On the other hand, I've asked him not to do it, because I really don't care much about my appearance. He says the fact I don't care is what makes me beautiful. But he still does it, though I ask him not to, so he's not doing it for me, he's doing it for him, IYSWIM? I wish he'd tell me I'm funny, or clever instead.

And it is not really honest. Not caring about looks doesn't make anyone more beautiful, it makes them more attractive, perhaps, but it does not improve anyone's looks to not care about them. (Except in cases where using botox makes someone uglier, that is)

There's a problem with the definition of the word "beauty"; it seems to mean at the same time abstract internal worth and goodness, and physical beauty.

FreshwaterSelkie Sun 31-Jul-16 10:48:50

We talked about it this morning on the back of this thread, it was interesting.

What I hear when he says "you're beautiful" is "you are someone who was fortunate enough to be born looking a particular way that society deems acceptable for a woman and that's valuable". What he says he means is "the totality of you is, to me, very beautiful".

I make it complicated because of the relationship women have with their bodies, and now that I am aging, it's also something I think about as I "lose my looks" (sic). Looking the way I look (which, for reference, is a tall slim leggy blonde with regular features - conventionally attractive, for what that's worth) has been a mixed bag through my life. I have attracted a LOT of unwanted sexual attention. And now I'm in my forties, that is changing. And part of me says HURRAH! I want to be invisible in that way that older women get. But then part of me looks at my crows feet and my saggy backside and despairs grin

Eeeeh, it's complicated. I think when he says "you're beautiful", I think I'm just going to say "I love you" back, and then we'll both be happy.

CancellyMcChequeface Sun 31-Jul-16 11:11:38

This really irritates me. I'm not beautiful, and I'm not going to be no matter how many products I use. It's not a priority to me; I made my peace with being plain-looking long ago, and would much rather people complimented me on aspects of my personality, if they want to say something nice. Calling me beautiful would seem patronising and insincere, because I'm obviously not.

I wonder how much of it comes from fiction (and more archetypical fairy tales, etc.) where the beautiful characters are also kind, good and clever, and the ugly ones are villainous. Real life doesn't work like that, but these are the messages we grow up with. Maybe it's harder to associate an ugly/plain appearance with other positive attributes, so 'you're beautiful' when said to a woman who in no way fits the conventional standards of beauty is really 'I don't think of you the way I think of 'ugly' people.'

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