Monday, August 23, 2010

The Beheld

My best friend's bookshelf holds three copies of The Beauty Myth. "Three feminists under 40 in the same apartment?" she said when I asked why. "Please."

There are gender-related issues that are ultimately more important to western women's lives in their ability to devastate. Access to birth control; domestic violence; inequality in the workplace; child care; the mommy track. When you open the doors to the rest of the world, the problems compound: no access to education; acceptance of sexual violence; lack of control over one's reproduction and body.

But no gender-based issue touches more women daily than beauty.

The Beauty Myth taught me why beauty should matter to feminists; it armed me with useful rhetoric and allowed me to make the crucial the-personal-is-political connection that I hadn't gotten with other feminist issues. I was 15 when I first read Naomi Wolf's book: Reproductive-rights concerns seemed light-years away, I had been told by everyone around me that I could do anything (even be President!). Reading stories about how women couldn't get credit cards in their own name--I believed it, of course, but I didn't know it. But reading The Beauty Myth, I began to understand why beauty seemed so incredibly important to me, beyond simply wanting to look pretty. It gave voice to why I shrank under the threat of male appraisal, why I was willing to spend my hard-earned baby-sitting dollars on creams making a rainbow of promises, the panic I felt when I'd see a less-than-flattering photograph of myself. It legitimized the swamp of emotions I felt in regards to beauty every day of my life.

I want this blog to be about beauty--beauty in all its forms, but focusing on the personal beauty of women. Experiences of beauty, perceptions of beauty, theories on beauty. I wish for it to allow for the complexities inherent to the topic, and wish for the voices of people who think about and work with beauty to be heard.

While men's relationship to beauty is similarly complex, I wish to focus on women. We are the ones whose relationship to beauty cannot be ignored. We are the ones who cannot pretend that it does not matter. We are the ones who are categorized, daily, as beautiful, or not-beautiful, or beautiful-in-a-weird-way. We are the beheld.


  1. I love this first post. I have always had issue with certain hot topic words, even going so far as to "get into it" with professors over the nature and use of them... you hit some amazing points here using a few of those terms. This (post at least) alludes to some amazing ideas and even though I am a man, I look forward to reading more.
    I noticed in your perspective, that you have not defined Beauty and I am curious about your approach. Perhaps future posts will help answer a few of my questions but until I get to read them I would ask this: Do you have a perspective on immaterial beauty, such as how attitude and personality affects these judgements?


    1. Hiện tượng thủy triều này do lực lượng kỳ dị bên trong Đông Hải Yêu Linh khuếch tán ra dày đặc trong một phạm vi. Hễ là tu sĩ ở đây đều có thể nhìn thấy có rất nhiều kỳ trân dị bảo, pháp quyết tiên thuật, thi hài yêu thú, những vật kỳ dị, tất cả đều giống như bị thôn phệ, tất cả mọi thứ từ bốn phương tám hướng bị hút vào trong Đông Hải.

      Mỗi khi đến ngày này, hầu như tất cả lão quái trên Thiên Vận Tinh đều phái đệ tử đi vào. Chuyện này tuy có rất nhiều nguy hiểm nhưng nếu lỡ mất cơ duyên thì rất đáng tiếc, không bằng cứ thử một lần.dong tam mu lậu cho thuê phòng trọ cho thuê phòng trọ nhạc sàn cực mạnh tư vấn pháp luật qua điện thoại công ty luật hà nội số điện thoại tư vấn luật dịch vụ thành lập doanh nghiệp

      Cửa Đông Hải Yêu Linh của Thiên Vận Tinh mỗi lần mở ra thì số lượng người đi vào rất nhiều, ít thì hơn một trăm nhiều thì cũng hơn nghìn. Những người này tu vi thấp nhất cũng là Anh Biến, còn cao nhất thì thậm chí còn có người vừa mới tiến vào Âm Dương Hư Thực Nhị Ý.

      Nhưng cao nhất cũng chỉ là như vậy, trên Thiên Vận Tinh có một quy định nghiêm khắc

  2. Thanks, Ryan! I definitely want men in the conversation--right now I'm only interviewing women because, well, we're traditionally "the beheld," but men also have a relationship to beauty: how they view women, how issues affect women in their lives, and their own appearance.

    Honestly, part of the reason I haven't defined beauty is because that's part of what I'm hoping to learn from interviewing women and meditating more on these issues. To answer your more specific question: I mean, I'm all for immaterial beauty! Heh. As far as how it affects "beauty" in relation to people's appearance--certainly there's no denying that the more you like someone's personality, the more beautiful they become to you, a combination of you seeing them with greater grace every day, and their own strengths and skills transcending anything physical. (Have you ever liked someone's company and they've gotten LESS beautiful to you over time? I haven't.)

    And certainly someone who sees the world as a beautiful place is going to be more prone to see beauty in others; and, sadly, the opposite is true. I cringe whenever I hear someone describe another human being as "ugly" because it just makes me think that the speaker has the capability to see the world in that way.

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