If I could petition the nerds who run the dictionary business, I would request the word “beautiful” be stricken from its pages.
Why? Because I don’t appreciate anyone or anything trying to trap “beautiful” within any kind of boundaries. How can we so easily define a word that encompasses more than outward appearance but also a mindset and lifestyle?
Perhaps I’m deflecting my anger. The dictionary people aren’t the problem – society as a whole is. And while a definition for “beautiful” has been crammed alphabetically, in an impossibly tiny serif font for longer than I have been alive, the concept or standard for beauty has been trapped and crammed within every piece of pop culture for even longer.
And it’s all disgustingly surface level.
Romantic comedies portray beauty in the form of a thin, athletic woman with no split ends.
Rap music portrays beauty as curvy, buxom women with no inhibitions.
Books portray beauty in whatever is the object of the heartthrob’s affection. (Because that’s all that makes her worthy, of course!)
I could sit here for hours and list every piece of crap we have subconsciously consumed and let define our own personal definition for beauty, but that would just make me mad – mad at media and at myself.
It’s not that I don’t think Gwyneth is beautiful – I do. And I hate to disparage her or her beauty, but she’s a little nuts. (If you’ve never perused her site, GOOP, then you’ve been spared the torture that is rich elitism.)
But her extravagant “Spring must-have” list is not what bothers me, it’s her extreme diet I have an issue with. Truthfully, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have a pint of ice cream stashed at the back of their freezer for emergencies, but I especially don’t trust anyone whose sole treat is one cigarette a week simply because it has no calories.
Gwyneth’s slender physique is not a crime. Being skinny is not a crime any more or less than being fat is. It’s the method we should all be concerned with because it’s setting a standard that THIS is what the world should find universally beautiful and THIS is what it takes to achieve it.
Ok, I’m just going to say it. Gwyneth is annoying. She is probably the most narcissistic celebrity around, and I would never have lunch with her. I don’t agree with Gwyneth, but I don’t hate her. In fact, I feel sorry for her. I’m saddened by the overwhelming sense of worthlessness a person must be struggling with to survive off kale juice and hummus almost solely. But because she is outwardly beautiful – she gets to set the standard.
She is a rich woman who has made her eating disorder and extreme dysmorphia into a lifestyle brand and is marketing it worldwide. That is a serious problem. And it is a serious problem for media to support it.
I’m not unaware of my own hypocrisy. I am a hypocrite for belittling Gwyneth’s accomplishment because she doesn’t fit MY definition for beauty. And I am a hypocrite because I’m against “The Most Beautiful Woman Alive” but I’m all for “The Most Beautiful Man Alive.”
But men and women are not the same. Things are not equal despite our best efforts. If a man suffers an eating disorder, it is serious news. Eating disorders for women are called “dieting.” There is a gross standard in this country for women. It only matters what you look like on the outside, and whatever lengths you must go through to achieve that appearance are justified by compliments about your hair or makeup rather than about your soul.
My heart aches for the women in this country, myself included, who will look at Gwyneth on that cover and wonder why we can’t be that. My heart aches for the women who will drag themselves through a grueling workout tonight for the sake of a number on a scale rather than for health. My heart aches for the little girls who are watching us every single day and believing the lies we think they can’t hear or see.
We can do better than this. We can care more than this. We can love better than this.