don't just tell me i'm beautiful
Because what is beauty?
Is it a physical thing? A set standard for one society?
If a woman walks by me with glossy hair, long legs and great cheekbones and I think she is beautiful, is that a problem? Am I reducing her to nothing more than her appearance?
Perhaps the perception of outward beauty is only a negative thing when it becomes sexualised. Sexualisation is an insidious thing. It seeps into our culture via media and ingrains itself so deeply that specific gender norms and expectations take root.
By showing sexualised female bodies so freely to us, the media and advertising make it normative for every female body to be objectified.
Virtually any advertisement featuring a female model is selling that product using almost purely her sexuality and physical attractiveness, subtly and not so.
Not only does this send a message to young girls that physical beauty and sexuality is what is desirable and the standard they should strive for, it also takes an emotional and mental toll on them, leaving women trying to reach a level of photoshopped perfection that simply does not exist.
However, perhaps the most damaging consequence of the constant sexualisation in our media saturated society is the sense of entitlement it leads to regarding women’s bodies. This is a problem that has affected me and too many that I know and care about.
Just the other day, in an environment otherwise “safe” to me--my university--I was catcalled. I had walked past. My back was turned. He’d waited until he could no longer see my face. He removed my identity, I was simply a body that he was entitled to sexualise and comment on as he saw fit.
I didn't feel like a person.
And it is certainly not okay for any woman, any person, to be dehumanised like that.
It may seem like nothing, just a small incident compared to the terrifying things that have happened and sadly will to others during their lifetimes. Although my experience was upsetting, I am still one of the lucky ones (although it makes me sick to call myself 'lucky' that the experience happened) considering the stories I have heard. From my peers, the tales of sexual violence happening on university campuses across the world, as well as everywhere else. Everyone has something that’s happened, something that shouldn’t have.
No-one--no matter their gender--deserves to be degraded and dehumanised in that way.
The constant emphasis on physical female beauty being so closely linked to sexuality results in this kind of entitlement.
Some think it’s a compliment to be whistled at.
It's a compliment to be touched by a stranger because they like the shape of you.
Strangers can sexualise me and feel they have the right to touch me before they even know my name or see my face, and then have the nerve to tell me to be flattered.
Existence is not consent.
The romanticising of female physical beauty, and the marketing of female sexuality through media is a dangerous thing. It is also a peculiar notion, given that for some, beauty might not even be related to the physical or the sexual, but instead a different entity altogether.
Perhaps beauty is a gathering of desirable and perhaps enviable personal qualities. A razor-sharp wit or whirring analytical mind, a heart as soft and warm as melted butter or the unfaltering courage of a lioness. Appreciating a great sense of humour as more beautiful than a great smile or a great ass.
Maybe beauty isn't in the way we look, but in the way we act, the way we speak and the way we treat others. I admire women for their physical beauty, of course but I admire them, and myself for more than that.
Because women hold the world on their shoulders and are expected to smile.
Because we are beautiful, we are strong, and we endure.