Just Another Pretty Face

by adriennelindsay

Today for me is a day of conflicting feelings regarding the perception of beauty. On the one hand, I saw this Dove campaign which sat a bunch of women in a room with a forensic sketch artist who drew two pictures of them, the first based on their own description of their facial features, and the second drawn from a description of another woman’s impression of her. Then they placed the two drawings next to each other to juxtapose the way a woman sees herself with the way she is seen by others.

It was a lovely, sweet video that encourages women to change their self-perception, and realize that other people do not judge them on their appearance as harshly as they judge themselves.

This is something I support. I believe we as human beings have a skewed perspective when it comes to ourselves, and everyone, regardless of their power, success, appearance, etc. has some form of self-doubt.

What I’m a little concerned about is:

1.       The only men featured in the video were the sketch artist, and two others who were shown describing other women. No men were shown participating in the study, which I find odd, as I’m pretty certain that there are men who have issues with self-perception. I don’t think the message that you should embrace your appearance should be limited to women.

2.       While the video does a lot of good as far as changing perspective goes, at the end, the phrase “you are more beautiful than you think” shines across the screen. I’m all for an increased sense of confidence and love for one’s body. I’m less supportive of the idea that these women feel like they have more self-worth now that they see others believe they are beautiful. Let me say again, for clarity’s sake, because I think Dove touched on something very important here: my issue is not with the video. My issue is the idea that a woman’s worth is in her beauty. A woman’s appearance should not measure her worth.

I’m going to say that again. A woman’s appearance should not measure her worth.

Which leads me to part two, my conflicting feelings regarding beauty:

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I love clothes. I feel like fashion is one of the ways I can express myself, and my style is one that makes me feel polished, confident, and comfortable to meet the day. But, and this is a huge but, I dress for myself, and not for anyone else.

So, no, I don’t mind when somebody compliments me on my clothes, or my style. I don’t even mind it when people compliment my overall appearance now and again (street calls/harassment/etc are a completely different story that I’m sure I will rant about soon). But what starts to make me feel funny is when I feel like my physical appearance trumps my mental prowess, or, at least, takes precedence.

Sometimes I feel like the thing others (well, honestly, mostly men) value the most about me is my appearance. I’ve had many a conversation with a past boyfriend who said that the reason they’d approached me back when we were strangers was because they’d seen how cute I was. If I hadn’t been cute?, I asked. They answered that they probably wouldn’t have come over to introduce themselves. When it comes down to it, I’m grateful for their honesty. And I know that it’s unfair to judge them for a slight superficiality, because I’ve had great relationships with some them afterwards that were based more on our compatibility than our looks.

Sure. Physical attractiveness is a very real part of sexual desire and attraction. I totally get that. I’m not arguing that it should play a role. I just wish it didn’t play so much of one.

I wish that a man who I once dated, and who I find to be intelligent and respectful didn’t say things like, “Wow, your ass looks great today,” when I’m in the middle of getting work done. If my intention was to draw attention to my behind, then perhaps I’d be flattered. Instead, I’m being interrupted while going about business in an everyday situation, where I made no indication that it was my intention to draw attention to the aforementioned area. In this situation, I gave the man in question a bemused look, and he replied with “What, isn’t that what girls want to hear? I know that’s what I’d love to hear.” He said it half jokingly, but that’s the problem. He doesn’t take my concerns seriously.

Another man once said to me “I think you’re really great. You’re so attractive.” I replied to him that I hoped he liked me for more reasons than just my appearance. He said “Well, yeah, but your appearance is still a really big part of who you are.”

Maybe I’m uncomfortable being judged by my appearance because I had a really awkward adolescent phase that I didn’t grow out of until late in life. The first time a boy told me I was beautiful was my senior year of high school. As I left high school and college, I feel I’ve come into my own and can appreciate my appearance, but I don’t spend every day obsessing over every minute detail, because I just don’t have the patience or the energy. So maybe it’s that? That I’m just uncomfortable?

But maybe it’s that I am afraid. Because sometimes I worry that even though I’m a talented writer, a good singer, a great baker, possess a sharp and strong sense of humor, have a work ethic that never quits, and am generally an intelligent human being who enjoys debating and analyzing religion, politics, sociology and psychology, some days, I feel like other people wouldn’t value those characteristics within me if they weren’t accompanied by my “pretty face.”