July 18, 2011

"Um, sheer vanity?" and how to deal with it.

I feel there is really no fantastic introduction to lead into what I want to talk about. It's something that I've been thinking heavily about over the past months and I'm ready to let my fingers do the typing.

This isn't really about "feminism", but more so about appearance, beauty standards, and how it's been affecting me lately. As a girl/woman/gal in her 20's, I've had a lot of changes in perspective when it comes to beauty and how I perceive it. I've been coming across things having to do with the subject [beauty privilege] which of course propelled me further into writing something about it because it is a subject that hits on a range of emotions for me.

"What will grow crooked you can't make straight, it's the price that you gotta pay..." -Black Swan by Thom Yorke.

We all know that society is responsible for dictating what we find beautiful or attractive. We have this, along with many other things that separate people and somehow, all of us are somehow responsible for feeding into it or making it an acceptable standard. Almost anyone will tell you that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what if the beholder is ridiculously conventional? Why do we try to base our looks off a standard that is never a permanent fixture within society (i.e. trends)? Over the course of time, the beauty standard have changed drastically, and we all know how so there is no use in pointing them out. How is it that people turn to such un-attainable practices in order to be deemed "good-looking" by a society that is constantly in motion? There are people that confuse this painstaking beauty effort with beauty that they were privileged enough to be born with. Working with beauty you have-accentuating features, contacts, etc, are not far stretches. Plastic surgery and extreme methods of any kind to achieve societal beauty, well, sucks. My questioning towards all of this seems endless, but maybe I can make some attempt to understand it while digging around in my own head.

I've been told for a long period of my life that I'm "hot/attractive/pretty/beautiful/cute" or insert whatever other synonym for "good looking" that you prefer. On the contrary, I've been called ugly. I can attribute that to a wonderful phase in middle school, but I'm sure that people look at me now and think I look gnarly- and in no way is that supposed to be a good connotation. I've never banked on this notion of attractiveness that people laid over me. In no way, shape, or form do I consider myself a beauty queen, but I would say that I've been given physical attributes that would make a candidate for being attractive. Blonde hair, blue eyes, desirable hip ratio, no wrinkles, and a small frame. This does not mean that I've "conformed" to social standards, this only means I'm working with what I've been given, it's just hard to get them straight.

In high school, I worked hard to look good. I can't say I worked hard to look attractive, if attractiveness is something you're born with, something of privilege. I put time into straightening my hair along with dying it. I put a good amount of time figuring out what odd print would go with some other odd print (something I managed to scoop in a Goodwill). I made sure that an ample amount of time was spent on my social skills and events, and not on the only thing that mattered; education. I realize that I was likely viewed as vapid for caring about such things and choosing not to excel in my school work. However, I KNOW that I was vapid during the times I spent in high school, because dating seemed more important-and to some degree, it did have importance, but not enough for me to not regret it. I cared more about after school plans or working out than I did about what homework I would be working on that evening. If I could have been how I am now, back in high school, then I would have been on to something. Doesn't everyone say that, though? You know who doesn't say that? People who did phenomenally well in high school to go onto college to do nothing of importance or value. This makes me feel slightly better. When it comes down to it, I still put effort into my looks, but now I wonder what that means that how exactly that is viewed.

I have always banked upon personality and trying to entertain people. It has always been my asset. Of course, that's also my name backwards. I will consider this a direct quality I picked up while trying to impress a panel of judges at a young age while simultaneously competing with group of girls my age that shared or out-shined my skill set. Oh, and of course being the youngest child and being around all the dinner parties your folks have. This all worked to my advantage. So I have this personality, and some people like it and I mean, like, really like it-(but I can totally understand the ones who hate it-way more so than the ones who like it). Is that it? Does that attribute to what makes me attractive? I can't say I came out of the womb as a hit-there has to be some attachment to this right? Look at children. Go on, look at them-some kids are so damned ugly-and it's probably based on some factor that they are acting like an asshole (cue my parents telling me I shouldn't swear in my blogs...) or the factor that they've obtained no sense of personality yet-often to no fault of their own. This isn't necessarily applicable to just kids, but really anyone-minus the lack of development. It's unfortunate that a mood you're in at a certain point in time has the ability to make an impact on how people view you/base your attractiveness.

It's like that thing that everyone I've ever encountered believes in; people get more attractive as you get to know them, as that personality 'shines through' and makes it possible to transform your face into a thing a beauty. You know, I'm a total believer in that statement though, and it's because we feel bad calling our friends ugly. I'm totally kidding, as you get to know people, it's true. They do become more beautiful. We realize their actions behind everything, why they speak the way they do, who their influences are, what they want to pursue, all of these things that a person encompasses make them unique and yes, beautiful.

There is that. Natural beauty that is only more accentuated by that dazzling personality you just might happen to possess. So what do people think when you put time into your looks--you know, a notice-able amount of time. Does a certain stigma get placed upon that? Is someone who is genuinely intelligent coupled with gorgeous-ness ever able to get anywhere in life without people thinking that it all might be attributed to her looks? Probably not. It works exactly the other way, people who are highly intelligent without the advantage of beauty privilege have the downside of being out-shined by someone who may be slightly less intelligent, but has more approachable and appreciated beauty by a greater amount of people; making her more friendly and work-place preferred. These are things that REALLY bother me in our society. It bothers me that attractive people are able to get by on nothing more than physical attributes, even if I am someone entitled to those some advantages. I disdain that women, based on science, will choose a male suited with "desirable" qualities and fore-go faithfulness in order to have those same qualities found in her children. I'm bothered that women [& MEN] are slapped with a thousand images of what we should be and have this attempt to "be original"-but what the hell is that anymore with everyone being interconnected and popping up mobile images of inspiration second by second? Seriously, tell me how you can be "original" anymore, without looking looking like an idiot to the masses? I think that the smarter person ALWAYS has the upper advantage and should be the ones to succeed. Look around-there are so many people in power who are absolutely, abhorrently stupid and you have to ask yourself "What are we basing this all on?" This is where it doesn't just come down to attractiveness, so I will try not to dwell on it.

I also have to point out this one thing, I have to because it's been jutting around in my mind for awhile and it needs to get settled in somewhere. The following exists; women who are taken extremely seriously, who are regarded as doing their job in a spectacular manner, while executing smarts and extreme like-ability, and will sacrifice what they need to for the task at hand. Now, these women, tend to not put all the emphasis on their looks, which is fine, this works for them. Sometimes, the absence of overwhelming beauty can actually propel a woman forward in jobs that may be more likely to employ males because she is more easily seen as one of the guys. Why don't all women have this advantage? Again, beautiful women can also be smart, but most likely, it won't be the set of crutches they choose to lean on, because it's hard to play both cards. You want the hand you play to be most successful in the most amount of situations. A lot of powerful women tend to look more masculine, again, not all of them, in politics & military; in terms of getting the big stuff going, the people that get taken REALLY seriously. A good argument against the woman's masculine-looking approach to success would be Arianna Huffington without a doubt. She, and countless others who are beautiful and smart as a whip and making sure things are getting done. See, you can easily possess both, it's just hard to do well.

Sometimes, I just don't know where to place it all and I get very 'Daria' on myself where I contemplate every possible course of action and how it's perceived even when I don't even care at all how it's perceived because I just want to do whatever I want without consequence because it's my life and not yours. Then it comes down to hating yourself for caring in the first place. Anyone would agree that it's easier to go about your day when you hold a slight confidence in your appearance to the outside world, you can generally get away with a little more because of the standards that society goes by. It's the difference between looking like someone to flirt with and looking at someone like someone who is a potentially good conversationalist. Maybe they are one of the same. If you're pretty, you're probably normal, or at least not too weird because you have an easy 'in' with society. This is what I believe people think. And then when a pretty person does something really weird, people don't know what the hell should be going through their minds. I KNOW THIS. I know this because they are thinking something like, "What is she doing?! She's 'in' and she's totally throwing it away". They almost get mad. Even if they aren't, they definitely are.

Have you ever met an older woman (70-80 years old) and they are bitter? Like, extremely bitter? A good deal of it is probably concerned with her looks. I cannot imagine what this process of losing your physical attributes is like. Part of me never wants to find out. I can imagine that someone that was once cloaked in beauty would want that privilege their whole life because the easy charm that you can lay over people. Once it becomes a fleeting memory, I'm sure that's a hard spoonful to swallow and I'm sure it settles like glass. It's either that or what I tell a lot of people dealing with old bitter people. They've been around a long time, long enough to know what they want. So once they know this, they aren't going to wait for some eighteen year old asshole to take their time doing it or somebody questioning them or jerking them around. They're going to be crotchety about it. If you ask me, that's just alright by me. I completely understand. It's like, we all hate everyone for being all over our backs, yet we are so willing to jump all over someone else's back at any chance we get. Humans suck in this sense.

Caring about vanity is a tough call because of the stipulations that come along with what it means. It means you care about what you look like and you probably want others to care too. Sometimes, admitting this is extremely difficult. For others, it's easy to come to terms with and understand. There is also this assumption that makeup and vanity covers up insecurity. I'm sorry, but tell me how we're supposed to be perceived again? If someone has too much confidence, their covering up insecurity? But if someone uses make up and clothes to enhance looks they are also insecure? Can we strike a balance here, people? It's not usually common to see someone attractive and think "Oh, I wonder how smart they are." Sometimes I see the void when it comes to a highly intelligent person caring excessively about their outward appearance, they will usually dress how they want to dress because they're smart enough to know that's all that matters- or they dress out of pure practicality. Take one of my favourite characters from television; Amy Farrah-Fowler [read more here] from The Big Bang Theory. I love this show and the characters it's comprised of.

Amy Farrah-Fowler

Basically, when it comes down to it, I wish I were like this character in real life. She is SO smart, and carries an intelligence that most normal people don't envy. I do. I've spent my life have normal intelligence, nothing off the charts, so yeah, I'd like to up the ante when it comes to what the old brain can shoot out. So we have that. Then there's the female contrast; cue Penny.

Penny - The Big Bang Theory (2007)
Penny & Sheldon

The neighbor who seamlessly fits in with the pack of brain-and dates one of them.

My favourite aspect is that she is friends with these guys AND becomes "BFF/Besties" with Amy. Unfortunately, I cannot embed any of the videos I found, but [here]. Above all else, 'Daria' is the greatest example of this feeling. I found the wiki page going more into the episode explanation itself. The episode made a good point of the struggle between caring and not caring. Read more about Daria's vanity struggles [here]-I'm so glad that page exits. You can see more of what I'm talking about here; the conversation between choosing to possibly enhance appearance and whether or not it's an acceptable feeling for someone who doesn't usually care...

Keep in mind, this appears backwards. It looks as if they've headed to Europe...heh.

All in all, I have way too much going on in my head about this but I'm glad this got slapped down and somewhat organized. I'm constantly conflicted by what I see and feel that we have so many options and opinions, that it makes it that much harder. Hopefully you were able to pull out something and relate to it. If not, at the least maybe you will start watching 'The Big Bang Theory' or catch up on your back episodes of Daria. Maybe you too hate the standards that we consider attractive or acceptable within society or have the struggle of vanity versus personality...or the advantages of both... I'd love to hear about it.

1 comment:

Brookie Wooks said...

Asset = tessa backwards. 'Nuff said.