Dear Daughters: This Isn’t Beauty

Breaking internet news: Kim Kardashian’s naked butt is once again making the rounds on the internet. Like the last scoop of room temperature potato salad at your annual family reunion, we just can’t seem to be able to get rid of her naked derriere once and for all.

potato salad

You didn’t really think I was going to post a picture of her butt, did you?

But(t) I digress… Kim’s butt, and her perpetually pouting face, are only a small contributor to a much larger problem, which is namely, I don’t understand physical beauty. Or at least, not beauty by American standards. Flipping through magazines, I’m hard pressed to find one image of someone being portrayed as “beautiful” without also being overtly sexual.

And herein lies the problem.

Sexuality is beautiful. But beauty doesn’t have to be sexy.

Being the mother of a daughter, this trend to combine beauty and sex is particularly concerning. I want to grant my daughter the freedom to embrace beauty and be a pretty “girly girl” if she so chooses, but I want her to be able to do it without inadvertently linking up with sexy along the way.

And just as teaching abstinence-only isn’t effective birth control, smothering her with the same old chant “beauty is on the inside” just doesn’t seem like it will cut it these days, when every magazine, commercial and billboard is covered with scantily clad, thin, contorted, and confused looking models sporting duck faces.

model

“Oh don’t mind me, I’m just over here, ya know, looking for my contact. And my hair tie. Also my clothes…”

The problem is, I don’t think I can define physical beauty for her in a way that will ever make sense.

Thin is beautiful, but beauty doesn’t have to be thin.

Curvy is beautiful, but beauty doesn’t have to be curvy.

Youth is beautiful, but beauty doesn’t have to be young.

Black and brown and cream and every single shade in between are all beautiful, but color doesn’t define beauty. So what physical attributes do? If we are really serious about being able to tease apart exterior and interior beauty, and define it for our daughters in a way that makes sense, what do we tell them? It’s a very confusing thing, and no wonder the line between sexy and beautiful has become so fuzzy.

I’m hardly the first person to take issue with questioning beauty, and many have created incredible campaigns to redefine beauty (or the word ‘pretty’ in the one I’m specifically referring to here). And while at first the idea seems to go viral, it never quite reaches the tipping point where actual changes are made on a permanent nationwide level.

Strength is beautiful.

Confidence is beautiful.

Intelligence is beautiful.

Being authentic is beautiful.

But for some reason, a picture of someone being strong, confident, intelligent, or authentic haven’t ever “broken the internet.” Photos of every day women, doing every day things, in their own beautiful every day skin, don’t crowd the grocery isles, their faces splashed across the covers of glossy magazines. But rather their highly made-up, pencil-thin and mega-sexy counterparts do, preaching the message that this is what we must look like in order to be beautiful. Sexy is beautiful.

Giant, deep-enough-to-taste-last-nights-dinner gag. Gaaaaaag.

So what do we do? How do we teach our daughters that beauty isn’t synonymous with sexy, or thin, or white, or any other physical descriptors, even though that is what is rammed down our throats? How do we allow them to explore beauty in a way that doesn’t leave them desperately trying to fit into the impossible mold society has created, or, even worse, perched awkwardly in a doorway, bare bottom there for the world to see, desperately trying to prove to everybody that they are worth looking at? How do we teach them that beauty isn’t an indicator of self-worth?

It almost seems removing the word “beautiful” from our vocabulary would be easier than changing what it means, but maybe just being more cognizant of how we use it is the only solution. There are times when beauty is physical. There are times when beauty is internal. Beauty isn’t a bad word. But booty? Well that’s another story.

Image credits: model, potato salad, cover image

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12 comments

  1. This is so so true! With a daughter of my own I also worry about this growing trend of equating beauty with sexy… With the state of the world as it is, I cringe to think what the world might be like when my 1.5 yr old is a teenage..

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    1. I have thought greatly on the subject and I honestly believe that parents should not tell their children that they ate attractive, beautiful, pretty, handsome. If i staed they hear from their earliest days that they are bright, smart, funny, fun to be around, give great hugs, etc. This will become the foundation of what the value. Everyone else will tell them they are pretty or ugly or awkward…. before everyone else has a chance to confuse them you can already have their focus set on their truly valuable personality traits which is the best protection I have seen against the chaos of the surrounding world. As a side note I would refrain from say good boy/girl, instead say what you did was a bad thing to do, always label the action not the person that way they will think about hitting being bad not themselves…

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    2. I know! My daughter just turned 2, and one of my biggest issues for her is finding clothes that don’t try to make her look older than she is. Short shorts? Give her something long enough that she doesn’t burn her butt cheeks on the slide!! Fingers crossed things change in the next 10 or so years…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So far, my approach has been to encourage my girls to look around and see all different types (body types, colors, ages) as beautiful. I am starting at a bit of an advantage because my girls are so different – the older one is tall, statuesque, vanilla-caramel skin, brown ringlets for hair, and the other is short, stocky, peaches-n-cream skin and red hair.

    I try to show them that the fingerprint of God is in everyone; thus, everyone is beautiful. Some people do a better job of making their beauty more obvious by making their character beautiful, but it’s still important to appreciate the beauty in people that are not-obviously beautiful.

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    1. Seems like a great way to handle it! It’s funny how different siblings can look. My older sister has olive skin, and brown CURLY hair, and my brother and I are pale with straight blonde hair. Thanks, as always, for the thoughtful comments!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooooh, chocolate… And yes, EVERYTHING is relative. Even Kim’s naked butt! I mean, it looks better than mine. I’m just tired of seeing it! Growing up my dad always said “don’t shoot the messenger” so at least her presence is allowing for us to have an open discussion about an important topic.

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  3. I now have two daughters. This issue is something we will have to navigate for years. I don’t have any solutions either. But when I engage with my girls, I try to steer clear of “you look so cute!” In favor of engaging with their minds.

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    1. Yeah, I agree. No simple answer, but being thoughtful about what we tell them is always smart. I suppose we should always try to be thoughtful about what we say, but it’s so easy to lapse into automatic mode. Parenting sure does make you think about things!!

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