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.
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.
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.