If I had a daughter, against all advice to the contrary, I would tell her she is beautiful. I would also tell her she is clever, important and capable of great love, but I would still insist she is beautiful.
Some feminists believe that claiming the label of beautiful means women are striving to meet some predetermined standard of attractiveness for the male gaze. I disagree. Beauty is a term we apply to many things other than human beings.
There are beautiful songs, beautiful sunsets, beautiful paintings and beautiful words. There isn’t one characteristic that is common to all these things. When we say something is beautiful we are not describing a size, a shape, or colour — we are describing an emotional experience. Beauty is an illusive essence that captures our attention, that stops us in our tracks, that catches our eye. It brings the observer a perfect moment of pleasure in a world filled with chaos and noise.
And beauty isn’t about being the same. In fact, it is the unusual shade of pink in the sky, the unexpected combination of words, and the errant freckles or gap in the teeth that define a beautiful thing. As Karl Lagerfeld said, “There is no beauty without strangeness.”
I reject the notion that we have to renounce our right to celebrate beauty in ourselves or in others, in order to fully realise our equality with men. Wearing pretty clothes, adorning ourselves with jewelry or flowers, and painting our faces are legitimate ways to feel more beautiful. Women have embellished their bodies for thousands of years. We don’t have to stop because someone says we’re playing into a misogynistic game fueled only by sexual desire.
If I had a daughter, I would tell her she is beautiful, because she is worthy of my attention, a bright point of joy and love in a life that is sometimes filled with shadows. She would be as beautiful as the haunting voice of a cello solo, or the impossible turquoise of an island ocean. I would tell her she is beautiful to the only people who matter — those who love her. And I would do my best to make sure she continued to believe it for the rest of her life.
Tell me, what kind of “strangeness” makes you beautiful?
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge.