For International Women’s Day, I asked some of my favorite young women—the lovely and amazing grrrls of “Act Like a Grrrl“—a few questions about beauty.
I’ve admired Vali Forrister‘s creative writing and performance camp for teen girls for many years. Forrester and her “grrrls”—the three Rs evoking feminism’s third wave and a growl of feminine power—always manage to create something miraculous, and even kind of sacred: a safe space for young women to share their darkest and most brilliant truths; astonishing and powerful spoken-word performances; and a hundred moments of perfection, laced together into a high-energy month of supportive, creative grrrl-ness.
I always leave the grrrl-space tearfully euphoric, carrying some morsel of searing grrrl wisdom into the world with me…and I’m always grateful. In honor of Our Day, four of the ALAG grrrls have agreed to share a little of that wisdom—a few thoughts on what feminine beauty is in the world, and what it is for them.
Does beauty (the shallower, more physical kind) matter?
Outer beauty doesn’t matter at all. It’s great if you possess it, good for you. But by no means should it be used as a judgement of worth, or skill. -P.
Everyone has their own definition of beauty. We shouldn’t judge others on their physical features, because it is not your physical features that make you who you are. -A.
Physical beauty only matters when we set our own standards for it. Society has its own beauty standards, and those don’t matter in the least. Physical beauty shouldn’t constantly be at the forefront of our minds, but I do think that everyone should believe that they are beautiful. -K.
I do think that physical beauty matters, but it in a way that makes the grrrl feel beautiful, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Physical beauty should not be in the eyes of society, but rather in the heart & mind of the being. -C.
“It is not your physical features that make you who you are.” -A.
When you think about physical beauty, how do you feel?
I feel like there’s too much pressure in our society to be pretty—and not just any form of attractive, mind you, but a very specific definition of beautiful, one’s that’s near impossible to achieve. -P.
Thinking about physical beauty makes me feel stressed. I think of all the pressures on women to conform. It’s sad that we aren’t really “allowed” to free up our bodies, and do with them only what makes us happy. -K.
Is there a difference between finding someone attractive and finding someone physically beautiful? -C.
I am sorrowful, because there are days that I don’t feel like I fit society’s definition of “beautiful.” But then I realize that being beautiful shouldn’t be defined by my weight, my style, my hair, my legs, etc. I am more than numbers. -A.
“There’s too much pressure to be…a very specific definition of beautiful, one’s that’s near impossible to achieve.” -P.
Do you think our society’s ideas about female beauty are harmful, silly, frustrating, or just stupid?
Stupid, because there are so many double standards. For example, we are expected to fulfill sexual desire, which is judged by large breasts and/or butts. But we’re also supposed to look innocent and virgin-esque. We are to have a natural look to us, but we are also judged if we have any imperfections. -A.
I feel that society’s ideas about beauty are damaging to individual self-worth, and rather self-indulgent. -P.
I think they are harmful, frustrating, and stupid. I don’t know if any society requires the amount of body adjustments that ours does. Women shouldn’t feel like they have to harm their bodies or their health just to look like someone on television or in magazines. -K.
I think that society’s view of beauty is totally frustrating, because the media hypersexualizes women and gives a very wrong idea of how they need to look in order to be beautiful. Women aren’t just walking boobs and butts. -C.
“Women shouldn’t feel like they have to harm their bodies or their health just to look like someone on television or in magazines.” -K.
How do you deal with the “problem” of female beauty, self-worth, and constant judgement? Ignore it? Laugh? Smile and keep doing your thing?
I attempt to do my own thing, but sometimes being constantly surrounded by society’s messages towards females can get at you. As a someone in this generation, you have to constantly remind yourself that it is impossible for everyone to have Beyonce’s legs and it is ludicrous for that to be an expectation. -A.
The way I deal with the problem of women’s beauty and self-worth is by making sure that I feel beautiful in my own skin, and trying to help make my friends feel beautiful in theirs. Telling a friend that she looks beautiful every day really does wonders. -C.
I usually just do my own thing. If I feel like wearing makeup & mascara and earrings, I do, and they make me feel great. When I don’t feel like wearing those things or taking extra time with my looks, then I don’t, and I still feel amazing and beautiful. The most important thing to me is for women to know that they are already beautiful in every way. Once they know this, wearing makeup or high heels isn’t something that’s mandatory, it’s just something that they do if/ when they feel like doing it. -K.
I try to not care about society’s standards of beauty, but that’s hard to do when I’m constantly being judged based on how I look. -P.
“Telling a friend that she looks beautiful every day really does wonders.” -C.
Related post: Act Like a Grrrl: Ideas That Grow