What Is Really Beautiful

Moms, we know this, but we really need to get it through our heads: The standard of beauty we struggle to achieve is FAKE, accomplished with bottles, duct tape and serious air-brushing. There is true beauty worth the acquisition, and Catie Gosselin reminds us what it looks like.
Catie Gosselin

A whole lot of stuff
Last week, while picking up the demolition zone that is my house, I happened to hear a radio ad that struck me as probably the most ridiculous thing ever made. The announcer, backed by appropriately exciting music, proudly declared an "evening of the greatest beauty on the planet." No, he wasn't introducing a performance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or an art exhibit. This was a commercial for Miss Universe.

Now, despite claims that such pageants are not demeaning to women and celebrate more than a woman's looks, I have to offer a hearty, and intensely sarcastic laugh. These women, touted as the most beautiful on the planet, don't even look the way they appear in the pageant. It takes several cans of hair spray, hours in a tanning salon, bottles of foundation, and some serious practice walking in heels to look that way. I won't even address the dieting issue! These women don't roll out of bed every morning looking like a human version of Barbie; no one looks this way. It takes a whole lot of "stuff" to become an air-brushed version of a woman.

Distorted body image
If beauty pageants truly were about the whole person, little girls would not have their hair dyed blonde, teenage girls wouldn't starve themselves to fit into bathing suits designed for the physique of prepubescent boys, and women over 30 would not consider themselves over the hill. If you aren't sure this is the mindset of beauty pageants, look at photos of Jon Bennett Ramsey. You will see a child, although beautiful already, painted, primped and accessorized to look like a 6 year old pinup. All so she could win a couple trophies.

Most beautiful
So, if pageants really celebrate a distorted body image, and present women as a nothing more than a decorative object, what is beautiful?

  • The gnarled hands of your grandmother... they have the beauty of experience
  • A toothless smile from a child... it has the beauty of innocence
  • The exhausted eyes of a woman who just birthed... she has the beauty of strength
  • The lines marking your mother's face... they have the beauty of wisdom
  • The dirty, chipped fingernails of a gardener... they have the beauty of contact with Nature
  • The hearty belly-laugh of my sister... she has the beauty of humor
  • Tears running down the face of a woman realizing her relationship is over... they have the beauty of honesty It may not be possible to strut it down the catwalk, but the real beauty of the planet surrounds us already. The trick is getting past the hype of what we are supposed to be and accepting what we really are.

    Recommended book
    Buy it online! The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
    by Sarah Banet-Weiser
    Univ California Press
    ISBN: 0520217918

    Sarah Banet-Weiser complicates the standard feminist take on beauty pageants in this intriguing look at a hotly contested but enduringly popular American ritual. She focuses on the Miss America pageant in particular, considering its claim to be an accurate representation of the diversity of contemporary American women. Exploring the cultural constructions and legitimations that go on during the long process of the pageant, Banet-Weiser depicts the beauty pageant stage as a place where concerns about national identity, cultural hopes and desires, and anxieties about race and gender are crystallized and condensed. The beauty pageant, she convincingly demonstrates, is a profoundly political arena deserving of serious study.PregnancyAndBaby.com

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