Life Is Unfair: Isn't It Refreshing To Admit That?

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Illustration for article titled Life Is Unfair: Isn't It Refreshing To Admit That?

I was recently reading my favorite gossip site and saw a post about a gorgeous plus-sized model. You don't have to worship at the altar of size acceptance to acknowledge that this is a beautiful woman. She's a model!

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The model, Tara Lynn, has unfairly beautiful skin, hair, cheekbones, lips, and so on. She looks like the second coming of Brooke Shields in the Calvin Klein days. This model happens to weigh more than some people and most models but that's pretty irrelevant to the fact that she gets paid to look good.

Of course, the comments on the post ranged from reverential to positive to lukewarm and then the inevitable "OMG I would be so unhappy to have a body like hers" or "I'd rather be ugly than fat" and of course, "The only reason people find her attractive is because they're fat like she is."

In some ways I think this sort of hating is a good thing, because all the women in the land, tall, short, thin, fat, ugly and pretty need to just get used to the fact that there are a selection of women out there who get paid for how they look while the rest of us never will. Beauty at every size is a good philosophy but I like to think of it more as "unfairness at every size." The typical model frame doesn't represent most females but aside from the body, the typical model face also doesn't represent most women. Hell, sometimes the typical model face doesn't even represent most models: we've all seen those who tried to smize and failed.

I happen to be thinner than this particular model. But I am also shorter, wrinklier, dimplier and not as striking. Am I going to rail about how it's unfair that the big girls are setting a beauty standard that's "dangerous," one that we shouldn't have to feel pressure to adhere to? (Sound familiar?) No, I'm going to keep trying to make the most of what I've got and continue with my life. I can't beat them or join them but I can just enjoy looking at the pretty pictures and know that while it might be unfair that I'm not so beautiful that I can profit from it, I have a lot of other things going for me. My philosophy is, big or small, it's model's job to be beautiful, and those of us who are not models need to embrace the fact, not cry over it, that we are not held to those same standards. We're not models! We're everything else.

I guess a mean part of me could say, "Well, now it's the skinny girls' turn get to be mad that somebody who has a different body type from them is considered beautiful by the fashion industry," but it would benefit us just to move past it. "Big vs. small," "real vs. fake," a visual read on "healthy vs. unhealthy" is so tedious, ladies. This is why we are so underrepresented when it comes to power in this country, because we waste so much time debating what is really beautiful and really real and really healthy and so on. Do you think men sit around talking about this stuff?

A woman in a magazine whose body resembles or doesn't resemble yours is not going to suddenly make you more beautiful by extension. Don't get me wrong: I think a wider physical variety of women in fashion is great but it's not as if they're going to start picking women off the bus stops and putting us, warts and all, in the pages of the magazines. The women in the magazines will always be something to aspire to, because that's what they're all about. It's not as if suddenly you're going to look at Vogue, see a woman who looks just like you and realize that Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld think you're gorgeous and you finally can feel like your existence is worthwhile and all the good things you deserve for being Officially Beautiful will fall into your lap.

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If we can all just agree that big or small, some women got dealt the good genetic hand and benefit from it and that it's not fair but that's OK, we can free up our brains for so much more useful stuff. Like, where can I find a pair of jeans that make my ass look that good?

This post originally appeared on Zulkey.com. Republished with permission.

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Email the author of this post at clairezulkey@zulkey.com.

DISCUSSION

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But the point is WHY we think they got dealt a "good genetic hand". We only think that because we define it that way, culturally. We say, this is beautiful, this is not. This woman has value, this one does not. The part that's unfair is not that some women are defined as beautiful. It's that our culture values beauty as much as it does...while simultaneously tearing it down on the altar of Public Body Commentary.

The beauty ideal is what limits women because of the structure it creates and perpetuates. Not because individuals are affected by it, or influenced by it, or criticize it. We are not to blame for the former, and absolutely should do the latter. Not because we're trying to shame women who happen to fall into whatever we currently define beauty to be...but because those rigid definitions affect all women. Including those who happen to be considered beautiful. Because while it does afford some privileges, it creates a whole lot of negatives, too. Being a woman, whether you're considered beautiful or not, is difficult and full of assumptions and sexism.

If women weren't valued for how they look, this wouldn't be so important. But we are. And how we look has become public property to judge and comment on whenever and however other people want to. There's an entitlement to women's bodies that is EXTREMELY relevant to all feminist discourse.

This goes back to the idea that dealing with the beauty culture is somehow Not Important. It is. Because it can be traced back to the most fundamental issues we face as women. Which is that our bodies are not our own in this culture. The beauty idealization is one way that manifests, and it's a pervasive, insidious, and destructive one.

And I'm flat out tired of being told how I "should" deal with that or the "real" reasons why it bothers me, which somehow always ends up on the jealousy/resentment train. I don't talk about this because I have some misguided idea that I will one day be considered "beautiful". I seriously don't care about that. I care that women continuously dismiss our beauty culture as irrelevant and anyone who discusses it in depth as "not caring about more important things."

Seeing women of various shapes and sizes, of diverse ethnic backgrounds, all considered "beautiful" helps diversify the ENTIRE concept of beauty. Which further diversifies and breaks down the idea that beauty is our most defining quality, because if all kinds of women are beautiful, then it has way less power.

That's significant. And I absolutely refuse to sit back and act like that doesn't matter. What's "unfair" is other women continuing to trot out these tired tropes. We've been told this before. And I'm sorry that some people don't see why it matters. But I'm sick to death of being scolded about it. Go read some of Susan Orbach's work on it and get back to me.

ETA: Also, the idea that talking about this precludes dealing with any other feminist issue really doesn't make any sense to me. It's not like I go, well, I talked about body issues today...I no longer care about what happened in Darfur, Saudi Arabia, FGM, or the wage gaps. I'm totally done! No. How many times do we have to talk about these issues before we realize they are all interconnected in various ways?