I am not a super model, but some say I’m pretty. I have been called all the words for a woman who meets the generally acceptable societal standards of attractiveness: pretty, beautiful, sexy. I have had male attention. I have dated. I have married.
I know that the way I look has been an advantage for me because women are judged by the way we look. I have probably been offered more help in stores. I have probably made more money in my career. I know I have been judged far less than others. I know there are advantages I cannot see because that is how privilege works. I get that.
But I don’t want to be called pretty. I don’t want anyone to give me compliments based on the way I look. When I was a child, I was always complimented on my appearance … right before I was raped … for money. When I was a child, it appeared that a beautiful person was someone to be bought, rented, owned or controlled. A beautiful person held the same value as a beautiful trinket … a trinket that would be purchased, placed on a mantle and shown to others. “Look at the beautiful thing that I own”. “I have always wanted one of these”. Money talked … and beauty was to be owned.
Some may think that I am too sensitive. Some may think that my past has damaged my perception. Some may think that the men from my childhood have ruined my chances of relating to any man in adulthood. Believe me, I have thought of that. But I have also seen how society treats women. The focus on a woman’s appearance is everywhere. A woman can’t be fat. A woman can’t be old. A woman can’t have wrinkles. A woman can’t have grey hair. A woman can’t have cellulite. A woman has to dress for her assets.
I watch the response to my son and my daughter (who are twins). I see the difference. Although there is still some focus on my son’s looks, there is much more attention on my daughter’s appearance. What do they say about my son? He is strong. He is smart. He is a little entrepreneur. One day, he will be very successful. He will be a speech writer for the President.
But my daughter is so pretty. She is so cute. She is so petite. She has the most beautiful eyes. Her red hair is so unique. She looks like a little princess. She is wearing the cutest outfit. As a society, we start the brainwashing as soon as we can determine if they are a boy or a girl.
So don’t tell me I am pretty. Tell me I am courageous. Tell me I am strong. Tell me I am intelligent. Tell me I am honest or truthful or vulnerable. Tell me I have it together. Tell me I am an amazing parent. Tell me you respect me. But don’t focus on my appearance. I am not here to be something you can look at, purchase or show off to others. I am a person. I have value. And that value doesn’t have a price.