Chaos in Print

I’m infinitely fascinated by women’s issues. Being a man, that automatically grants me a perspective that makes most issues facing women very alien to me. Problems that seem to have an obvious answer to me aren’t that simple to womankind. And there are times where I figure it’s best not to get involved; obey the Prime Directive. So, for the most part, I’m just an observer on the sidelines, watching the struggles, and I try to help out when my help is asked for.

I was reading the paper a few days ago when I came across a statistic that truly frightened me. Only 1% of Canadian women consider themselves to be beautiful. And, quite frankly, that statistic horrified me. Then I kept reading the article. 54% of Canadian women think they could stand to lose some weight. 25% have considered plastic surgery. The one that really freaked me out was when I read that 4% of Canadian women would give up ¼ of their intelligence if it would make them ¼ more beautiful. 4% of women would rather be beautiful than smart. That’s…that’s not good.

But the one I kept going back to is that only 1% of women consider themselves to be beautiful. That means 99% of women think they’re “not beautiful.” I think that’s really not a reflection on womankind as it is a reflection on society.

What have we as a society been doing? How have we convinced far too many women that they’re not beautiful? I mean, it’s easy to understand how things have gotten this way. When you read the average men’s magazine, such as Maxim, you’re instantly deluged with all kinds of images of impossibly-beautiful women in various states of undress. You see the cover images on Cosmo and YM and it’s not too different. The lingerie is just replaced with designer fashions. Little does the average person realize that these states of beauty are accomplished through hours of make-up, meticulous lighting, clever selection of camera lenses, and a few days of PhotoShop magic. Come on! If every woman had an army of specialists behind them, they’d be beautiful like that too.

That’s really the problem. Thanks to these specialists, the bar has been raised so high on beauty that it’s now impossible to attain. The standard of beauty can no longer be achieved by the average woman. And we as a society have driven our women to the point of insanity by constantly throwing these images in their faces. I mean, we’ve got to stop this.

I don’t know why this statistic hit me so hard. One of my heroes once wrote that there’s no such thing as an ugly woman, and I’ve always believed that. Of course, no one believes that I believe it, but that’s OK. The same hero also said that the landscape can be changed with a single flower. And, since I now write for this silly little paper, I’m a single flower on a soapbox.

There is hope in these statistics. 80% of women believe beauty can be achieved through spirit and attitude. 89% say a woman can be beautiful at any age. 85% say every one has something that’s beautiful. So it’s good to see that centuries of moralizing and “beauty coming from the inside” messages haven’t been completely lost. But still, 99% consider themselves to be “not beautiful.” The way I see it, then, women know they are beautiful. The problem is getting them to believe they are beautiful.

And really, there’s nothing that I, a single person, can say to convince all women that they are beautiful. Nothing I do or say can change your beliefs. The most I can do is resort to a mawkish, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-style cliché. I’d be doing little more than making you watch Beauty and the Beast again. I can spout the sentiments all you want, but you know them already. You must open your heart and believe it.

But then, what do I know? I’m just the man, sitting on the sidelines, watching the struggles. Sitting over here, it’s obvious to me that beauty doesn’t come from the long, bleach-blonde hair, the icy blue eyes courtesy of contact lenses, the anorexic hourglass figure, or the surgically perfected breasts. Beauty comes from the way you smile when you laugh at a joke; the way you roll your eyes when a joke doesn’t work; the heavy sighs when you’re overworked; the twinkle in your eye when you see the person you love.

That’s why it cut me so deep when I read that that only 1% of women think they’re beautiful. When I look at all women out there, all I see is the beauty.

I don’t know what we can do here, people. Obviously, I’m biased in my opinion. All I can suggest is that the ladies burn their Cosmos and the gentlemen shred their Maxims. We can’t keep holding up these impossibly high standards to women. Once we stop forcing these images upon women from the outside, only then can they look inside and see that they truly are beautiful.

OK, maybe just one mawkish, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul-style cliché before I go: “It’s the flaws that give a diamond its value.”

And I’m off my soapbox now. Move along, folks. Nothing more to see.

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