The Beheld

My best friend's bookshelf holds three copies of The Beauty Myth. "Three feminists under 40 in the same apartment?" she said when I asked why. "Please."

There are gender-related issues that are ultimately more important to western women's lives in their ability to devastate. Access to birth control; domestic violence; inequality in the workplace; child care; the mommy track. When you open the doors to the rest of the world, the problems compound: no access to education; acceptance of sexual violence; lack of control over one's reproduction and body.

But no gender-based issue touches more women daily than beauty.

The Beauty Myth taught me why beauty should matter to feminists; it armed me with useful rhetoric and allowed me to make the crucial the-personal-is-political connection that I hadn't gotten with other feminist issues. I was 15 when I first read Naomi Wolf's book: Reproductive-rights concerns seemed light-years away, I had been told by everyone around me that I could do anything (even be President!). Reading stories about how women couldn't get credit cards in their own name--I believed it, of course, but I didn't know it. But reading The Beauty Myth, I began to understand why beauty seemed so incredibly important to me, beyond simply wanting to look pretty. It gave voice to why I shrank under the threat of male appraisal, why I was willing to spend my hard-earned baby-sitting dollars on creams making a rainbow of promises, the panic I felt when I'd see a less-than-flattering photograph of myself. It legitimized the swamp of emotions I felt in regards to beauty every day of my life.

I want this blog to be about beauty--beauty in all its forms, but focusing on the personal beauty of women. Experiences of beauty, perceptions of beauty, theories on beauty. I wish for it to allow for the complexities inherent to the topic, and wish for the voices of people who think about and work with beauty to be heard.

While men's relationship to beauty is similarly complex, I wish to focus on women. We are the ones whose relationship to beauty cannot be ignored. We are the ones who cannot pretend that it does not matter. We are the ones who are categorized, daily, as beautiful, or not-beautiful, or beautiful-in-a-weird-way. We are the beheld.