Sunday, May 29, 2011

Change the Framework Not the Definition

Kim Kardashian -- no known talents or achievements other than being attractive

I'm going to get a little on my high horse here and try to ride to the rescue of modern women by talking real sense to people who haven't really been talking much of it lately. Recently in a facebook group I was invited to by my lovely friend Brittany there was yet another discussion about trying to change the definition of beauty/pretty to include everyone so no little girl would ever have to feel bad about not being pretty. This is a conversation I've seen and heard a dozen times over and I never like or agree with it. Changing the definition of the word pretty or beautiful to include everyone doesn't fix the problem, it just makes the words effectively meaningless. The definition of pretty or beautiful to mean physically attractive to a large portion of the population isn't what causes self-image problems for young women. What causes problems for young women is the entire framework of the conversation that says the only value women have is their physical attractiveness and sexuality. We need to change what we value in women rather than try to redefine words to say everyone is equally pretty.

Gertrude Stein: Brilliant Author and Women's Rights Advocate

This is one of those age old double standards where we don't treat little boys the same way we treat little girls. Growing up, little girls are taught that the primary goal should be to look pretty. Little boys are given no such goals. They're encouraged to be tough, smart, athletic, talented, creative, etc. and if "handsome" even shows up on the list, it's usually as something they've done inherently without effort. Telling little girls, "You're pretty no matter what" doesn't actually fix the problem, it just gives them hollow credit for something that may or may not be true and perpetuates the flawed thinking of women only being valuable based on their looks.

Golda Meir -- Israel's 4th Prime Minister 1969-1974 (we still haven't even had a female win a major party's nomination for president in America)

I'm coming from this issue from the standpoint of someone who is pretty. My girlfriend, who agrees wholeheartedly with my position on this, is someone coming to the issue as someone who is drop-dead gorgeous. This, more than anything else, has damaged our credibility with other women in speaking to the changing of the framework rather than changing the definition of pretty, which I think is really a shame. Pretty is not what I want to be known for because I know my looks are going to fade someday and I honestly had little to do with their existence; my looks are almost entirely owed to my parents and are something I can accentuate, but in no way created myself, so why should I take credit in their existence? What I really want to be known for is my writing, which is why I have refused to use my looks in any way to promote my books. I could do the disgusting Danica Patrick thing and try to hide holes in my talent by showing off my looks, but being pretty doesn't make my writing any better. My aforementioned gorgeous girlfriend is an amazing athlete who could use her looks to further her exposure, but doesn't because being beautiful has nothing to do with playing volleyball. You're never going to see a sexy picture of me in my books, on my blog, or posted in Twitter because I want people to like my writing for my writing. I have this option, but I refuse to take part in the framework set up for women in which our value is dependent on our looks. My value as a writer is far more important to me than being pretty.

Dr. Mary Walker -- Medical Doctor and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Civil War (more than half a century before we received the right to vote)

This is the framework men have set up for us. Intelligence, leadership, creativity, talent, capacity for compassion, maternal-ism, athleticism, and toughness are all either undervalued in women or not valued at all. Anna Kournikova was a lousy tennis player who really never won anything, yet she was routinely in the top 20 ranking simply because she looked good while sucking at tennis (how do you get to 8th in the world without ever winning a World Tennis Association event?). Sarah Palin is functionally retarded, can barely string together a twitter post, quit her only real political job halfway through, and didn't even read the two books ghost written for her, yet she's popular simply because she is attractive enough to get middle America off their tractors and inside to watch her squawk on Fox News. Telling all little girls they are pretty doesn't make things any better, it just makes the word pretty meaningless.

Tennis isn't modeling--Martina was one of the world's best but guess who has more google searches?

There is an easy answer for this: take looks off the list of important traits for women to have. Teach little girls to focus on their talents, intelligence, emotional capacity, and other far more important qualities before they even consider their looks, which, as I've already stated, are more genetically controlled than anything else. Find your list of things you're proud of, qualities you think make you valuable to the world, and take looks completely out of the equation. We as women have so much more to offer the world than appearance, but people aren't going to take us seriously if we're spending our time trying to redefine the word pretty to include everyone rather than demanding we be respected for our intelligence, talent, creativity, and athleticism. If you're not pretty, who cares? You have more valuable attributes than your looks anyway and you should earn your respect through those.

Klavdia Kalugina -- Russian sniper during World War II with more than 100 confirmed kills

My list of things I have to offer the world besides my appearance:
1. Creativity
2. Intelligence
3. Leadership
4. Compassion
5. Determination

Feel free to post your own list in the comments.


BMF said...

So very well said, Cassandra. This really helps me realize my own daily outlook and my flaws in it. I cant tellyou how many times the first thing I said about an attractive woman was that she was attractive. I always had a feeling, after I said it, that something wasn't right with my words, but I couldn't ever put a finger on it, because I didn't feel it was an insult at all. I just loved this.

1. Intellect
2. Honesty
3. Open mindedness
4. Respectful(considerate)
5. Depth

Cassandra Duffy said...

I like the fifth one on your list, and is very true of you!

Brittany Paige said...

I really loved this! It was a great perspective. Something else that I noticed was due to outer appearence being so important people have to be ashamed or hide their own beauty. It's kind of sad that you have to be self conscience about what picture you use or don't use based upon how people will view your writing.

Anonymous said...

total nonsense about Kournikova. you can criticise the media stuff about her based on looks & i'd agree with u, but u can't argue with her "ranking", those are based on performances, not looks. no rankings points offered for looks. she won 2 grand slam eventss in doubles.

Cassandra Duffy said...

The highest points are given to main draw players accepted into Grand Slams and ATP 1000s. These points are given regardless of performance or whether or not the player even plays in the tournament. Most of Kournikova's points for ranking were main draw points given on grand slams she was eliminated very early, didn't play anything but doubles, or didn't play at all. This "main draw" status was based entirely on her looks as her performance record was never any good. I could also list dozens of players with horrible singles records who won grand slam doubles titles. There's a reason nobody counts those toward career grand slam totals.

Her ranking was based on a "main draw" tag she earned through her looks and thus her ranking was artificially inflated by a points she never earned. Learn about the ATP ranking rules: