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.
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.
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.
My list of things I have to offer the world besides my appearance:
Feel free to post your own list in the comments.