Why I think every girl should know she is beautiful. And why I don’t think One Direction is helping.
I don’t usually use the word hate. I find it hateful. However, I really do have a passionate dislike, for One Direction. I’m not a 14 year old girl anymore, but I know they are adorable and swoon worthy. However, I wish young girls had some better lyrics to swoon to.
Their first song “What Makes You Beautiful” sent me into a rage the first time I heard it. I have probably ranted to way too many strangers about how terrible I find the message of these lyrics.
Don’t know what for,
You’re turning heads when you walk through the door,
Don’t need make-up,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough
In the first chorus, it seems like it will be a sweet song, teaching girls that boys will usually love you no matter how grungy you look. I remember swooning the first time I heard “Comfortable.” John Mayer sang “I loved you, grey sweat pants, no makeup.” This was around the time that the I-just-rolled-out-of-bed look became popular. Girls spent hours in the bathroom scrunching hair and applying makeup so that it looked like they had done nothing. Still, it is a positive message to send to girls. Though I didn’t really know how to translate that comfortable look by just being comfortable with myself, I got the message that make-up and high heels didn’t necessarily make you any sexier than you already were. Sexy was who you are, not what you wear. So kudos to 1D for starting off strong.
My beef is with the chorus of the song.
If only you saw what I can see,
You’d understand why I want you so desperately,
Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe,
You don’t know,
You don’t know you’re beautiful
This sounds positive and I am one hundred percent sure that someone meant it to be that way. In reality, it is a subversive message to girls that they should not own their beauty, but instead let it be reflected through the eyes of the men around them. It is true that girls receive a lot of messages about their worth through the men around them as they grow up. So why are these messages always you need men to tell you you are beautiful, your physical worth is men’s decision.
I know that the thousands of girls out there learning the lyrics to these songs and screaming them at concerts are not analyzing these lyrics too deeply. I also know that as a teen I heard similar messages in my songs, movies and tv shows. I knew I was not supposed to think myself attractive, let alone believe I actually was. I was not supposed to think myself beautiful until someone (a man) told me. If I thought myself beautiful no man would love me. Boys loved girls like Joey Potter who were gorgeous but didn’t know it. So I pretended I was beautiful but didn’t know it. Even though I didn’t even have the capacity to think myself beautiful. So in reality I was just messed up, putting on masks over masks over masks.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that I could think I was beautiful. It wasn’t until later that I realized that boys, especially the boys I was interested in, were interested in me when I felt confident. And I felt confident when I felt beautiful. Regardless of whether I actually was or not. Feeling beautiful allowed me to rely on myself, I did not need approval from the boy, I approved of myself. When I wasn’t focused on being some coy version of myself who could play the shy girl, I could be myself. People seemed to like that just fine.
I recently read a blog entitled Unapologetically Narcissistic. Cassandra posits,
Women are almost supposed to hate the way they look. That’s honestly how I feel sometimes.
I agree. I can relate to the body bitching sessions she describes where everyone is complaining about some part of their body. This is perfectly portrayed in the movie Mean Girls. The Plastics (popular clique) are hanging out at one of the girl’s houses. Each girl stands in front of the mirror declaring which part of their body they hate the most. Cady (played by Lindsay Lohan) doesn’t offer a sacrifice quickly enough. The girls all look in her direction and she blurts out “I have bad breath in the morning,” not quite understanding the exercise in self-loathing. It is a wonderful portrayal of how normal we feel this behavior is, yet how completely foreign and abnormal it is as a behavior to those outside of Western culture.
Cassandra concludes her article saying,
I want my readers to know that it’s okay to think you’re damn hot. It’s okay not to belittle yourself to fit in.And guess what, it’s okay to try to stop your friends from hating the way they look.We need to change the conversation on self love and self pride, and guess what, making fun of people who are maybe a little vain isn’t going to help.
I agree. Ladies, we need to own our beauty and do everything we can to help other women own theirs. Starting with our friends, sisters, nieces, nephews and every little girl we come across. Though, physical beauty should not be the only thing a woman is judged on (a conversation for another day), it is ok to own one’s beauty and body with pride. Men may be the mirror through which little girls see their beauty, but women are the voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough. Most girls learn self-hatred through the mouths of the female role models that surround them.
Start small. When someone says they hate their calves, don’t answer back with a “Oh, girl, my thighs are like rolling thunder.” Tell them how beautiful their calves are for holding them up each day. Or be a little less schmaltzy and find another part to compliment. Break the cycle. When you find yourself staring at your thighs, look into your eyes and find your beauty.
Yoga has taught me to be totally in touch with my body so I can try to see every part with love. I see my strengths and my vulnerabilities. I see them all as beautiful. I may not be going out for any model casting calls, but I see my beauty and I own it. I let it shine and I hope that I can encourage others to do the same.