Ever since I was a child, I was told by acquaintances and strangers alike that all women are beautiful. “Every girl is a princess,” they promised.
That made me very happy. I thought princesses were great – they lived in castles and got to eat lots of cake! They also had one-dimensional personalities and a tendency to be ditzy dependent idiots, but I didn’t see that then.
I was more interested in their glamorous lifestyles than their pretty faces, so it never really occurred to me that being a princess was a privilege reserved for slim white girls with long hair and full lips.
But as I grew older, I began realising that not every girl was as pretty as the next. And so did everyone else. There was the chubby girl in my class who got made fun of for resembling the Michelin man.
Then that lanky ginger was dubbed “braces” and the nickname stuck so well that everyone forgot her real name. I even experienced the taunting first hand during my awkward phase, in which I simultaneously sported a scraggly bob, acne and unflattering glasses.
How was it possible that some remained princesses, whilst others were suddenly confined to the lower rungs of the primary school social ladder? I was confused so I did what any smart little girl would do. I turned to magazines to seek some answers.
Becoming a Princess
Luckily for me they were filled with “helpful” advice for confused tweens like myself. Overflowing with glossy pictures of smiling models, they regurgitated those childhood whispers – “every girl is a princess”. Or she can be, if she buys this tinted moisturizer and that volumising mascara. And if she eats more salad.
They dangled the ideal of being a beautiful princess in front of my face. “Just one more step and you’ll be beautiful!” they cheered me on. I had always wanted to be a princess, albeit more literally – I wanted to live in a cottage in the woods like Snow White, despite my distaste for insects, solitude and darkness.
Even so, the princess label appealed to me and before long I started following the magazines’ advice. I started wearing makeup when I was twelve, which seems normal nowadays but definitely wasn’t in the small town I lived in.
I felt betrayed. Why did I constantly have to worry about my outward appearance? Why was being a princess such hard work if every girl was one?
Makeup and Supermodels
Skip forward a decade and I still harbour similar feelings. Why did everyone lie to me? Why do they keep doing it? And, most importantly, why aren’t we calling their bullshit?
The media gets away with insane flip-flopping. On the one hand, they insist that every woman is beautiful. On the other hand, they keep bombarding us with advice on how to mould our bodies and faces to fit the sculpture of the ideal woman, as prescribed by them.
That makes no sense whatsoever! Either we are all beautiful in our diversity or there is one beauty ideal, which only a very limited number of women can actually adhere to.
The glamazons who grace magazine covers are statistical anomalies, not faithful representations of modern beauty. Of course we can manipulate our looks to an extent – that’s why the giant beauty industry insists on making us believe that we can all become beautiful.
It’s possible, they say. But only if we use their products and devote all our time to transfiguring into pathetic Victoria’s Secret angel caricatures. Yet the truth is that most of us will never resemble supermodels.
When it comes to inner characteristics like intelligence we – and everyone around us – seem to be willing to confess our shortcomings. We all recognise and accept that not everyone can be the next Nikola Tesla. In fact, most of us readily admit to many less desirable traits such as impatience, jealousy or cowardice.
The funny thing is that lying about our character would be much easier than pretending that we can all be beautiful. A passerby can clearly see that you are short and cross-eyed, so telling them that you are a Miss World finalist will be met with ridicule.
But they have no idea that you cannot tell a joke to save your life and might believe you are a stand-up comedian until proven otherwise. So why doesn’t the media prompt us to work on our character instead?
It’s simple – because they cannot capitalise on making us beautiful on the inside. They can only advertise so many workshops and self-help books before people realise that they all amount to the same thing.
Beautifying serums are a whole other story. Maybe putting snake venom on our faces will finally make us beautiful? Maybe that newly reformulated caviar cream with 24k gold flakes will?
The sad truth is that even if we were to invest all of our time and resources into being beautiful, we could not succeed in complying with the ridiculously unattainable beauty standard created by the media. As Cindy Crawford once said: “Even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford in the morning.”
In other words, even the women whose physical form we are told to aspire to have to be made up and Photoshopped almost beyond recognition to look like “princesses”. No one can embody the current beauty trend without hard work, assistance and digital alterations.
That’s exactly the point. If the ideal were attainable, women would not be willing to throw away ridiculous amounts of money in vain attempts to get a tiny step closer to achieving a goal they can never reach.
Calling Their Bluff
Stunning physical beauty, just like incredibly high intellect, is a privilege given to a chosen few. The sooner we stop pretending that everyone can be physically flawless, the better.
There are so many amazing qualities for women to aspire to – independence, wisdom or courage to name a few – that shining a spotlight on physical beauty alone is awfully limiting.
It’s just not true that “every girl is a princess” – not in the superficial physical sense, anyway. As unfair as it seems, some women will always be more Ursula than Ariel. Internal beauty is another matter altogether, because not even a heart of gold can save your face from being deeply asymmetrical.
The sooner we realise that the universality of female beauty is just a convenient lie repeated to us by profit-making businesses and well-meaning aunties, the sooner we will get rid of our feelings of inadequacy and finally make space for the things that really matter in life.
Instead of concentrating on their appearance, maybe we should tell little girls something else – like “every girl is worthy of love and respect, regardless of what she looks like”.
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know – as always I’d love to hear your opinions and have an open discussion in the comments below!