why aren’t we allowed to think we’re pretty?

This is adapted from my recent piece on Daily Life. I wrote it with this blog in mind, too. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. 

When was the last time you heard a girl or a woman say, “I’m pretty”?

The other day, a woman commented on this blog that she thought she was pretty. The comment made sense in the context, but the confession was so unusual that I felt the need to respond: “Good for you!”

Several minutes later, she wrote back, explaining that even though she was pretty, there were plenty of things wrong with her. And also, just to clarify, she was just pretty. Not, like, strikingly beautiful or anything. God, no. Of course not. And then she apologized for potentially sounding vain.

I started laughing, because she was so repentant that it was funny. But there was something strange and sad about the whole thing, too, and it made me think about how difficult it is for women to admit to being good-looking. I write a lot about the complicated flipside of this issue – body insecurity.

It feels like a plague sometimes. How many of us go through life feeling unattractive, or never quite attractive enough. It’s not clear how we get like this. There’s some pervasive, seeping poison, though, and while it usually enters our systems at a very young age, the symptoms can last a lifetime.

Interestingly, I, and other women who write about beauty, have been accused of being vain just for thinking about body image.

Women are sometimes dismissed as vain or superficial for being concerned about their appearances, even in a world that seems unable to stop thinking about feminine beauty for the short span of a city block or a TV commercial.

(source)

And yet, to feel good about the way we look is perhaps a greater sin. Or at least, if we do for some reason feel lovely and unconcerned with our bodies and our faces, we should probably keep quiet about it. Maybe there’s nothing to say. But maybe we render ourselves strangely vulnerable by saying something.

 

It is easy to be self-critical. It can be funny, social, normal. Sometimes girls and women bond with each other through litanies of self-effacement.

At camp when I was sixteen, I sat in a mosquito-infested cabin with another girl and we laughingly listed every single one of our physical flaws.

“My thighs are too fat!”

“My nipples are a weird color!”

“Oh yeah? Well, my fingers are stubby.”

It went on and on, almost competitively, without hesitation. We barely needed to think before calling out our imperfections.

What were our favourite features? What did we like about our bodies? We never asked each other. I still remember that she thought her breasts were too big, even though I was jealous of them.

I wonder sometimes who is allowed to be beautiful. Is anyone?

Female celebrities reassure us that, really, they don’t think they’re as hot as other people think they are. They, too, can reel off their physical flaws for a reporter. “I think I’ve got really weird features. I have very large features on a very small head,” Anne Hathaway informed InStyle magazine, “…It’s my face. I’m not very pretty.” And she isn’t the only stunningly gorgeous star to make a statement like this. They’re actually common.

(wait…I’m confused…also, I love her hair so much. source)

The beautiful women we watch in movies seem to be reassuring us that they are, like us, unhappy with the way they look. Maybe this establishes them as delightfully “normal.” Or, at the very least, we appreciate their humility. As though it would be conceited for these women who are praised by the world for their beauty to actually believe that they are beautiful.

Meanwhile, it makes sense for normal women to feel even worse about their appearances. If Anne Hathaway feels unattractive, I must be a slobbering, hunchbacked ogre! Shit. Shit. Wow. There is no hope.

We learn that when a “normal-looking” woman oversteps her bounds and acts in the ways that people expect a beautiful woman to act, she is subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism. Look at the vitriol aimed exclusively at Lena Dunham’s body. When her character in the HBO hit Girls, Hannah Horvath, seduces and impresses an older, good-looking man in the pointedly titled episode “One Man’s Trash”, the critics were stunned. “But she’s not hot enough!” They cried, some going so far as to imagine that the whole episode must be some sort of dream sequence – the dream of a plain woman who wishes she were beautiful. The idea that Hannah, or Lena for that matter, might imagine herself attractive offends many people’s sensibilities.

And I cringe, reading the commentary – I feel myself retreating. How dangerous it seems, to believe that we are beautiful, to even imply it. How exposed.

(for some reason, I just thought of Little Red Riding Hood, in her bright red cloak, in the dangerous woods. source)

I catch myself feeling afraid to say something positive about my appearance, even when I feel it. I’m almost inviting people to comment negatively, and honestly, I’m not confident enough about the way I look to do that.

I don’t want to hear them tell me I’m wrong, I’m ugly. Why? Because beauty feels important, even when I’d like it not to, even when there are a million other, bigger, more pressing things in my life, beauty feels sensitive, because we know, let’s be honest, we know it matters.

But I want to speak up. This culture of shame and forced modesty is as much a problem as our culture of body insecurity and beauty obsession.

We are getting caught in a sticky trap of mixed messages: we are supposed to be modest, even as we’re supposed to be confident. But it shouldn’t have to be immodest or arrogant just to acknowledge when we’re good at something. Or when we look good. That should just be realism.

We can’t all look bad all the time. Sometimes we are pretty. Sometimes we are smokin’ hot. Sometimes we are attractive, even if we don’t look like the movie stars and models who still can’t admit to their own beauty. Sometimes we look like movie stars and models, just because we happen to have been born with those genes.

I wasn’t born with those genes. Instead, I got a hearty dose of nerdy Jewish heredity and some inherent schlumpiness. But sometimes, I catch myself looking awesome. Sometimes, I notice that I am beautiful anyway.

And I’m going to go out on a limb and admit it. If you want to, too, I’d be happy to hear it. Good for you!!

*   *   *

How do you feel about acknowledging it when you look good?

Update: Jezebel wrote a response to this piece, which I’ve only barely had time to glance at because I have to go out right this second, and I am a little intimidated by it because I feel like they always own the final word on things. But here it is, in case you’re interested. 

Unroast: Today I love the way I look naked. Especially in candlelight, but even sometimes in harsh light.

Thank you to the pretty woman in the comments, who helped inspire this post

75 Comments »

Kate on February 19th 2013 in beauty, fear

75 Responses to “why aren’t we allowed to think we’re pretty?”

  1. Lily responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Not totally on topic, but well.. even celbs don’t look like celebs on regular days in their life. Most of the time we only get to see them looking their very best, but they don’t always look that way.So, when they look in a mirror in the morning, they are insecure sometimes too. They’re only human too. They hae flaws, but also makeup skills qnd photoshpp to hide it from the rest of the world. It’s abig scheme to make us feel inferior, to make hollywood a different world, with superior women (and men). See: http://celebritycloseup.tumblr.com/ Nobody’s perfect. Perfection is an illusion and if we let go, we can always feel pretty. Yes, I am pretty. Beautiful even. I turn heads so often. With all my flaws: my bigass nose+bump, my small uneven boobs, my annoying skin. I rock a dress with high heels, because I feel confident. Confidence is key. Of coirse this is only some days. Other days I wake up comparing myself to goddesses and pointing at my flaws. These days I’m ugly. People don’t notice me, because I am a nobody. It’s funny how the mind works. Believe you are beautiful and you will be the kind of beautiful everyone can see!

  2. Lily responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 9:36 am #

    Sorry for the typos. In a hurry on the phone ;)

  3. Iris responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 9:54 am #

    I didn’t know people had those reactions to that episode of Girls. That makes me sad. I found it really relatable – I’ve (sadly) never seduced an older, wealthy stranger, but I have had the breakdown Hannah has. “I want to be happy. I want all the things. And I didn’t think I did…”

    Slightly off topic, there. I’ve been thinking about this weird relationship we’re supposed to have with beauty too. If you complain about your appearance outside the acceptable space of body-bashing-bonding, you’re fishing for compliments. If you admit to thinking you’re pretty, you’re conceited or delusional or whatever. A fun (read: depressing) game to play is to give female friends sincere compliments and watch their reactions. I think all my friends are beautiful and I like to tell them so – but invariably, the response will be some kind of sweep-it-aside thing, either expressing disbelief or outright disagreeing.

    Bleh. I’ll join you: I sometimes think I’m pretty. I’ll see a photo of myself or a glimpse in the mirror and be really happy with what I see, or get a compliment (recently, from a friend, “on a scale of 1 to 10 you’re an 11.”) and believe it. Holding on to that feeling should not be dangerous and taboo.

  4. Jana Miller responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, I look beautiful today but it’s more about the love in my eyes and coming from my heart. I never think my body looks beautiful, but I look back at pictures from my 20 and 30′s and think I looked pretty good. I never knew it then so I’m hopeful that I look good know and just don’t know it.

  5. Sheryl responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:14 am #

    @Lily I completely agree that we only tend to see celebrities’ best sides and there’s layers upon layers of makeup and photoshop there to make them look even more beautiful than they already are. The public face of a famous woman isn’t the same as the private face. At the same time though, features don’t change. Yes makeup can smooth and hide so-called imperfections and tricks with a computer can change some proportions, but Anne Hathaway stripped bare of the makeup still has the same proportions and bone structure and features and animation to her movements and to pretend those aren’t gorgeous is kind of silly. She’s completely entitled to her own insecurities but still, what does that say about the rest of us? Who is pretty, then?

  6. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:16 am #

    @Sheryl and Lily
    Just to jump in on this convo, I think most famous women ARE in fact unusually pretty, which is part of why they become famous. No, they aren’t actually photoshop perfect alone in their homes, but most of them probably don’t look like me, either! And when I saw Anne Hathaway in the grocery store without makeup, my first thought, before I recognized her was “Holy shit that woman is STUNNING”

  7. Kathryn responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:19 am #

    For Lent this year I gave up fear. So I now have 4 different bikini parts on their way through the mail to me to see what I can wear at the beach in two weeks.

    I have never worn a bikini. Ever. Even when I was 16 and had all the best features of a woman’s body with all the awesomeness of youth. Because I thought I was fat. So here I am at 34, and I have figured out that waiting doesn’t really help me get closer to beauty norms — it’s kind of all downhill from that 16-year old body. So while I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been, I also know that no matter how svelte (this body doesn’t get skinny) or fat or buff I am, fears about my body not being good enough follow me around persistently.

    I don’t expect that I’ll really think I’m beautiful, but I’m going to try to “act as if” and see where that gets me.

    I do find I think/feel I’m beautiful more often when I am working out regularly.

  8. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:21 am #

    @Kathryn
    The opening of this comment made me smile a lot

  9. scarlet responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I have my insecurities, but I do think I am, well, beautiful. It’s just not something I would want to admit publicly or anything. The response would be that I was vain or thinking too highly of myself because there is something extremely unappealing about a woman who thinks she is beautiful. But what are the alternatives? I could think myself ugly, plain, cute, or pretty. However, it is clear that I am not ugly in most people’s view and to pretend that I am would reek of false modesty. The same with plain. Statuesque women with long black hair, blue eyes, and fair skin aren’t regarded as plain. And I can’t be cute at 5’10.” People never tell me I am cute (or average or plain or ugly.) People do comment on my looks though. It sounds vulgar to recount the words they use, but I get told I am the following: sexy, beautiful, pretty, gorgeous, striking, looker, attractive. The word very is sometimes appended. I know some of this is flattery. I know some of this is social nicety. I know some of this is guys who think such words will win me over. I know too that maybe these words have been devalued if they can be applied to me so liberally. But they are what I am told. They are what I am asked to respond to socially. I have been hearing some of these words all my life and some since I grew breasts, in other words, for a very long time. And it is pernicious to tell women they are beautiful and to expect them to believe they are plain, to expect women to assume they are being lied to when they are called beautiful. I don’t know how common my experiences are. But I think what is unusual is that, at some point, I decided to agree with those who labeled me beautiful. I decided to look at myself without focusing on potential flaws, to see what they either see or pretend to see. That made me vain. So be it.

  10. Terri responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:39 am #

    The part about celebrities and Anne Hathaway reminds of Myspace days during high school years. There was always that one girl who everyone knew was gorgeous and would post a picture of herself on Myspace with a caption like, “Ugh I’m so ugly in this picture,” or “Omg, my thighs look huge in this photo.” Then there would also be that stream of comments from friends saying, “You look great in this photo” or “You are gorgeous.” Of course, all she got was an eye roll and a skip from me.

    It always made me wonder if they really do think they are ugly or were they just fishing for compliments. Otherwise, why would you put a photo that you hate on Myspace for the world to see.

    So sometimes I wonder if celebrities are just fishing for compliments, trying to be humble, or if they really are insecure.

    Like you say, there is nothing wrong with feeling amazing and looking pretty. Admit it. I think some people admire the confidence. If only the popular gorgeous, Myspace girls recognized that.

  11. Elisha_Q responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:45 am #

    So true. The reaction to saying you like something about yourself, is as if you are saying that you dislike someone elses’ features or you are bragging. It’s like we should always have low selfesteem and it’s horrible. What if I like what I have. Is it going to be so bad for us all to stop saying such negative, sometimes even hurtful things for ourselves with the secret hope that someone says it’s not true. I think it has something to do with “beautyful” automatically excluding “smart” in most peoples minds, too. Most women are beautiful and smart, I am beautiful and smart and I do not apologize for thinking it. I may not be so beautyful and smart in other peoples eyes but it’s not going to stop me from thinking that I am.
    We should stop being apologetic for thinking that we look good. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
    Since I’ve stopped beating myself for my flaws I feel better (read: I’ll fake it ’till I make it. :)

  12. Teegan responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Here i go with my mom perspective again…
    I’ve been holding Thomas by the mirror lately. He gets a kick out of seeing himself, but he just as often looks at me. Every time i walk in the room, he grins. Every time i take him from someone else’s arms, he lights up. It’s like when you’re first dating someone who’s completely enamored of you with the added benefit that this baby has no past, no exes, no dark secrets. He thinks i’m the prettiest girl EVER. Just like hubby does. Having both of them to communicate, in their own ways, doesn’t so much convince me i’m pretty as allow me to believe it when I think i’m pretty, you know?

  13. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:07 am #

    @Teegan
    Love this.
    I was lying in bed last night, being sick and lame as usual, and it suddenly occurred to me that this baby inside me is going to think I’m the greatest thing ever. And it was the weirdest, coolest thought. I can’t even understand that. But it’s true.

  14. Rachel responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:25 am #

    I’ve been getting more attention from boys in the past couple of weeks, and I couldn’t figure out why. . .I feel kind of pale and pudgy from the long winter and I need a haircut badly. Then the other day I was talking to my Mom about some big life changes that have been happening (I got laid off from my job, which is stressful even though I’ve been wanting to leave for a long time), and she said “Your eyes are brighter than they were last year, so I’m not worried”. And now I know why boys think I’m pretty right now. . .and I keep looking at my eyes in the mirror, and I do too. It’s nice to be reminded that beauty often has more to do with how you feel than how you look.

  15. katilda responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Isn’t that ironic, how easy it is to name our flaws but not our favorites? I was a camp counselor for 3 summers and I did this activity where I made the girls introduce themselves by saying their name and one thing they loved about themselves. Just one thing, but so many of them struggled to say it. I even once had a girl come to me crying later and say she couldn’t even THINK of one thing to say. It made for a really good exercise in seeking those things out and learning to recognize them. Most often, the girls could more easily name things by the end of the week :)

  16. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:52 am #

    @katilda
    So glad you did this!!

  17. Ashley responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    It’s funny how women try to encourage other women to feel good about themselves but as soon as they do, they are considered conceited.

    I like to think of myself as attractive, but whenever I imply or express that online, I am always immediately attacked. Both men and women just hate it when a woman is aware of her attractiveness. It’s so weird.

    I usually just say, “Hey, I had no plans of waking up this sexy, but I guess shit happens.”

    By the way, Kate, did you get my email about writing?

  18. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    @scarlet
    Good for you!!! :-)

  19. Melanie responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    There are days when I feel pretty, and I try to announce it loudly and proudly. But those days are few and far between. I wish more women would just wake up and yell, “Today I feel pretty awesome looking!” There is shame in feeling pretty, and I think that’s sad, since I wish more women had “pretty” days.

    I love Anne’s hair too. I made a decision last week to stop with the, “my face is too fat to have short hair” and just chop it all off. I have an appointment March 2nd and my hair stylist is just as excited as I am to do something drastic. It’s time. I still haven’t decided pixie or really short bob. But I think pixie because the bob is my safe ‘do. I’ll email you a pic when I get it done.

  20. rowdygirl responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    I think for the most part, we’re trained to think we’re not good enough, no matter what. Most of us aren’t celebrities, and someone decided they’re the perfect ones, so where does that the leave the rest of us?
    I just keep thinking “who decided, and who gets to keep deciding, what is beautifuL? Or pretty? Or even ugly? “

  21. Val responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    When I was a kid, we obviously were nice looking kids and pretty teenagers, but there was also the message–don’t get too carried away with yourself–the whole beauty is only skin deep thing, you know?

    When my (it’s true they are) quite attractive children went to high school I told them straight up that same thing: Do not ever get the idea that because you are tall and handsome (or petite and adorable) that this is because you’re such a great, special person you deserve it.

    It is simply because you were lucky in the gene pool. Do not look down on other kids who have not had a break in that. And other people are good at many things.

    I told them about a kid I knew in 6th grade who was a terrible student, but an award winning speed skater. People are always more than they seem on the surface.

    I think they understood because they seemed to treat others with a lot of respect and still do.

    You are so right though, what a weird topic this is. I know for 50, I look fine. In pictures, I usually look better than I actually feel like.

    It’s kind of freeing though to know that I’m sort of past all that. (No matter how thin I ever might get, all I’d ever achieve is being a scrawny middle aged woman.) At this point, all I have to be is presentable, lol.

    This is actually one of the best parts of being fifty.

    love, Val

  22. Anne responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    It always seems funny to me how I can go for months without one compliment from a stranger, and then in the course of a couple of days get several comments in several different places. Most are extremely cheesy, such as the guy in the grocery store who asked me how many times a day someone tells me I’m beautiful, or the guy in the elevator who felt the need to tell me how captivating my eyes are. Even the cheesy compliments always seem to put me in a good mood, and I think they are probably good for my self-image, which is something that I don’t even think about very often (I don’t even own a full length mirror). But even though I usually appreciate being told how pretty I am, I never know how to respond. If they just say I look nice, I can say thank you, but when they say something and seem to be expecting more of a response, I never know what to say. It has gotten easier since getting married- if someone asks, “has anyone ever told you…?” I can just say, “Yes, my husband tells me all the time” and it doesn’t sound too conceited, because he is supposed to (even though he has never really commented on my appearance beyond calling me cute).

  23. Amanda responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Dearest Kate,

    I thank the baby pretend-Jesus that I happened to stumble across your blog on Daily Life last month!

    I am getting married this Saturday, and it has been fraught with self esteem issues for myself. My mother and I have a difficult relationship, and in spite of this she insisted on making my wedding dress. She is an excellent dress maker, I thought it would be a point of healing between us, so I said yes.

    WRONG!

    It has absolutely broken my spirit. I have been feeling ghastly overweight, a giant beast to end all beasts…my Mum has been very mean. There have been constant comments about my weight, and this week she suggested that I starve myself between now and the wedding. So terrible. It’s not her fault. Her Mum was mean to her, so she’s only behaving how she’s been taught to behave.

    But when I put on the dress all I see is AMAZING. I look ADORABLE. My boobs sit up like two enticing canteloupes, I have a tiny tiny waist, and an arse firm enough to rest a beer on. Basically, I look the most perfect combo of hot and cute. I guess what I’ve realised is that I don’t care what Mum thinks any more. I just don’t. I can’t! I am around 10 kilos overweight, and I have tried desperately to lose weight. I managed to be “successful” at it once, but it was through eating no sugar, no fat, vegan, extreme exercise every day…

    I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t. I love cooking, I love eating, I love walking through the bush, I love prancing around naked, I can’t WAIT to prance around in my banging wedding dress on Saturday.

    My husband thinks I’m hot. I spend a lot of my life trying to not give my appearance too much thought. But I have been burdened with this inner voice from my family, one that says that no one will ever want to be with me if I’m fat. Welllll…..I think my hot mechanic would have something to say about that! I have done many years of psychotherapy to leave the family thinking behind. I will NOT pass it on to my daughters. It’s all going to end with me. I’m ready for the final push, and I think that dancing in my wedding dress with all of my favourite people around me will probably do that.

    Big love to you. xo

  24. San D responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the word “pretty”. As an artist and writer I can think of a zillion words to describe a lot of things, but would never choose the word “pretty” to describe anything, much less myself. Unless we all agree on a baseline for the word in terms of humans, which I truly can’t believe can be established, the word “pretty” is just a bunch of letters. Lovers, poets, and 5 year old’s might use the word for certain situations, but if anyone I knew ever used that word when they looked at me, I would look at them like they had lost their mind. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a painting or sculpture and said it was pretty, or that I looked at the crisp morning sky, a cat curled up, an hibiscus newly opened, or a baby’s feet and called them “pretty”. Yet they all move me beyond the mere word.

  25. Isabel responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Oh, I know exactly what you mean. As a teenager I would look at myself and say out loud: “You have a big, ugly stomach, flappy overarms, thighs that go together, chubby little fingers and a butt that looks like it belongs to a 50 year old woman. You are ugly, you are stupid, you are uninteresting, and worth nothing. If you died today no one would care.” And then I would cry and hope to die.

    However, I would never say to myself “Your eyes have a lovely sparkle, your smile lights up your whole face, your teeth are really white and straight, your hair is thick, long, shiny and a lovely dark brown colour. While you are no Einstein, you are clever, you are good at learning languages, at reflecting, at remembering historical dates and events, and you’re even funny. You have lots of personality traits that make you interesting and worth knowing. If you died today, many people would cry and be very sad, thereamongst your family, your friends, and that guy you’ve been talking on the phone with. You are beautiful.”

    I’ve only just recently admitted to myself that I am pretty. And every celebrity who thinks it’s helpful to tell the public how they think their features are too big for their heads, really should just shut up.

    Lena Dunham is refreshingly confident in showing off her body on TV, even if it’s not like the beauty image suggests that a woman’s body should look like. I think she is pretty, and I really admire her for wearing like no make-up at all. It says something about her beauty and style, when an entire world has fallen in love with her in such a short time.

  26. Rosa responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Hi Kate,

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for awhile, and I have to say: I think you’re beautiful. You can rock short hair, and I love your nose. I think big noses are sexy. (And I mean all of this is a non-creepy way, if that makes sense).

    Anyway, thank you for this post. I think I’m beautiful, too. Sometimes. But I think that maybe I’m pretty more often than I realize.

    (And for writing that last bit I’m overcome with the urge to apologize or dismiss myself, but I won’t).

    P.S. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I think you’ll make a wonderful mother =)

  27. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    @Rosa
    Good for you!!!!
    And thank you. I am so scared about being a mother….So this is nice to hear.

  28. Rapunzel responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    This kind of reminds me of and episode I watched on TV quite a while ago, but in fact I was just thinking about it like yesterday! Creepy.
    The “Jennifer of Troy” episode from Franklin & Bash is about “A plain woman (Jillian Bell) believes she was fired from her high-profile position at a magazine company for being too attractive and seeks legal representation to get her job back” (Wikipedia). The whole joke is that she isn’t your typical pretty girl–round cheeks, probably too short, but yet radiant. Men seem drawn to her simply because of her impeccable confidence, because she honestly believes that she’s beautiful. And I couldn’t quite grasp what the show was getting at here…
    Should we think it was stupid because they want us to think she really ISN’T pretty, and shouldn’t be suing for something she doesn’t have a leg to stand on?
    Or are we supposed to think “good for her!”?
    Are we supposed to admire that “plain” girl or are we supposed to roll our eyes at her? I don’t understand what I’m supposed to think!
    One thing was clear though–the whole premise of the episode was pointing out the fact that she isn’t considered really “pretty” or “beautiful.” Which is rude, because I consider her pretty. But I guess she’s not pretty ENOUGH? Ugh. I’m just not sure I get it. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to laugh at it or if I’m supposed to be offended, but I’m leaning towards the latter.
    Look up the episode if you get a chance!

  29. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    @Rapunzel
    Interesting!! I always feel indignant about this sort of thing, when we’re all supposed to agree on someone’s beauty or lack of it. Often the people who play the non-beautiful characters on TV and in movies are actually beautiful, at least in my opinion. And I also feel confused. I want to check this out!

  30. Rachel F. responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Check out Jezebel. They wrote a piece about your article.

  31. scarlet responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    I can’t blame beautiful female celebrities for their deflecting comments. Comments on beauty and questions about what it is like to be perceived of as beautiful must be responded to in some way, and, as this blog post pointed out, it is very uncomfortable for women to talk about their own awareness of their beauty. Sometimes the remarks can feel faintly confrontational, particularly coming from other women, as if they demand response. Is Hathaway going to want a magazine to print quotes where she deems herself “beautiful?” I doubt it. To say you are beautiful is only to challenge people to argue with you. Even women who believe they are beautiful benefit from pretending to be unaware that they are perceived that way.

    I teach university classes, and I’ve had a few instances of female students remarking on my looks before the entire class. I’m not talking about a compliment on my clothing, but comments about my overall appearance. These remarks are inappropriate and uncomfortable, but I can only respond by deflection or moving the subject along to something else. One student was sitting in the classroom before the start of class and was approached by someone who thought she might be me. She told me about the confusion when I entered the room but added that if the person in question had ever seen a photograph of me, there would have been no mix-up as I am far more attractive, etc. Another student remarked that I am “fricking gorgeous.” It is very tempting in such situations to argue with them, to point out that I am a pale, mildly chubby, sleep-deprived woman in her mid-thirties who needs to wear makeup to appear in any way presentable, but putting myself down does nothing to resolve the situation, especially if someone genuinely feels that she is less attractive. So I ignore it. But, you know, I am no movie star, and I’m sure women like Hathaway hear comments like this 10,000 times more than I do. I don’t blame them for dealing with it in any way they see fit.

  32. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    @Rachel F
    Thanks for letting me know– I had no idea!

  33. Diana responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    I believe I’m pretty. I LOVE my body. It’s the only one I’ve got, so why not be proud?

    I know that I’m very lucky to be able to declare this proudly without the soul-crushing inner voice that insists I’m not A, B, or C enough. I’m not 100% sure where the burst of confidence and self-assurance came from; my theory is that I just got tired of worrying about the standards and opinions of others. I am the one who has to look at my body everyday, so shouldn’t my opinion be the one that matters most? I think so.

    It makes me insanely happy to be able to look in the mirror and smile. It makes me insanely happy to know that Western culture’s standards of beauty are utter lunacy. The two definitely go hand in hand.

    It saddens me to see and hear women everywhere pick at their appearance, trying to conform to someone else’s ideal of beauty. Maybe this is naive, but I hope that a time will come when everyone can love their own skins AND PROUDLY DECLARE THEIR LOVE.

    I’m of the opinion that “yes, I know I look good *hair flip*” has more positive value to women than any “oh, I don’t look that good, really”‘s. No one is going to swoop in and nobly declare “why that’s not true, you are in fact very lovely!” every time you demure. I think that when push comes to shove, WE are our own calvary, cheerleader, coach and if we can’t be proud of our bodies and rock that pride, no one else will. We owe it to ourselves to call the world on its B.S. and say “yes, in fact, I dig my body; it is FABULOUS”. It puts a smile on my face every time and I know that I have a lovely smile.

    That was a soapbox and a half…but you know what? It was a FABULOUS soapbox. I hope that everyone out there finds some way to be happy with who they are: you all deserve happiness and not a thing less.

  34. deanna responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    Honestly, I think it’s fine to beleive in ourselves and to think we are attractive, but I don’t think that telling everyone how beautiful you are is appealing either. Most of us are not blessed with the features that are considered beautiful and even if we were, it’s annoying to hear women tell you how amazing they are. I find it wonderful that some of the female celebreties have doubts like the rest of us. There was once an article about what female celebs found unattractive about themselves and most of them had something to say. One or two said they were stunning as is…and I decided I didn’t much care for them anymore. To me it’s no different than a rich person telling a poor person how wonderful it is to have money. Sorry…you don’t do that.

    I grew up hearing most of my life how strange looking I was. Some people told me I was pretty (I am tall and have a long lean body) but boys never much liked me. I didn’t date much, guys with money never cared for me and I can count on one hand the number of men who had crushes on me. I still know women today who brag about how men just can’t keep their hands off of them…and how hot they are etc…and frankly it makes me want to tell them to think before talking. Sorry…don’t buy it. It’s fine to have confidence and like yourself, but if you are blessed with beauty and sexuality no need to talk about it to those who are not.

  35. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    @deanna
    I think part of the problem is that ANY acknowledgement of our own beauty is considered bragging by some. But it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be.

  36. Elizabeth responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    For what it’s worth, I tried to read the Jezebel piece and it was completely incoherent. You’re an excellent writer, and the writer at Jezebel? Not so much. I read the whole thing and I don’t understand her ‘argument’ or what she was getting at. Sadly that is often the case over at Jezebel…

  37. Kate responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    @Elizabeth
    I’m not sure what to think, honestly. I read it, and it’s very authoritative, as I expected, and it’s not as mean as I thought it might be. Sometimes I really like Jezebel, but I’m also scared of the writers over there, and I think I’ve kind of been dreading them writing anything about me, because they’re always so clever and snarky and pointed. But your comment made me feel like maybe I’d done an OK job with my piece after all, so thank you!

  38. tanner responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    I’ve heard one woman say she was beautiful and mean it. She’s a well-known high powered woman I work with. She was asking about her work performance and a coworker was saying it was so-so, but she looked great so that was good. She waved away the compliment and said quite seriously, “I know I’m pretty, I know I’m good-looking.” We chuckled nervously knowing she was absolutely right. She is stunning, but I’d never actually heard anyone proudly admit their own truth. She was ballsy for speaking the truth. But why is it ballsy? Why can’t you just be pretty like you have red hair or you have blue pants on? It’s just a fact. Doesn’t mean you’re being conceited. Me on the other hand, I can be super shy. I feel like my entire genetic makeup was best bestowed on an aggressive, bold woman. I’m always noticed mainly because of my height and the other day I put on what I call my “glad rags” which are clothes that aren’t yoga pants. I got a lot of nice things said to me about how modelesque I look. I rarely put on a dress because I feel so self-conscious. People always say nice things, but it’s like I feel weird for looking…good? I’d rather go unnoticed in jeans.

  39. Kande responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    I sometimes think I look great and am ridiculously pleased … until the point later that same day when I am in a bathroom lit with flourescent lights ( seriously? seriously. wtf is up with that!). Or I am in that bathrrom or another room with a mirror, and see myself next to someone who is actually pretty. I have two mirrors I like to see my reflection in – pretty much every other mirror shows me how I REALLY am.

    And sometimes I get very sad, just for a moment – but still, the sadness will hit like a knife, and the quick wondering of WHY? Sometimes this is followed by guilt, as at least I am healthy and look normal – plain, yes, but normal. Average. Sometimes a smidge above, usually a smidge below.

    And sometimes – rarely, but still some glorious times – I have zero sadness, zero shame, I can completely embrace who I am, and can dance (figuratively) anyway! And, like the times I have finished a challenging run, and am covered in lots of sweat and zero makeup, including no foundation (that I wear daily to cover my perceived flaws) – those are probably the two times I am to the outside world the prettiest of all.

    When I still look plain, but don’t give a fuck so radiate joy!

    Too bad my silly head/mind interfere with that being my norm …

  40. Val responded on 19 Feb 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Kate, I never heard of Jezebel, so I found it and read, and you are yes, different from them.

    But in a good way.

    And your article was provocative enough to entice an entire piece?

    Girl. You’ve got a voice of your own.

    Nice. love, Val

  41. J responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 12:14 am #

    I think I’m beautiful; I don’t remember ever really thinking otherwise. It doesn’t come up in conversation much, but I don’t think I’d have trouble saying so if it did…It’s easy to say to my sisters anyway! I do occasionally think, ‘Well, I’m still young; there’s plenty of time for my self-esteem to take a turn for the worse!’ (not because I’ll think I’m ugly when I hit thirty or anything, but because of something external.) I don’t think that will happen, though. I love faces too much for that. I see so many beautiful people of all ages every day. And, being young (18) sometimes I look at my peers and I think how much better looking we’ll be if we’re healthy when we’re thirty–because we will be, if we take care of ourselves!–and it’s a very happy thought. It’s a shame people dread the big 3-0, because 30′s are the prime of life…
    I don’t think that celebrities are better looking that average, either. I see so many gorgeous people everywhere. And sometimes I ask myself, what would people think of this person’s face if they were made up, if they had the best stylists and gorgeous lighting–and on top of that, the glamour of riches and fame? That’s a big part of the appeal of celebrities. I think another big part is that we see performers when they’re vulnerable–especially actors, but also musicians and anyone else who is willing to put themselves out there for us. We get a window into their private lives, through interviews and articles etc. They’re rich, they’re famous, they’re styled–they seem untouchable. But at the same time, they’re vulnerable, they’re friendly, and we’re fond of them. How could we not see them as beautiful?

  42. Elisha_Q responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 5:55 am #

    I think that Jezebel just proves the point made here. Women just can’t stop at saying “I am pretty”, we always feel the need to add “but…”.
    Pretty is not even such a strong word, for us to be affraid to say it.

  43. Shybiker responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Such a complex subject. I feel sorry for people raised as girls. While this type of insecurity can be helpful (in bonding with others), it’s largely self-defeating.

  44. mary responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 9:13 am #

    i spent much of my life overweight and finally lost a lot of weight in my thirties. i kept it off for a long time and i blossomed. so much time had been spent hiding, apologizing for myself, feeling ugly and unacceptable. i really enjoyed my newfound confidence and yes, i thought i looked pretty. probably because i felt that, and radiated that, people responded to me positively. sometimes that was hard. but mostly it was great. the last couple of years, after many years of keeping off all the weight, i’ve dealt with a lot of difficult personal issues and i’ve turned to the bad habits i had when i was heavy (food as comfort, anesthesia, etc.). i’ve regained a lot of weight and although i’m determined to take it off again, i am sadly fascinated over having lost all the increased esteem and sense of self (and belief in my attractiveness) that i had gained. it’s a circular thing (is it because i feel bad that i look bad that i feel others find me less embraceable? could i change that with attitude? or because society tells me thin is pretty is it impossible for me to either feel or project prettiness until i get myself back to an acceptable way of looking?). anyway, just thought i’d comment, even though i’m not fully sure what my point is. i guess just that after years of not feeling pretty, i then did, and for the most part it was awesome and i was proud and i don’t feel guilty or vain for feeling it or thinking it. sad i’m not there even more, but maybe i’ve gained a little more self-understanding for the roller coaster i’ve been on in my life with my weight, my looks, my sense of who i am and what i’m worth. it certainly makes me more gentle and empathetic with others, so i do think i’m a better person for it. just wish i also felt good about my outer self.

  45. Allyson responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Wow, I just read the New York Post review of “Girls” and that’s absolutely appalling. I’m not shocked to see that trash spewed out of the Post, but it still makes me sad.

    On a happier note, great post :)

  46. L responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    I wanted to watch the show, but was put off by Salon’s review “Girls” still racist.

  47. Kate responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    @L
    I think you should watch and decide for yourself. I don’t actually watch it, but I find it strange that the race criticism gets lobbed at this show in particular, and not at the many, many other shows that don’t equally represent people of color. It’s a show about privileged white girls. That doesn’t make it racist. It seems to be pretty honest about its subject manner.

  48. Claire responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Dear Kate,
    thank you for this article.

    I would like to comment but my thoughts are confused. Sorry about that, but I still wanted to share them.

    I used to believe I was quite pretty. Some of my distinguishing features make me happy and most days I smile at my reflection in the morning. (After that I get on with my day and not think about it anymore.)

    But recently something really hurt me : my friends came to my house and all of them noticed how “flattering” my mirror was. This was the mirror that allowed me to be happy every day.

    And I just never had any success with boys. I don’t seem to attract them, even on my best “confident” days. Is it because I overestimated my prettiness ?

    It’s to avoid this kind of disappointment that I’ve just erased from my mind the idea that I could be pretty.

  49. gradstudent responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    I’ve lurked for awhile, but this is my first time commenting. I think the reverse of who is allowed to be pretty is, ‘what are the consequences of who is saying they’re pretty?’ I generally think I’m good looking, and I get almost daily confirmation of this from strangers. If I want to, I can turn heads walking down the street, even in NY or Paris. I’ve lived in a country where my looks get me treated like a celebrity (free stuff, photographed all the time, marriage & modeling offers). I also fit the ‘paper’ mainstream definition of a type of beauty ideal–average height, very slender but hourglass figure (I have all the “right” numbers for waist/hip/breast, pants size, bra, etc.), nordic angular features even most actresses have to paint on with contour makeup or plastic surgery, quite blonde hair, etc. Sometimes I think I’m stunningly gorgeous, sometimes I think I’m pretty, and sometimes I think I’m kind of plain, depending on whatever combination of factors. Also, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I don’t assume anyone I meet finds me beautiful or even attractive. Also I grew up wanting to look very different from how I do, so weirdly, it took awhile to come to terms with my features.

    I grew up with leftist parents who worked really hard to fit against mainstream beauty standards, and also to raise me not to 1) think my looks make me better than others, or 2) think that I can be reduced to my looks. To deny that I’m pretty and that comes with perks can feel a bit like denying race or class privilege, especially since the three are so inseparable. On the other hand, no one really wants to hear a thin blonde girl go around saying how beautiful she is, and I am really not ok with the politics of why my beauty is generally accepted universally, or why I am considered pretty by the mainstream, but someone I think is equally or more pretty is not. Where there can be something liberating about someone treated as unattractive by mainstream society expressing confidence in their looks, I feel like for me it can be an oppressive act.

  50. Meg responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    The day before my wedding my mom, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I were looking at a slideshow to be shown at my reception. When looking at one of the pictures, I said, “I like the way my hips look in that picture.”

    They all just looked at me like I was a freak, and I immediately felt like I was wrong. I couldn’t like the way my hips look, and I definitely shouldn’t have said it out loud. This coupled with the fact that I’m much heavier than anyone in my family and that my wedding was the next day, just tore me apart.

    But I still do think my hips looked good in that picture. I just don’t feel like I can say it.

  51. deanna responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    I’m having some trouble with this topic so excuse me in advance for being a bit harsh here.

    Being pretty, being sexy, being ‘hot’ has a lot of advantages and any gilr who isn’t or never was any of these things can tell you that. Pretty women marry better, have better jobs, earn more money, have more sex and usuallly have more confidence. Who wouldn’t? I was never told I was beautiful, I rarely turn heads…well of course I don’t want to hear some stunning blonde or an exotic looking gal with thick dark hair and lovely olive skin tell me how gorgeous she is. To me this is no different than a rich American visiting a poor African country and telling everyone how rich they are and how well they eat. Frankly, it’s wrong. What isn’t wrong is for women to find more acceptance in themselves. Personally, if I had been born in 1980 instead of when I was born, I would have had an easier time of it. My kind of looks became more acceptable when I was older. There was also more available to help you with stuff then there was back then. If you were not a natural beauty, there wasn’t a whole lot of help back in the 70s and 80s.

    So no…hearing some of the women talk about how blessed they are with great looks makes me feel worse. Lucky you for being born beautiful. We aren’t all that fortunate.

  52. Kate responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    @deanna
    I don’t want to beat this point to death or anything, but I do want to clarify that this isn’t about BEING the prettiest, it’s about being allowed to feel attractive, and express it when you feel attractive. Like I said in my piece, I am not stereotypically hot, and never have been, but I can sometimes see myself as beautiful, and I’d like to be able to own that feeling. I think all of us should. And let’s also remember that not all of us agree on what “beautiful” looks like. It’s not any one thing, for sure.

    I also think that there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging it if you are, as you say, blessed with great looks. That’s a good thing! But we also don’t have to be divided into camps of “who’s hot and who’s not.” I, for one, think there’s plenty of beauty to go around, even if not all of it looks like it belongs on a magazine cover.

  53. Elizabeth responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Reading these comments, it almost seems like ‘pretty’ is more a feeling than a state of objective reality:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7BQRGXFLJs

    I’ve had this feeling, and it is wonderful, and nobody should try to rain on my pretty parade. :)

  54. Elizabeth responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    Sorry, I can’t stop thinking about this topic! Look at it this way: what would happen if women felt pretty all the time, and nobody told them that they weren’t supposed to feel that way, never told them they weren’t pretty, or never told them that they weren’t allowed to feel good about their appearance?

    What would happen if women just walked around feeling pretty all the time?

    Just look how people (both men and women) react to a woman who’s feeling pretty. They are drawn to her. She has magnetism. She has sex appeal. Everybody turns their heads and she seems to radiate confidence, happiness, and energy.

    A woman who feels pretty has POWER.

  55. Jon N responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Its cynical to think that insecure people tear down those who present themselves as more secure, but in some cases that’s not far from the truth. However by putting yourself out there, as you describe, and saying that you are comfortable with your body and how you look makes you someone people will look up to and measure themselves by. Despite the initial ridicule that may come from those less secure, I find that often these secure people are centerpieces in the lives of those around them, and at the risk of sounding cheesy, act as an emotional rock for those around them.
    Keep being a rock for your readers. You’re pretty good at it.

  56. bethagrace responded on 20 Feb 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    I like how I look and I don’t mind saying that. But I do try to be sensitive, knowing that others aren’t as happy with themselves. I don’t join in on self-hate parties, but my hope is always that my own confidence will inspire confidence in my friends, rather than just making them feel worse.

    When acknowledging how happy you are with your looks becomes a time to list how amazing your qualities are (i.e. I love myself because my skin is perfect and I’ve never gained weight and people say I look like Angelina Jolie….) it’s obnoxious. But I think there’s a non-braggy way of going about it (like your unroasts) that just says, “I’m happy. I like how I look. Yay, life!”

  57. Aezy responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Today I woke up, looked in the mirror with greasy hair and zits and huge under eye bags….and really admired my cheekbones and my smile. Some days are “pretty days” when I could wander out of the house with no make up on whatsoever and still feel as glamorous as Audrey Hepburn, while others there is no set of make up, clothes or gym regime that will make me feel attractive. It comes and goes but I am finally getting to accept that my face is my face and my body is my body and I love them (possibly in the way that I love siblings and parents: sometimes they drive you nuts and won’t cooperate and wind you up, but the love is always there underneath).

    Also that Jezebel article: urgh. Point well and truly missed.

  58. McKella responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    I’ve found that the way I feel about my beauty has very little to do with how I look. When I’m happy, I feel beautiful. That’s really all there is to it. When I’m miserable, I feel like a troll in a trainwreck. It doesn’t matter what size I am or what my hair is doing.
    I feel that, as women, we translate deeper insecurities into issues with our appearance. We want to be loved, worthy, special, and valued, but if we don’t feel that way, it might be easier to blame it on our looks than on our deeper beliefs about ourselves, that maybe we’re not lovable or worthy, even though that’s never true. Our appearance isn’t who we are, so it kind of takes the focus off what’s really us.

  59. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    @McKella
    Well said.

  60. Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week | pinkbriefcase responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    [...] Five:  Kate at Eat the Damn Cake’s post, Why Aren’t We Allowed to Think We’re Pretty.  Ha.  There are some pretty hilarious quotes in this one.  Anne Hathaway, you are gorgeous.  [...]

  61. Lu responded on 23 Feb 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    As I finished the article, I minimized my browser and stared at my reflection in the black screen of the laptop. I look beautiful. I tell myself it’s the light,or the make-up I’m still wearing but the truth is, every once in a while, when I catch a glimpse of my face or of my naked body in a mirror I realize…”Wow, I look stunning today!”

  62. Lori Watts responded on 23 Feb 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Thanks for this. I’ve often had a thought like this flitting around in my head. Women who do not appear to be aiming for hotness are ridiculed or invisible, which sends the clear message that we are expected to strive to be beautiful. But we must not acknowledge if we’ve had any success at it, because that would be vanity!
    This culture is full of minefields.

  63. Onyx responded on 27 Feb 2013 at 12:45 am #

    “Because beauty feels important, even when I’d like it not to, even when there are a million other, bigger, more pressing things in my life, beauty feels sensitive, because we know, let’s be honest, we know it matters.”

    Well maybe that’s because it IS important. Why isn’t that okay? Why do we feel that we must dismiss something that is a big part of who we are (our appearance) and treat it as “unimportant”? Think of the feeling you get when you see a beautiful sunset. Or a lovely garden. Or a gorgeous tiger. When faced with that which isn’t human, we feel safe acknowledging that beauty is important to us. But put humans into the equation (especially WOMEN humans) and suddenly we add expressions like “it isn’t important” or “there are bigger things to focus on” or “you/I/she didn’t do anything to earn it, it’s just genetics”. Maybe the problem is that we’ve been taught that there can only be ONE definition of beauty, therefore, we have to make it okay not to be beautiful, because we don’t fit that definition. And we do that by devaluing beauty. But I can say, without exception, that each woman who commented here is beautiful. And I say that without having seen any of you. And I don’t mean that in the way of “you are all wonderful beings on the inside, which makes you beautiful”(which isn’t to say that you AREN’T); I mean physically, each of you are beautiful. Did we earn our looks? For the most part, no we didn’t. Much of it is genetics. But frankly, a lot of things that we take ownership for boil down to genetics: there’s a lovely cross-section between individual effort and genetic predisposition. Like athleticism, ever notice how it seems to run in families? Dancing ability? Singing ability? Yet we admire those things about ourselves and take pride in them. Why not take pride in the first thing people notice about us? Beauty doesn’t have to be our ENTIRE identity, but have you ever noticed how much better you feel when you let it be SOME portion of your identity?

    I am gorgeous. And I need to be okay with it and I need to tell MYSELF that more often. But there is fear associated with it. It’s a game of “I’ll beat them to the punch”, by putting myself down first. Just in case I’m wrong about being beautiful. Just in case I’m the only one who thinks so. So I don’t say it, because what if I’m wrong and SOMEONE POINTS IT OUT. You know how ridiculous it gets?: I had trouble (initially) admitting how absolutely GORGEOUS my baby is because he looks just like me! Because if I admit that he’s attractive, aren’t I just admitting that I am? And isn’t that wrong?

    But you know what? The proof is tangible for me and for all of us. No matter how vehemently we deny it, the truth is there to see. So let’s stop telling ourselves that beauty isn’t important so long as that beauty is our own. Let’s own it and acknowledge that we are, in fact, beautiful. And see how that changes us.

  64. Lesley responded on 16 Mar 2013 at 1:53 am #

    Girl I just left the longest comment on another post of yours that kind of morphed into talking about this very issue! I just love your blog so much. This post so perfectly articulated the feelings I was having in my comment – living in that awkward place of not wanting to hate on myself because it’s ‘the cool and comforting thing’ other women do, particularly in groups (strength in numbers hating on ourselves!), but also feeling afraid to admit we’re beautiful, to say we like our bodies or ourselves… because that would mean we’re stuck up or bitchy or perhaps, think too highly of ourselves and leave ourselves vulnerable to other people’s cutting remarks behind our backs. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

  65. Eat the Damn Cake » don’t ever tell me that my friends aren’t beautiful responded on 18 Mar 2013 at 10:43 am #

    [...] was annoyed and upset, but I wasn’t very surprised. The practice of casually dismissing a woman’s entire appearance is sometimes a part of everyda…. Guys do it, girls do it. Guys I’ve dated have reassured me that I’m “prettier [...]

  66. Eat the Damn Cake » the problem with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign responded on 17 Apr 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    [...] here’s the thing about beauty in the real world that Dove seems to be forgetting: we are not actually supposed to think we’re beautiful. That would be weird and vain and arrogant. It would be wrong and presumptuous. People are charmed [...]

  67. Joyce responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 2:46 am #

    yes we are. we just aren’t supposed to declare to the world we are hot shit. humbleness and modesty are virtues.

    so is confidence.

  68. Eat the Damn Cake » cosmetic surgery doesn’t have to be shameful responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 9:53 am #

    [...] It’s ironic – in a culture that gossips endlessly about the way women look, and rags ceaselessly on the public women who don’t look “good enough,” and seems confused about what the hell to do with all of the eating disorders that just keep cropping up among middle-schoolers, we are still awfully critical of the people who seem to be paying enough attention to believe that t…. [...]

  69. “Belleza real”: La autopercepción de las mujeres no proviene de la autoestima. | Psicoloquio responded on 01 Jul 2013 at 10:25 am #

    [...] esto es lo que pasa con la belleza en el mundo real que Dove aparenta olvidar: no se supone que creamos que somos hermosas. Eso sería extraño y arrogante. Sería malo y presuntuoso. La gente está encantada cuando [...]

  70. The Problem With Dove Real Beauty Sketches | Real People, Real beauty, Real Life responded on 09 Aug 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    [...] is something that Dove seems to be forgetting though: we are not supposed to believe that we are beautiful. We are programmed to believe that it would vain and arrogant. People are charmed when beautiful [...]

  71. Eat the Damn Cake » why i don’t like numbers responded on 25 Sep 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    [...]  Like the failing grade I got in college when a TA wanted to teach me a lesson. Like all of the little persistent ways we measure each other and ourselves. It’s too easy to put too much meaning into these things. It’s hard, once you see a bad number, [...]

  72. Melinda responded on 02 Dec 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    I thought I would respond to this fairly old post, so here goes…

    @deanna…I see where you’re coming from. I understand what you’re saying because I, too, have struggled with feeling ugly and/or invisible all my life. So I understand your perspective. I still remember an older cousin of mine who was quite conceited about her looks (because she often received compliments) and she tended to brag about it, although here in America most people would probably not find her attractive like they do in Jamaica. It is a very different standard of beauty.

    This is one reason I hated being around certain women growing up, because it wasn’t that they were confident…they literally wanted me to feel insecure and small beside them so that I would be no competition when it came to guys or anything else. I also remember a girl in high school telling me that she was glad she wasn’t “flat-chested” like me, because otherwise boys wouldn’t be interested in her. She also talked about how “fat” my legs were. Um, thanks? I had no problems with getting male attention as an A-cup. I had a boyfriend throughout high school while she never went on dates at all. She was tall and slim with naturally large breasts but she was still a social outcast like I was.

    But Kate isn’t talking about women who are conceited or obnoxious, or those that try to make others feel bad. She is talking about owning YOUR beauty. You don’t have to look a certain way to feel beautiful. We’ve all seen women who don’t fit society’s definition of beauty, but no one can convince them that they are ugly. Maybe in some instances they are delusional, but some of them have learned to accept themselves and be proud of who they are…which is very difficult in a world that demands conformity. I’ve seen women who are (excuse my bluntness) downright unattractive with horrible personalities, but they think they are beauty queens. Sometimes it is all about perception and how you feel inside.

    It’s not about bragging and being snotty. It’s about being able to look in the mirror and finally smile at yourself and embrace what makes you unique. You don’t have to be a blonde bombshell or look like Kim Kardashian to feel beautiful. I believe that when a woman truly is beautiful (inside and out, but not always on the outside) she doesn’t have to tell the world about it…you can simply sense her confidence.

    Maybe you should try giving yourself permission to feel beautiful. Do nice things for yourself. Lift yourself up with kind, loving words instead of putting yourself down. I know it is easier said than done but that is one of the first steps to feeling pretty. It’s not about looking like a model…it’s about realizing that you are a woman, you have the right to a beautiful life, and you possess your own type of beauty.

  73. Melinda responded on 02 Dec 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    As to my issues with feeling pretty…well, let’s just say that for most of my life, I wasn’t allowed to feel that way. I wasn’t allowed to feel good about myself, period.

    I grew up in a verbally/emotionally abusive environment. School was also terrible for my self-esteem. I agree with Elizabeth…imagine a world where all women were confident about their looks. We would most likely be more powerful, and in some ways society might be different. I believe that from an early age some people (both in my family and outside of it) made sure to destroy my self-esteem because they didn’t want me to be confident or successful. I was somehow threatening to them, and they wanted to keep me in my “place”.

    And what better way to keep a girl/woman in her place than by attacking her looks or intelligence? Convince her that she is ugly and worthless. Convince her that she has to become “acceptable” to others. Convince her that her only value is in her appearance and pleasing others around her.

    I started gaining weight a few years ago because of my untreated depression. I won’t lie…I would give anything to be a size 0 again. I’m short, so it was a healthy size/weight for me. But this post has given me food for thought. My whole life has been based on whether other people like me. Whether they think I’m good enough, pretty enough. And that is a really shitty way to live because there is nothing authentic or joyful about it. I beat myself up over every bit of food I eat, over the number on the scale or the size of my clothes. I torture myself for not having “good” hair and being the “wrong” color (I am a very light-skinned Black woman). I want to wear beautiful clothes and shoes, but I can still hear the voices of people from long ago telling me (even when I was thin) that I’m too fat and ugly. I only started wearing makeup again recently…sometimes I hesitate to wear bold lipsticks in shades of red or hot pink because people used to stare and taunt me about it.

    And it pisses me off, because I want to feel beautiful. I’m 30 years old. I want to give the middle finger to anyone who tells me that I’m not allowed to feel pretty, or to accept myself as I am. I’m definitely not a model but dammit, I have my own beauty! I was made to feel ugly at a young age and as a light-skinned Black girl, it wasn’t OK for me to ever show that I liked anything about myself because people will interpret that as conceit. I’m talking about grown-ass men and women putting me down for being light with longer hair than the average mixed/black girl. There was a “friend” of my family who was horribly mean to me one summer because of that, and she would always make some snarky little comment like: “Melinda can’t walk by a mirror without looking at herself”. And her daughter, plus my cousin and some other folks would chime in with making fun of me and find ways to put me down. I wasn’t constantly admiring myself. I was 12 or 13 and terribly insecure, and looking for something about myself, some redeeming quality that meant I was lovable and NOT ugly. Who does that to a little girl?!

    Now that I’ve gained about 60 lbs. and my skin has broken out and my husband won’t have sex with me…yeah, it’s only fair to say that my self-esteem is even lower. But as I told Deanna, I think we can try to find our inner “hotness” and try to allow ourselves to see beauty when we look in the mirror. We can try to start treating ourselves like a man would treat a beautiful woman he’s in love with.

  74. Kate (Uh, we'll call my Kitty I guess??) responded on 09 Jan 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Honestly, I think I’m really pretty. I’m cuter than I am pretty in my opinion but that’s exactly how I want to be. I’d really like to be adorable. But that may just be because people always comment on how cute I am and it makes me really warm and squishy inside and really happy. (Actually yesterday my mom was auditioning for a play and I had to tag along because I had had gymnastics just before that and there wasn’t time for me to be dropped off. When it was her turn I had no one to talk to. Eventually I’d wandered over to a group of people, all of which had to be at least 30 (I’m only 16 so clearly I’m blessed with the ability to talk to adults, which is pretty great) and a few times the mentioned how cute they thought I was. (Especially when one of them put the What Does The Fox Say song on and I started doing a little dance because it fit the mood.))
    So yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself all around. I’m cute, I’m pretty, and I think I have a decent personality.
    But I have trouble talking about how much I like myself, though last night I was told I hold myself with a certain confidence, (Which was why I was able to pull of the hat I’d been wearing, according to the person. (Super cute hat by the way, ahaha)) which I think is pretty good, because even if I’m not talking about how much I like myself and my appearance, I can physically show it, I guess, ahaha
    //Shrugs, idk I really like myself
    (Also pff, sorry for havin the same name, this’ll probably make it like, confusing or somethin aha)
    PS This post/entry/idk what to call it, inspired me to make a post on my Tumblr about myself and how much I like it because I dunno, it kinda made me think about it and I wanted to share it with the world.

  75. Melinda responded on 24 Feb 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    @#74, Kate…so I don’t mix you up with the blog author who shares your name. I love your post!

    I am much older than you and I admire your confidence. It will carry you far in life. At 16, I was the complete opposite. I was thin and cute (but definitely not gorgeous) yet my self-esteem was in the toilet. I felt ugly and didn’t like anything about myself.

    It is inspiring to me, a grown woman, when a young girl like you is just so darn cool and confident in a down-to-earth way. I wish I could have been that way at your age…maybe it’s not too late.