Being valued socially is critical for us as people. This is true at our most fundamental level because even at a biological and evolutionary level, we are a relationally dependent species. Our survival and even more than that, our wellbeing, was dependent upon our social group. It was dependent upon us being valued enough by the social group that they would participate in the meeting of our needs. Only if we are valued do we get the things we genuinely need on a physical, emotional and mental level… Things like significance, belonging, physical touch, love and caretaking when we are young or sick to start. These are things that a person cannot live without. We need them. But this puts us in a double bind. It means we end up having to win their favor and try to become whatever the society we are raised in values.
Whether we like it or not and whether we want to admit it or not, what human society values the most about a woman is her looks. It matters whether she is considered beautiful, attractive and or sexy. Even the extreme effort we put into combating this with ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ campaigns and the body positive movement and promoting the idea that we should care about something deeper that skin level and even the fact that we have tried to promote the idea that if you care about that, you are not a good person, proves the degree to which this is imbedded not only in our society but even biology.
From the minute that a little girl enters the world, the focus goes to whether she is pretty or not. And she is raised into a society that teaches her either directly or indirectly that a very specific thing is considered beautiful and desirable and worthy of notice and also care. She has one option then. To try to fit into that box and be what society considers to be beautiful and desirable, or suffer the consequences.
These consequences are reinforced and also threatened constantly by other people in society all the time. They are reinforced by parents, teachers, peers, companies and media. This means that women who cannot make themselves fit into the tiny box of looks that would make them be valued in that way, are essentially fighting a losing battle with significance. It means that most women are spending their whole lives feeling insecure about their bodies and their value, striving to fit into that box and competing with one another. It means that the women who do fit into that tiny box spend their lives feeling as if no one actually cares about them at all and that they are doomed to lose their value one day and be a commodity until that point.
We have to stop telling the story that looks don’t matter. Because at this point, regardless of whether it should or shouldn’t matter, the reality is that it does matter to people at this point in time. It is a gaslight to tell someone that it doesn’t matter. Reality out in the world will show her otherwise.
It is our attachment to our own ego’s desire to see ourselves as good to pretend like we are the one exception for whom looks doesn’t matter. It is also our own ego’s desire to pretend that we don’t put incredible effort into specifically making ourselves attractive and desirable.
The reality is that it does matter. It matters whether we want it to matter or not. And this puts women, regardless of whether they are considered to be the most beautiful or the least beautiful in an incredible double bind. We want the very thing that we resent so intensely.
Either we turn against our bodies and resort to plastic surgery or extreme diet regimens or spending tons of money on products that hold the promise of looking good. Or we spend our life campaigning against the fact that society cares so much about our looks. Or we cope by trying to ‘make it ok’. When we do this, we accept that the reality is that we are commodities and suppress the aspect of us that resents it. We allow ourselves to be treated like sexual objects or trophies in a kind of transaction to get what we want in exchange.
As a woman, it feels like a prison where we simultaneously don’t want the very thing we want. It creates an incredible internal tension. We want it to change. But the risk we take is losing value by taking the necessary steps to change it. We want to be significant, wanted, noticed, valued and considered attractive. So we take actions to look as good as we possibly can. We may try to deny that we want it, because we have been shamed into believing that wanting it also makes us bad.
Pretending that we don’t want the attention and to be desired in that way is a real shadow in the female race. A woman doesn’t deserve to be the victim of sexual violence because she has dressed in a way to attract attention. But women really need to own that if they dress in specific ways and act in specific ways it is because they are trying to get the attention and significance and value they need. The flip side of this however is that we become commodities.
Women fuel this emphasis on looks equating to value with each other. We actually peer pressure each other into it while simultaneously competing with each other for it. But men engrain it into women to a degree where it feels beyond our capacity to transcend. In general men make it such an obvious priority and such an obvious value that they put us into a position to have to compete for their attention and praise. Speaking as one of the women who has fit squarely into that tiny little box of looks that society values, I can personally attest to the fact that men will flock to a beautiful woman with absolutely no regard for her desires, thoughts, or whether he is actually compatible to her or not. And this is done because a beautiful women serves in society to boost his self esteem and also status relative to other men.
As women, we want our looks to be valued. At the same time, we resent that we are valued, especially first and foremost for our looks. I will never forget the day that myself and a group of other women all had a conversation about this fact. We all mutually felt disgusted about it. None of us wanted to participate in this game anymore. But what was even more terrifying is that each and every one of us still had such a strong need to be valued that none of us decided to go out to dinner that night in sweatpants. True to form, we all put on makeup and the clothes that we felt made us the most attractive and sat there at the restaurant table in shame about just how deep our attachment to looks and need to be valued for them really was.
Today, I am not creating a video to provide you with a solution. Instead, I am creating a video to enhance awareness. I am proposing that we all collectively admit to this reality that value relative to women is primarily equated to looks. I am proposing that we, both men and women, see when we are prioritizing this value. I am proposing that we, as women, see just how deep this need to be valued in this way goes. I am proposing that if we decide to present ourselves in a way to gain attention, be wanted, sexually desired, praised and be valued for our looks, that we need to do it purposefully and consciously. And I propose that both women and men see that women are in a double bind; a very, very painful double bind. We want to be valued for our looks and at the same time, we resent that we are so valued for our looks.
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