Society's Vision of Beauty

I’m breaking one of my self-imposed rules. You see I often go against cultural norms in a lot of ways. It could be a pride issue. It could be because I feel like I have enough shock and awe in my life. Regardless of the reason, I usually rebel against reading what everyone is reading, watching what everyone is watching, and talking about what everyone is talking about. I’m sure you can see where this is going!

Last week, my posts, conversations, and facebook blew up with comments, often snarky ones, about the Miley fiasco. I promised myself I wouldn’t conform. I wouldn’t blog or post about it. I would only talk about it in small doses. However, my perspective on the issue was quickly thrown out of focus this past week, largely due to the reality in my life that can relate to it.

While facilitating a group last week, we sketched our bodies. We then started making collages focusing on our views of beauty and the women we want to be. We then contrasted it with what society tells us about society, our worth, who we should be. I hoped to gain some insight into their views and understanding, but I wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak I would feel as they discussed the distorted expectations that had been thrust on them.

Of course, in the midst of our discussion, Miley’s performance came up. But, their responses were not the same shocked responses I had been hearing, seeing posts about, or that the Smith family demonstrated in their now infamous pic. In fact, they weren’t shocked at all. It was received by them as “well…it’s just kind of what is expected.” Heartbreaking, right! They didn’t agree with it, but they weren’t shocked by it. As I looked at the collages, I could understand why. Their view of what society wanted from them were described in phrases like “bikini body,” “be sexy now,” and the most heartbreaking of all “Have more sex (It’ll make you a better person).” Oh, and did I mention this was all done by girls ages 12-18. All of their responses saddened me. I left group and I was almost physically sick. It literally hurt to think about it.

Since then, my mind continually goes back to the group, which automatically leads me back to Miley’s performance. It’s so much more disturbing after having my perspective changed. And, it’s more disturbing for reasons beyond the “twerking.”

First of all, I was disturbed because after watching the video, I wasn’t near as shocked as everyone else seemed to be. In fact, my initial response was “that’s it.” That speaks volumes to how jaded I’ve become. There is a part of me that has this initial response that all young girls in the industry are at some point going to try to prove they’re not so innocent and have somehow conditioned myself to not have a response to it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I think it’s ok, or that it is some sort of rites of passage. And, I’m most definitely not ok with this part of myself.

Second, I’m disturbed because it seems like very few people are talking about the much older man she’s twerking on. And, oh yeah, he’s married, right? They both appear to be uncomfortable with the performance, yet they go along with it.

But, the most disturbing part of the performance for me was the teddy bears on stage. At first, I thought I was behind the times, and maybe this was just some reference I didn’t get, so I asked. Everyone I knew was getting the question and nobody could give me a response. Nobody understood them (so if you can enlighten me, please do so). So, here’s what I’m left with…my greatest fear has been confirmed. Somehow, our society has become ok, or indifferent, with “infantizing” sexy.

I know it’s a harsh term and concept, but everyday I’m faced with young girls who have been exploited in some way. I hear stories from 12, 13, 14 year old girls explaining their version of sexy, how they have been conditioned to be sexy. At an age, when it should just be expected to be awkward, they are expected to be years ahead of themselves.

And, now reality has smacked me in the face, because a symbol of innocence has now been distorted. A symbol we use to comfort children has now been turned into the opposite. Perhaps, I’m reading too much into it, but I’m not the only one who noticed. When I asked some of the girls in my life about it, their response was “well, guys want us to be younger and younger now.” That hurts!

I honestly don’t know where to go from here (in this post, or in the groups of ladies I encounter). I know that I want women to find their true worth…their true beauty…their true purpose. I want them to dare greatly, take risks, and find their passion. I want them to be their authentic self, without judgment or fear.

I don’t know exactly how to accomplish that, but I know I’m going to start with myself and encourage them that they can do the same.

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Society’s Vision of Beauty

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