25 March 2014

What is Beauty?

by Amanda Williamson

Well for starters, beauty isn't clean shaven armpits and Botox-frozen foreheads, not in my opinion. But you wouldn't think that was the case from all the crap we are bombarded with in magazines/on the internet/billboards.

I am supposed to be writing my accreditation essays this morning. Yesterday, when I was in full flow on the longest of the four pieces required, my butterfingers ended up flinging the last dregs of tea onto my keyboard. It broke. I couldn't fix it and am now behind where I wanted to be, essay-wise. So here I am with a new keyboard, with a free few hours, and ready to go. Except I need to get something off my chest, and it's been a long time coming.

Madonna's Armpit Selfie

The first contributing factor (besides growing up and spending years of being being faced with cultural expectations of "beauty") was Madonna's so-called Armpit Selfie that she shared on Instagram. I have only seen a fraction of the onslaught of comments and whilst I'm not surprised it has caused an outcry (I mean, what a slut, deliberately flaunting it) I continue to be disturbed by comments such as "It's as bad as not washing" to "I just vomited".

I also saw an article from The Independent tweeted which is in some respects very silly (Beyoncé really isn't that inspirational) but also makes some important points about natural hair.

My Armpit Selfie

In the heady days of MySpace being The Social Network to be using and cruising, I changed my profile picture to one of a woman's arm and torso, showing one hairy armpit. It wasn't mine, but wow did I get some vehement responses from a LOT of people. Some blokes I didn't even know telling me how disgusting I was. Wow.

What are we doing to our kids?

Having three children of late primary and high school age, the topic did come up fairly recently. I asked them what they thought about women having hairy legs or armpits. Two were ambivalent. One (male) said that it seemed stupid and pointless to remove it. I inwardly glowed. These are the kids that do not like clothes because they are fashionable, they like clothes in colours and fabrics that please their individual tastes. My daughter cannot understand the obsession with people trying to look younger - "What's wrong with looking your age? What's wrong with wrinkles?". Good questions. Which leads onto the next piece of crap I saw this morning, via the internet: "Celebrities who are Aging Horribly".

*sigh* I am actually getting really fed up of seeing actors Botoxed and Filled up to their eyeballs. Where are their natural expressions? It looks fake and weird and spooky to me. How is that beauty? I first noticed it in The Golden Compass where the then 39 years old Nicole Kidman's forehead was smoother than her 11yr old co-star Dakota Blue Richards (as well as totally frozen). Weird.

and also…"30 Fairly Shocking Pictures of Celebrities Without Make-up".

I suppose we did have the recent phenomenon of the no-make-up selfie where hundreds of thousands of women bravely dared to go bare-faced (a few of those with a hint of Instagram photo make-over).

I am disappointed in this aspect of society because I want people to love me and love my children and love the people I love, because of who they are. Because of their uniqueness and quirks and flaws. Is love insisting that your girlfriend shaves down below? I'm not blaming men here, we're all at it, we're all responsible for this, and things are getting worse for men too as more and more men seek cosmetic surgery.

Junk food for the Ego

Seeing evidence of celebs' cellulite and plastic surgery makes me feel fleetingly better about myself, but feeding the ego such a rubbish diet leaves a post-crap-consumption crash.

I gave up reading fashion magazines years ago. But now I have this garbage injected into my psyche by simply using Yahoo email and having a Facebook.

I saw this amazing slam poetry video a few years ago and it stays with me. The message haunts me, because she's right and she eloquently, and bluntly at times, highlights what is so wrong with our cultural ideals of beauty and why we are missing out on what's really important:

(if you can't see the video on your device click here:)

I was having a chat about related subject matter with a friend last night and I explained that I find beauty in what is inside people - in the way they talk, move, live, love and express vulnerability. Refusing to age seems to me like a pathetic attempt to put off the inevitable. Death. Why cling on to youthful looks so desperately? Leave youth to the young. We can grow old and maintain a youthful demeanour, a vigour for life and if our experience and wisdom is reflected in the way our eyes crinkle when we smile,  or our brow folds when we cry and if more of our hairs turn silver as we continue the privilege of living another year..well…what's so bad about that?

And finally, here's a picture of 2 actors that I thought about in relation to this. Not a shred of Botox in sight.

Amanda Williamson is a BACP Registered Counsellor working privately in central Exeter, UK

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