Friday, December 02, 2005

soul mind heart and hand

I have been watching "America's Next Top Model." I am entirely enthralled. In part, it stems from a fascination with the beautiful people. I wish it were otherwise but I will admit that in many ways I have been duped by the beauty myth.

Secretly, I have suspected that being pretty was everything. That being pretty or a big flirt would open the kind of doors that I could not even imagine. That life is better and people love you more and in the end you are more successful. That the more like a fairy tale princess you are, the more like a fairy tale your life will be. That my life would be better if I were prettier.

And what industry is more fixated on looks than modeling?

It is strange to watch a show in which I am rooting for young, pretty, vapid girls whose dream in life is to pose for pictures and sell me deodorant and sunglasses. And yet, I feel for them. I want them to realize this silly dream.

In part, it's fun to see pretty girls not get what they want. To see that they are human and imperfect. They have bad hair days and they sometimes fall flat. To watch them face harsh but perplexingly vague criticisms (beauty being to some degree subjective).

In part, it's surprising to see that being pretty doesn't mean that you will take a pretty picture. There is more to it than showing up and batting your eyelids.

I have been disillusioned with the show towards the end. I really liked Lisa, the crazy funny looking girl who knows how to take a good picture. She was eliminated. I also liked Kim, the androgynous tom boy who had to struggle every week to fit some girly feminine mold. She was eliminated as well. In the beginning they tell the girls to be themselves and that personality and presence are essential for a top model. In the end they picked pretty girls with no personality and then keep trying to pressure a distinctive spark out of them.

We live in a time when a woman (some women) can be more than a pretty face, more than a pretty thing. She can be soul, mind, heart, and hand. She is a human being. Human. There is so much more to human than pretty.

Tonight, I watched a movie called "Iron Jawed Angels." An HBO movie about Alice Paul and Lucy Burns and the struggle for a constutional amendent to secure for women the right to vote in the US. The level of hatred and hostility that these women faced was astounding. I am knocked out by the determination and the courage that these women showed in their struggle. They would not wait. They were tired of waiting. They started the National Women's Party in 1917. They criticized the majority party, the Democrats. They criticized the president in a time of war. Because even though the country was at war it did not change the injustice of denying women the vote. And they insisted that the president and the nation had to face and address this injustice.

The scenes in which they are in prison are so painful. To have the courage and conviction to go to prison and resist and protest in there. Guts and determination. Being pretty did not win women the right to vote. It took more than that.

Alice Paul fought for women's rights until she died in 1977.

Taking a pretty picture is nice. Getting paid money to have your picture taken is nice. For most of us that life is a fantasy. The state of women in our world is a reality and that reality is not nice.

All over this world women suffer. They are raped, they are beaten, they are bought and sold, they are denied work, they are denied autonomy, they are denied choices, they are denied their humanity. They. We. In many parts of this world women are not free.

Here, we are lucky. But it is not actually luck that brought us here. It is that we live in debt to women who would not stand for injustice. Who would not be patient. Who would not be quiet.

How can we repay this debt?


Kat E said...

First, excellent commentary on ANTM. Ever notice though, that many successful models aren't pretty in the traditional way, but take VERY intriguing pictures?

Second, I also loved Iron Jawed Angels. I wish I could get so passionate about something that I would risk everything to stand up for it...I feel so complacent.

ergo said...

to the first, I have noticed that divide between pretty and an amazing picture.

to the second, I know what you mean. I am right there in your complacency boat.

Ellen said...

Wowee, i think i should probably watch this movie and get inspired. oh and it reminds me of something I've been meaning to post on my blog... i should get on that.

BeckyBumbleFuck said...

I'm stupid. It took me a REALLY long time to realize that beauty can be almost better than money towards getting what you want. I've finally started adding a flirtacious smile in the beginning of transactions to help things go smoother. (Like last year I started this.) In the whole scheme of things though, I still think beauty is as useful as a football player.

ergo said...

ellen: by all means get thee to a computer!

BBFK: I've resigned myself to an inability to flirt effectively. I just try for super friendly. I cannot gauge the utility of a football player. Big and able to crash into heavy things? =)