So unless you were under a rock this week you’ll have caught the furore around a tabloid feature where a woman wrote about her experiences of being judged by other women for being beautiful.
It was a silly article – commissioned by a newspaper with a long, proud heritage of commissioning articles with the sole intention of driving hysterical Middle Englanders into fits of self-righteous rage.
Because, after all, newspapers are a product and people don’t sit on a website hitting refresh when they violently agree with something. So the words will be ramped up, the photos carefully selected with just the right dress, shoes, and facial expression.
As a journalist, honestly, I look on these features as little more than panto. A print equivalent of the bloke who pushed Rita under the tram in Coronation Street. I’m quite an opinionated person, but I find it hard to get even a little bit riled by this stuff – it’s so transparent.
Every society needs a villain – someone to become the focus of mob rage. After all, while we’re railing against women who don’t know their own limits, we’re not wondering why those limits are still there, are we?
But what I do find really depressing is the increasing regularity of these Twitter-storms, where people (mostly women) round on the authors of these articles. And the insult most often thrown in their direction? They’re ugly.
Women have spent decades fighting for equality. For the right not to be judged on our gender, not to be belittled and overlooked and seen as nothing more than a collection of body parts that can be ranked out of 10 for sexual attractiveness.
Yes, the reporter said she thinks she’s pretty. She thinks other women don’t like women who are more attractive than themselves. Hmm. Judging by the response to her feature, I’m going to say she may well have a point.
Most of us – let’s be honest – don’t meet textbook definitions of beautiful. I don’t. I know this because at least once a month, someone on the Internet will feel compelled to point out to me my lack of attractiveness. Usually because I’ve disappointed them in some way by expressing an opinion. Silly me.
Sometimes people do it with the best of intentions. Like the woman who once looked me up and down at a party before putting her hand on my arm and saying, in a voice dripping with insincerity, “You’re so lucky, Sally, that you’ll never be judged on your beauty.” I had made the grave error of dating her ex-boyfriend, of course.
I was able to laugh in that woman’s face because what she didn’t understand is that – honestly – it doesn’t matter.
The sum of a life is so much more than what your face happens to look like, or the size of your thighs. Watch someone take their last breath at the age of 27, and it gives you a different perspective on this stuff, I promise you.
But women – really – every single time you play the “she’s ugly” card, you’re playing right into the hands of all of those people who believe the value of a woman lies in her bra size and the colour of her hair. That whatever a woman says, or feels, or achieves, will always be secondary to her dress size.
We’re parents, many of us. To girls who we hope will grow into strong, confident women who won’t simply be judged on how pretty they are – or aren’t. So let’s put the ugly card back in the box, where it belongs.