Beauty: A weapon to be used for power and protection

‘Your beauty is all that can save you […] your power and protection.’ – Apparently this is a quote from the slathered-in-media-attention film ‘Snow White and the Huntsmen’. I haven’t seen this film. I do not intend to ever see this film, on the basis that despite repeatedly being cast in roles that require a shred of talent, Kristen Stewart is as lacking in acting ability as a spoon. And has the charisma to match. That’s all I’ll say on that matter, I simply felt I should probably reference the quote. I believe that is the done thing.

Beauty: A weapon to be used for power and protection.

This is the message Hollywood advocates. It’s quite worrying actually, when you really think about it (or even if you don’t, the sentiment is still instantly clear), that this is the message put across to the younger generation of movie-goers. This idea that being beautiful is an important factor in the protection of women, is in fact the most vital factor. If that is true, it would also stand to reason that beauty results in power. Another terrifying thought. In a generation where young girls are possibly aware of the ongoing battle with gender discrimination and the public war on sexism, but are almost definitely aware of the availability of plastic surgery and body reconstruction, of the “coveted” size zero, alongside crash-dieting fads, and fashion snobbery. It is terrifying that they should be offered the suggestion that beauty and image is the way to not only protect yourself, but that it is the only way to gain respect and in turn power.

I am not the kind of girl who disregards makeup. In fact, I love it with every fibre of my being. When applied correctly, experimented with, and used to create, it is art. I often apply stage makeup for performers, more often than not this is used to create character, or accentuate features that will enhance a performance (and allow the audience to see performers’ faces). I view the use of makeup to be as creative and versatile as a painter is with a brush, or a chef is in the kitchen. For me, it is as much a hobby as it is a skill. I am the kind of girl who worries when seeing women hide behind makeup. A trait, I will admit, I am guilty of committing. I will also admit to wearing makeup virtually every day. A fact that sickens me to the core to say out loud. A fact that is, in part, due to a childhood of reading magazines, watching beauty adverts, and feeling that pang of inadequacy every time I gazed at my reflection and didn’t look the same as the models, as the celebrities, I fawned over. I quickly got over the celebrity phase. Having met many a “celeb” that was so incredibly human and down to earth in the flesh (sporting skin blemishes, frizzing hair, and terrible nail-biting, cigarette-smoking habits), it was clear the (let’s face it, airbrushed and manipulated) images I found myself conditioned to accept as real, were in fact anything but. I didn’t get over the inadequacy. I still struggle with it. But I am less reluctant to accept that I am a person, in my own right. And on good days I manage to leave the house without the daily face paint. This is something I’m having to deal with. It’s something that affects too many people. It is worrying.

It’s worrying because it suggests we are scared of ourselves. We are unable to admit that we look the way we do. Unable to accept the way we are. It is incredibly sad, and brutal. I’m a firm believer that we cannot rely too firmly on our reflection. Mine ensured that I spent over a decade terrified to be myself. To dress the way I desired, to wear my hair and makeup any differently to those I classed as friends, to smile at myself and be happy with the face that returned my gaze. Our reflection is never an honest representation. We are never allowed to see ourselves as others do, a both terrifying and humbling thought. You will never view your face in the way it is meant to be seen, it is often the reason behind a hatred of photographs of the self. You do not recognise you, because you do not see you. Therefore, it would stand to reason that you cannot trust your reflection. I don’t say this to scare you, but simply to suggest that you shouldn’t rely entirely on your reflection to feel good about yourself. Just look at Snow White’s (Step)Mother.* There is a level of trust required in accepting that you are not unattractive. That you are in fact as beautiful as the next person.

Beauty is natural. It is a scary thought that it can be faked and warped through the use of products and paints. Beauty is not protection. It only saves people in fairytales (also on my list of terrible role models). It cannot compensate for character or equality. Beauty is not power. It doesn’t advocate mutual respect. And it isn’t something you can, or should, hide behind. The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is quite possibly the cheesiest and most offensive suggestion I’ve heard. The suggestion that ‘everyone is beautiful, really’ is condescending, and bitchy. Like a teacher telling you that those girls are really just jealous. That is unlikely to be true. There are varying ideas of beauty, sure. The elderly find the youthful beautiful. The youthful find the infants beautiful. High cheekbones. No cheekbones. Full lips. Petite lips. Skinny hips. Curvy hips. Each of these are beautiful. The conventions of beauty differ, radically, between cultures. Between historical eras. Bloody hell, between people. That makes it subjective. It makes everything exist within a realm of beauty. It does not make it exist within the fucking eye of the fucking beholder. Be honest. Be truthful. Accept that not every single person is attracted to every single other person. It is what makes us unique and individual and fucking human.

This hasn’t been my most coherently formed argument. It doesn’t necessarily offer any insightful methods to break this conditioning to conform to someone else’s presentation of beauty. And it hasn’t even slightly touched upon my views on airbrushing, the portrayal of beauty in the media, and endorsements by influential figures. But it has given my brain a chance to approach the scary, scary world of “beauty”. And that’s all I needed to do. Today at least.

*I include “Step” in brackets because history offers differing opinions on the relationship between the pair. It is however an insightful tale into how the desire for beauty (and the belief that it equals power) can be destructive. It also offers a fair reason to not trust your reflection. nb. The (Step)Mother is traditionally depicted as evil. Tainted by vanity, jealousy, and a hunger for complete power.

“Brave”: Disney, Let’s have words.

*DISCLAIMER: This post includes spoilers for Disney/Pixar’s new movie Brave. Just letting you know.*

Dear Disney,

Firstly, let me commend you on successfully producing an animated film (possibly for the first time) that focuses on the Mother-Daughter relationship. Genuinely, props to you for that. It was hugely refreshing to not be subjected to the typical Daddy’s little girl storyline that centres on an angsty princess (The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Pocahontas, etc.), or the equally popular choice of a coming of age story that focuses on the becoming-a-man transition (The Lion King, Hercules, Finding Nemo, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Disney/Pixar film, but that relationship was a new one, and greatly appreciated.

Equally enjoyed was the sheer monstrosity that was your heroine’s hair. Finally, a children’s film that advocates having masses of unruly curls. As a fully-paid member of the massive-haired clan, I’m all for providing a role-model with non-salon-styled hair.

The idea of a Scottish animation was such a brilliant one. Animation (not to mention the majority of other mainstream children’s films) rarely ventures outside of generic as far as accents are concerned. In ‘Pocahontas’ John Smith, the explorer from London, has an American accent. ‘Mulan’, a film set in China, features a whole series of American accents. ‘Ratatouille’, set in a Parisian restaurant, again American accents are the preferred choice. I could go on. I appreciate that American/English is, in many cases, the easiest accent to understand through film, particularly for young children, but this is where Brave appeared to be breaking free of animated-tradition. The Scottish accent. Admittedly, it was a slow Scottish accent. The mainstream audience did have to understand the film after all. But it was such a brilliant idea.

This, however, is where my praises end.

The exploration of a massive-red-haired, mother/daughter relationship told through the voice of a Scot had the potential for such greatness. So, I really have to ask, what the hell happened to the storyline? Who actually sat down and thought “You know what, a touching story following the Mother-Daughter bond might not get through to a modern audience. Here’s an idea, let’s turn half the cast into bears!” WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Magic and witchcraft aside (we all know it’s not really a Disney film without that…), it seems an absolutely ludicrous idea for any story. Ever. Especially in this century where kids seem to adore (and want to be) The Saturdays and Justin Bieber and One Direction and Selena Gomez and other fresh-faced (read: TWELVE YEAR OLD) celebrities that take their clothes off and squeak about love. In other words, in this century where children can’t wait to be older than they are. Even the 6 year olds have boyfriends. How is a film about turning your mother into a bear because you don’t agree with her thoughts on marriage setting a good example? Sure, they resolve it in the end – through tears and a long hug and a lot of sewing – but really?! This is not going to prevent Mother-daughter problems.

Also. What happened to feminism? Come on Disney, it’s the 21st Century. Young girls SHOULD NOT GIVE IN AND ACCEPT TRADITION. They should say “Fuck it, I’m going to marry who I want to marry. In fact actually, I’m going to run off to the woods and get leaves in my hair and dance to crazy loud music because I’m still a child and do not need to be thinking about marriage yet!” Your protagonist almost managed. But instead, she went and got her mum turned into a bear. And then, in order to apologise for that fuck-up she goes and tries to give in to tradition and betrothal. Thank god for the mum/bear eh, who has a sudden change of heart and tells her to break tradition (through that well known bear language of hand-gesture).

Seriously Disney. What the fuck happened.

It’s down and depressed month in JessLand. October, to the rest of you..

It’s genuinely horrible to discover what people really think of you. Especially when this image they have is someone you would never recognise in the mirror. In fact it’s an image so very far from the truth, that you wonder if they’ve actually ever met you at all. Either that or they’ve clearly hit their head and are suffering from serious amnesia.

A little over a month ago I gave a mini-speech at a teenage fiction award ceremony, and I essentially got up onstage and told all these young girls that the next few years were likely to be the worst of their lives. I believe “Teens suck. Girls are horrible, and guys are non-existent..” may have been my exact words. As awful as I felt afterward, who am I to ruin that delightful surprise, I lied. *Life* sucks. And it doesn’t appear to be improving anytime soon.

That was morbid. And not exactly true. It just makes me feel physically ill to think that people see me as something that I’m not. Something so ridiculously opposite of what I am, that they end up resenting me.

I am not that girl. The one who looks in her mirror and sees everything she ever dreamed of. The one who knows how attractive she is and uses her looks to her advantage, flaunting everything she possibly can. The one who can pick and choose between guys and girls alike, turning her rejections to a quivering mess because they’re not on her list that week.

I am not even the quivering mess. Not anymore. Once, maybe. Once, I was the girl that cared what people thought. The girl who skulked in the corners, afraid to be herself in case it wasn’t good enough. The girl who let people she cared about stomp all over her and reduce her to that quivering mess. Once, I was definitely that girl. But not anymore.

Now? I refuse. I refuse to be anything other than who I am. It’s pointless and depressing and fucked up, you end up hating yourself because every time you pretend to be something else, someone else, you end up losing a little of yourself.

And, well, I like who I am. Sure I’m not a fan of how I look, who is, but *who* I am? I’d like to think I’m okay. I’m weird. And have the most pointless issues. And obsess over hats, and rubber ducks. I sing disney whilst washing up, and thrash-metal when baking cakes.

I’m not a bitch.

Sometimes you need to leave fashion, and fashion talk to those who are interested..

Boys upset me sometimes. Why can’t they ignore girl talk. Because their thoughts are sarcastic, or cynical, or ‘ha-ha-isn’t-this-funny’. And they don’t seem to realise it pisses people off.

Okay, maybe I’m being unfair. Girls are just as bad. At times.

But the male species never quite seems to be on the same wavelength. The wavelength that sends subliminal messages. You know, the ‘shut-the-hell-up-before-I-wipe-that-smirk-off-your-face-with-a-spoon’ type messages.

Sometimes you just want to think aloud, and you don’t need people to analyse everything you say. (I know, guys analysing girl’s thoughts. Woah did the earth stop spinning?!) And is it necessary for you to just weasle your way into everything. Even if it’s obvious you aren’t taking an otherwise sincere conversation seriously.

And really. Really and truly. Do *not* bring your computer into my room and start playing loud fighty style games on it. I might just kill you.

Oh, male people. Will you never learn?