Women and Beauty: Changing the Conversation - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


Women and Beauty: Changing the Conversation

Why we shouldn’t be trying to convince people that every woman is beautiful.


Sitting in a cafe in midtown Manhattan, I observe two young women.  Both are mid-20s, attractive and on the slimmer side of average.  They are talking animatedly about something.  Curious, I lean in.  I suspect that they are talking about a saucy first date, a juicy piece of workplace gossip, or at least a scandalous Tweet.  But no, they are talking about their weights.  They are talking about how they plan to tighten and tone “just a little more.”  One of them is on a gluten-free diet.  The other is on a strict cross-training schedule.  Both have stopped drinking alcohol and eliminated sweets.  These are pretty, healthy-looking girls, not the kind you would expect to have such concerns.  As they continue to chat, I have to wonder what, or for whom they are doing this for.

Women and Beauty: Changing the Conversation

It’s become common to hear about the way society, the media and the world at large place unreasonable demands upon a woman’s appearance.  So common in fact that further discussion seems redundant.  Well, I’m not here to reiterate what you’ve already heard.  I’m here to propose that we change the conversation.

Trying to empower women by trying to convince people that every woman is beautiful is a well-intentioned but misguided effort.

A counter movement is happening, and that movement says that we should expand our definition of what is beautiful.  There are girls whose images you can see transformed from unpolished start to airbrushed finish on YouTube.  With a quick internet search, you can see pictures of mothers pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy.  And they are proud of the contrast.  The Dove Real Beauty campaign demonstrated how respecting women as humans rather than objects can translate into profits.  These types of efforts will continue.  They challenge our preconceived notions of what’s beautiful, and that’s a good thing.

But the problem with these types of efforts is that they’re all still focused on the way that a woman looks.  The real question is, why is being beautiful the focus at all?  Whether a woman is “beautiful” or not, it’s a shame that her value seems be so tied up with her appearance.  Trying to empower women by trying to convince people that every woman is beautiful is a well-intentioned but misguided effort. It’s asking people to look beyond the superficial without actually going beyond the surface.  It’s shining the spotlight on what we’re asking people to overlook while failing to provide an alternative focus.

Rather than focusing on expanding our idea of “beautiful,” let’s expand our idea of how we measure worth.  Let’s stop talking about a woman’s appearance altogether.  Let’s shift our attention to the work she’s doing, the kindness that she shows, the strength she shares and the difference she’s making in the world.  Let’s stop talking about bodies and faces and start talking about the people who wear them.


What do you think are the pros and cons of expanding the idea of what is beautiful?
Do you think these types of efforts are more or less empowering to women and why?
We’d love to hear your thoughts below!  

Raised in California and North Carolina, Jen is both an actress and a writer. She loves writing fiction, especially for young adults, and exercising her non-fiction muscles through Urbanette and her chocolate blog: Chocofiles. Jen also loves adventures, yoga, live music and spontaneous dance parties.

Reader Discussion: 50 Comments

  1. Chanelle Gregory

    For women to empower ourselves everyday my tip is for you to set goals for yourself. Take time one day a week and write down things you’d like to accomplish that week. By setting goals for yourself, you’re more likely to get through the week on a strong note. You can even write down things you’re thankful for, quotes you want to remember and tasks you’d like to accomplish, as well. Start the week off with a strong mindset!

  2. Isabella Jones

    There is a Goddess in every woman Learning to accept and love oneself that is a true beauty. Honoring that part of yourself and realizing you are so much more. True beauty comes from within, We as women and especially young girls judge us according to how others see us and think we have to look a certain way, that is a superficial beauty.

  3. KZ Evans

    I love myself I do. Not everything, but I love the good as well as the bad. I love my crazy lifestyle, and I love my hard discipline. I love my freedom of speech and the way my eyes get dark when I’m tired. I love that I have learned to trust people with my heart, even if it will get broken. I am proud of everything that I am and will become. And these make me beautiful. 🙂

  4. Camilla Collins

    I know I shouldn’t be feeling ugly because everybody is beautiful. Something must be wrong with me. Because no matter what I do. I just can’t think I am beautiful.

  5. Sarah Parker

    Okay, so beauty means having a perfect, blemish-free skin to you? Let me correct you! It isn’t so.

    Beautiful souls are beautiful people. Strive to be a better human being and you will be beautiful in all ways. Accept yourself, appreciate everything you have and the appreciation of others will follow. Never try too hard to seek validation from others.

  6. Elsa Gomez

    Call me fat, call me old (or too thin and young), but I’m not afraid to tell the world that I think I’m beautiful. Yup, I said it. And no, I’m not a self-obsessed narcissist. I am sick and tired of advertisers, corporations and beauty products telling me I need to fix myself. I like who I am and the way I look. Yes, I have a bit of a belly and wrinkles around my eyes, but I am comfortable about that. I want all people, especially my young daughter, to understand that not only is it okay to feel beautiful, but self-love is one of the most important and empowering things a person can feel (and practice). I am fit. I am healthy. I am just right, stretch marks and all.

  7. Carla Peters

    I find the courage to love myself even amidst criticism and doubt. I am more than one person’s opinion and will continue to thrive because I believe I have the right to and deserve to live the life I want.

  8. Katherine Swift

    I am beautiful. My mother is beautiful. Your mother is beautiful and so are you. Sisters, daughters, Grandmothers, Aunts, Cousins, Widows, Nieces. We are all beautiful.

  9. Pepa Washington

    I believe every woman’s body is beautiful in its own way. I have never understood that just because a woman has thick thighs, she is considered fat. For so long, I’ve been around in the modeling world and have tried to break that barrier. But I think now it’s turning around.

  10. Francis Lockwood

    I believe that all women are beautiful no matter how young or old small or big short or tall they may be. each and every one of us is unique and it just adds to the beauty.

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