Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An "Ugly" Woman Speaks Out

Simcha Fisher, a very good writer who I have a great deal of respect for, just wrote an article Stop Saying All Women are Beautiful for the National Catholic Register. Her argument is that by applying the word to everyone, we take away it's meaning. She writes, If you are never allowed to think, "That women is not beautiful," then it's just a short slide to never being allowed to say, "That behavior is immoral" or "That relationship is not healthy" or "That world view is not humane." 

I get the argument, and yet as someone who has been told she is ugly repeatedly in her life, my heart recoiled at this article. I was the "ugly standard" growing up - the kids at school actually compared other people to me. - "That girl is half as ugly as Patrice." I was not an attractive pre-teen - I was gangly with big glasses and bad hair and let's just say that my mother's choice of appropriate clothing for me was not in style - ever.  And people let me know it - every day.

A teacher told me that I should lose a few pounds and that it was too bad my parents never put me in dance classes because I lacked grace. Even my mother thought me unattractive, and was happy about it. She said she didn't have to worry about me as much that way. Everyone thought (still thinks) my sister is the pretty one. When she was getting married, we went to get our hair done. The hair dresser took one look at me and said, "Wow, it's too bad you didn't get your sister's hair." Over the course of a lifetime, all those statements add up. In a world in which a woman is valued, rightly or wrongly, at least partly for her looks, it isn't hard to see where one's sense of self goes when she is told she is unattractive over and over again.

If all women are not beautiful, in some way, then some are ugly. I'm not saying we all look like whatever standard of beauty is being held up in the fashion magazines today, but God lovingly created each one of us. There should be some inherent beauty in that alone.

When I was younger I always wanted to have a little girl. God blessed me with two sons. In time, I was thankful that there were no daughters in the mix - after all, even if my sons looked like me, it matters less for a boy.  I would hate for a daughter to be told she is ugly because she resembled me. But then God gave me a little girl - a foster daughter whom I am hoping to adopt. I met her when she was only 3 months old. She is now two-and-a-half, and I have always called her "my beautiful girl." I want my voice in her head to drown out any that may come in the future that tell her she isn't.

Yes, in order for beauty to matter, there needs to be something that is ugly. Call excrement ugly, call a pile of trash ugly, call artwork ugly if it makes you feel better, but do not use that word to describe a woman's physical appearance. A baby is beautiful, a child is beautiful, an awkward pre-teen is beautiful, a young woman in the prime of life is beautiful, a middle-aged woman with a body changed from giving birth is beautiful, and an older woman with a face full of the lines that show she has lived is beautiful. To say anything else is cruel.


Margaret Mary Myers said...

Oh, Patrice, thank you for your honest sharing. Growing up, I never thought I was particularly attractive. Kids told me I was "flat" (in the 6th grade). My clothes were never in style. My dad once told me I walked like a farmer's daughter (whatever that was supposed to mean).

When I grew up, I loved the Russian folk tale, "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world."

I saw a link to Simcha's article earlier, but I just now read it & I started shaking. I tried to comment on it but my writing ability took flight.

So, anyway, thank you for sharing, and I feel with you & understand what you are saying.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Thanks, Margaret Mary! Someone has to speak up for those who would be hurt by this.

Margaret Mary Myers said...

I calmed down enough to make a comment on her post. I hesitated but I think I had in mind the same thing you just said: that some would be hurt by this. Like you, I wanted them to know they are not alone...and that they are important and beautiful.

Karen Ford said...

I wish you could see you through the mirror of my eyes, my friend. I wish you could have seen the you that I see when you were little. I know the pain of those words is real and deep. I've felt those stinging comments, too. I was told I had a "ski slope nose" by the boy I had a crush on in 5th grade. I put my head on my desk and cried all through homeroom. I was told I had thunder thighs and chipmunk teeth by family members. Don't let those scars of ugly words frame your opinion of yourself. Your "beautiful girl," though not born from your body, reflects your beauty as the mother who so deeply loves her. Her infectiously gorgeous smile is a mirror of your smile that has shaped her into a happy little lady. As you continue to encourage your daughter, listen to a different voice in your head--not the worldly voices that hurt you. You are one of the most kind, loving, beautiful people I know--the Holy Spirit wanted me to remind you. Love you!!

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Thank you :) You are very beautiful, too. With this article, I really just wanted to put a face to the pain that would be caused by this. Sometimes well-meaning people just don't think things through.

Christine said...

Karen beat me to the punch, but I have never thought of you as ugly! God's love in you shines through in everything you do. I think there are many of us who have struggled with the unkind words that can be bandied around toward girls in particular. And I wanted to tell both you and Karen that I don't know how someone could tell Karen she has thunder thighs or you that you should lose a few pounds. Maybe their eyesight is affected by an unattractiveness in their own souls.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Thanks Christine! There is a reason that people say beauty is in the eye of the beholder - I think some people are just unable to see it, or choose to see it in very narrow circumstances.

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