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.