November 2017
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an open letter to anyone who uses the words 'attractive' or 'ugly' like they have objective meaning


icon: "bodylove -- heart my belly (my bare, stretch-marked belly with my hands making a heart shape in front of it. There is an overlay of blue and violet radiating out from my navel)"

(This is modified from something I wrote to someone who says negative things about their looks -- but it applies even if you only do the 'positive' side of calling some people attractive.)

When you say you are ugly, I hear that you believe in a such thing as ugliness, and I know that I am not safe to be beautiful in your eyes. I know that if you call me beautiful, you might be using that as a way to harm your own self with comparison. How can I appreciate admiration if I know it might not be about me at all, but just the underside of you condemning yourself? I can't bear to be looked at through a lens of relative ugliness. If you hate your belly for not being flat, my poky belly is not safe in your gaze. If you take issue with the shape of your jawline, my 'double chin' is not safe in your gaze. You might not see it as ugly, but since you believe in ugly I can never be sure.

It is not fucking true that you are 'ugly'! If you are not willing to accept that it is a lie shoved into your head by cruel evil people, you can't get rid of the idea. It's a lie it's a lie it's a lie it's a LIE. Reject it. Even if you can't help that it repeats in your head, please decide it is a lie repeating instead of truth repeating. Please. You holding this lie close to your chest keeps people from being able to communicate with you about how they feel about you. It's like a giant shield that blocks out affection and admiration. You probably can't just throw it out. It probably feels like a kind of protection. But you can turn it sideways (decide it's a lie) so that people can get past it. You can accept that the people who love you are more honest than the people who want to abuse and control you. You can decide that all ratings are LIES. EVIL, CRUEL lies.

There is NO SUCH THING as ugly. There is no such thing as a body 'flaw.' YOU ARE PERFECT. Variety is beauty. You could not be more beautiful if you were different. People who think that there is a such thing as more attractive and less attractive have fucked up wrong perceptions that they need to change. No one gets to fucking rank people's attractiveness! NO ONE EVER. Not even you.

Also, that celebrity or model or whoever is NOT more attractive than you. This is as wrong to say as it is to say that they're uglier than you. It's creepy to compare like that. Nobody is more beautiful than you. There is no such thing as objective beauty. "You are beautiful" always and ONLY means "looking at you is enjoyable for me." Rotten people might get more enjoyment out of looking at people who resemble the societal ideal of the moment, but doesn't make it objective. Rotten people's opinions are irrelevant to actual life and love.

Do you compare you and me? do I gain attractiveness if I lose weight? If my belly is smaller? if my neck is thinner? if I wear makeup? If you judge everyone as more attractive than you or not, I have a really hard time believing that you don't judge me. I have a really hard time believing that you can do this comparison thing so often and yet have it not apply to me. Even if you did though, I would still be really bothered by the comparison for others. And because you believe in 'ugly' every time you use an attraction word (pretty beautiful cute gorgeous) as if it is objective, it feels AWFUL to me. I feel hurt for myself, for you, and for whoever you are judging as 'more attractive.' If attractiveness can be ranked, then I can only be beautiful at the expense of others. That is never something I want.

Related:
As with telling me you love me, only tell me I’m beautiful if you mean it. And challenge yourself to mean it. Recognize the way it stretches you to call a fat person beautiful, not as an exception, but as a shifting, growing rule. Feel all the things you are rejecting by saying such a simple, common word. - "What happens when you call your fat friend beautiful" by thefatshadow on Medium

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Comments
volamonster ══╣firestarter╠══
Consider this comment my standing ovation.

Just... Fucking yes.
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
*beams*
ragnarok_08 ══╣A19 ★ the heart and strength╠══
Yes to all of this!!!
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
*big grin*
bobby1933 ══╣╠══
"all rating are evil"
(or at least without roots in reality)

Tao Te Ching. chapter 2)
belenen ══╣artless╠══
Re: "all rating are evil"
cool! I have yet to read that but it is on my list! and I bought a used copy recently.
sammason ══╣╠══
I agree. 'Beauty' is a product of time and place. Eg if Lillie Langtry were alive now, she might not succeed as a Professional Beauty. A wider view shows even more people who'd be called 'ugly' in our time and place, but who are v attractive in their own context.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
exactly! it's all made up, which means we can re-make it!
cactus_rs ══╣╠══
If you judge everyone as more attractive than you or not, I have a really hard time believing that you don't judge me.

Yeah, exactly. I respect people's momentary need for feelings-venting ("I feel so $whatever") but when it's an on-going thing about oh just a few more pounds or gosh I've lost so much weight I love it, I know that I'm no longer entirely safe around them. Not through any fault of their own---breaking free of a lifetime of propaganda is kind of hard---but still. That's just how fucking insidious it all is.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*nodnod* I am always torn about responding, because I understand the feeling, but the action is still a damaging one! Usually in the moment I try to just talk back with how I notice their beauty.
wildrose ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣nuzzle╠══
I know that it is a process, believe me -- and in case you worried, this was not at all brought on by anything you have shared. Your kind of thing is less upsetting to me because I feel like you acknowledge that it is a self-destructive thought, and I understand having those thoughts! I understand it so well. I also can see you working on it -- and it isn't your fault that the thoughts are there to begin with, so really there is nothing for you to apologize for because all you can do is your best.

*much love*
meteorology ══╣╠══
I know this is something I'm guilty of and I will try to do better. I know that I instinctively judge myself against current societal standards of "beauty", and when I do so, I'm aware that's what I'm doing, but even so it can be difficult to stop. I did have some vague awareness that expressing those judgments - even just about myself - could also be hurtful to others but thank you for the reminder and for explaining it so well.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
I totally understand. It's a process for everyone, growing up in such a bigotry-filled world!
topaznebula ══╣╠══
Yes yes yes, yessity yes yes.
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
oh thanks, thanks!
webgirluk ══╣pic#124969441╠══
Awesome entry and I completely agree with you. Well said. I really don't agree with the idea that there is some kind of measure of attractiveness. At the end of the day, like intelligence, it's just another socially constructed issue so some people can feel superior and expect social luxury. I never feel too comfortable with people who are all about looks and catering to certain beauty standards in their views of others. Still, I have been guilty of referring to myself as ugly on occasions, but I just mean by it "I feel ugly to those who judge people by certain measures" although I can understand by even calling myself it, I am adding to it being reinforced. So you made me think.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
yesssssssss I agree! it is just like intelligence. I think it is important to be able to talk about being judged as not measuring up, but also important to phrase in such a way that makes it clear that the measure is meaningless to begin with.
seifaiden ══╣╠══
I have been thinking about this entry a lot. My thoughts aren't really cohesive, so I'll just write them piecemeal. I largely agree, but I wanted to discuss a couple of things.

1) "It's like a giant shield that blocks out affection and admiration. You probably can't just throw it out. It probably feels like a kind of protection."

I know I have this and I want to keep it. Shields protect you. When you define yourself as ugly, you're no longer subject to the demands of societal "beauty". Some folks also cannot believe compliments for whatever reason.

2) I think there is some power in identifying as ugly, specifically as a label. It signifies rejection of norms; I am ugly, but my ugliness is just as valid as beauty. It reminds me a bit of turning the word "fat" from a pejorative into a judgement-free adjective: I am fat and am not offended to be called fat.

Of course, this all goes into the definition of beauty and ugliness. While I agree with your take on the matter, calling myself ugly is in relation to the social concept of beauty, displaying my rejection of it.

2a) Beauty is fragile, socially speaking. Once described as "beautiful", this status can be revoked shockingly quickly. Ugly is less mutable, doesn't need defending as much as beauty does. You don't have anything to lose when you're defined as "ugly"; you're less visible, typically, and that is protective.

3) I think it may have something to do with the (my) perception of the meaninglessness and shallowness of positive comments regarding one's attractiveness or beauty in general.

Because many compliments seem based on the social script (rather than truth), they're easy to brush off - however, negative comments are not based on the script and seem like the speaker genuinely believes them more deeply.

This absolutely varies based on the interlocuters, though.

It feels kind of weird to deal with these things in multiple contexts (with those who believe in our concept of beauty and those assuming the social concept is valid) too.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
2) I can understand and agree with that perspective. I have not seen it used this way but I would not mind it. It's when it's used as a tool of self-harm that it gets to me.

I just never interpret people as saying "I think society would approve of how you look" (or rather if they say that I think "fuck you" and immediately put it out of my mind). I interpret them as saying "I enjoy looking at you" and I can like that without any idea of beauty entering into it.
chillychilly22 ══╣╠══
Unlearning the scale of attractiveness has been a wobbly road for me. As a kid I didn't understand that I was being sized up, so anyone praising my cuteness or calling me ugly didn't register in mind. I remember what it feels like to not be bounded to the scale. I have my ups and downs. It's liberating when I consistently hold the truth that attractiveness is not objective. Benefiting from being attractive on different levels will test me the most.

You know, thinking about this further, I now understand why I feel ill around certain groups of friends. Cause either I feel myself being judged and so judge myself and vice versa. I feel awful around them. I initially held my own, but over time I bought into their group think and have been working my out. Unfortunately it's not a simple matter of walking away from this group because I work with them.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
Mmmm, yeah, I can understand the difficulty of your workplace being littered with toxic beauty ideals. :-/
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.