Pretty Hurts

melted barbie doll

So yeah, this post is inspired by the Beyoncé track of the same name which is the 2014 version of 90’s anthems Unpretty by TLC, & Dear Lie by TLC.

It is also inspired by Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women.

For those insisting Beyoncé can’t be a feminist, watch the video and listen to the lyrics. There is a great post by Dr Kay Standing here on Beyoncé. I think this is an important message especially for young girls. And yes Beyoncé is stunningly beautiful very slim and pretty but at least she acknowledges the pains women face to reach these impossible standards.

“Mama said, You’re a pretty girl.
What’s in your head, it doesn’t matter
Brush your hair, fix your teeth.
What you wear is all that matters.”

I feel so sorry for young girls now. In the nineties music videos and fashion were fun, creative. I remember reading J17 (the best magazine ever) Sugar and Bliss and experimenting with hair and make-up because it was fun, making our own clothes and customising charity shop gear. We tried different combinations of eye shadows and nail art because it made us look different, we told each other “wow that colour suits your eyes” “your hair looks beautiful like that” now girls have to do things because they feel vile without. I see teenage girls on their way to school so poised and polished, perfectly applied MAC face, gel nail colour and a full head of highlights. The fun has gone. We had henna hair dye and Hard Candy nails and clip in pastel strands of hair.

Now everything is so glossy, high-fashion, expensive, plastic. We are worshipping at the cathedrals of consumption like never before and we are also turning ourselves into consumables. Instagram has turned us into products, symbols to be de-coded, objectified and consumed. Yet another site for us to display our taste and capital, and yet another space in which we can fail. Professor Mary Evans writes here about clothes and class.

The lovely PhD researcher here at Leeds Met Jocelyn Murtell is researching Selfies, and I have been fascinated by them for a while.

Magazines have long been airbrushed but now so are we. There are multiple apps to ensure those Instagram and Facebook pictures look how we wish. So not only do we face impossible ideals from the beauty industry but is has seeped into the everyday and we don’t know what is real anymore. I can’t abide photographs without a filter anymore!


Raising money for cancer research is a good thing but the fact make-up free selfies are ‘brave’ political statements is ludicrous. Is a naked female face really such a vile thing? Make-up can be fun and creative but it shouldn’t be forced upon women as the norm. Our natural faces shouldn’t be thought of as hideous.

We are implored as always to diet; to ‘eat clean’ and sculpt even if you are a size 8 to begin with; we must be constantly in motion constantly progressing. We should detox our dirty insides. Surgery is normalised through deals on voucher sites and unsolicited emails. You need a tan but when that tan gives you patchy skin or wrinkles you need to deal with that too.

I am faced with a growing sea of young women (girls in some cases) with their faces filled with botox and fillers, often hardened waxy expressions where their youth once fell. The irony of these procedures is many people look older afterwards and become hooked to costly injections A poison that we do not yet know the effects of is being injected into the faces of young women.

And yes people should of course have the choice and men are affected too but let’s face it, older women are nearly obsolete in the media. We have no respect for ageing women in society and rather than seen as wise and powerful, we see them as redundant. And that is massively wrong. I really like this post by Dr Kay Standing On Being Fifty and Not Wearing Purple.

Emily @rey_z writes on the botox issue here and I am for choice (I’m not surgery-free myself) but I think in the majority of cases the only winners of the plastic surgery clinics, the surgeons, the advertisers, the glossy mags, and whoever has crap to sell us. Because making women feel bad about themselves is a lucrative industry.

You need to constantly be on your guard, constantly belittle yourself, monitor and police yourself.

The Beauty Myth is more real than ever and whilst I do not condemn looking nice, enjoying clothes and grooming oneself, we need to address the euro-centric, young, thin, able-bodied saturation of the media. The idea what we are ‘letting ourselves go’ if you choose not to stick needles in our face or count calories. Because being happy with yourself doesn’t make companies money.

I wrote this post recently about triggering diet language and our need to break free of self-hatred. The Unbearable Weight. There are times in life when we want to lose weight (or put weight on) perhaps following illness, or pregnancy, or for health reasons. But we need to stop beating ourselves up. Enjoy your food. Accept your body. Surround yourself by people who compliment you not criticise. If you are in a relationship with someone who criticises your body: they are not the right person for you. Life is short. It gets a lot easier when you play for the same team as yourself.

I am not being flippant with regards to eating disorders or Body Dysmorphic Disorder these are mental health issues that need professional support. But for the rest of our worries, let’s start a crusade of kindness. When your friend says how fat she looks deflect it with a complement. You are a martial artist of body positivity; deflect their negativity! When someone posts triggering facebook statuses, hide their posts from your newsfeed. When people start talking about dieting, walk away. Just don’t be a part of it. Don’t comment negatively on other people’s looks and walk away from people who do.

I think we need to speak openly about how pretty hurts.

And you know when you were a kid, your mum told you that beauty comes from the inside? Well she was right. Think of when your friend looked her most beautiful, holding her newborn baby; after running a marathon; after landing her dream job; on her wedding day; after volunteering for a cause she loves. That’s beauty, that radiant joyous glow. That confidence and self-assuredness. And they don’t sell it in shops in tubes or vials.


The amazing PhD researcher Glen Jankowski writes about male body image here.