But seriously, I’m talking about rewarding physical beauty. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention, but I’ll do it anyway – of course we all love beautiful things and people. We’re programmed by nature and nurture to do so. The symmetry of a face, the fullness of a bottom lip, the shape and color of an eye, the length of eyelashes, the taught drum of a tan stomach, the perkiness of a nipple – all these things are giving me a boner right now, and that’s fine, they’re supposed to. But our particular society assigns so much importance to physical beauty that it seeps into our consciousness and our drinking water and our interactions with each other.
You hear people talk to little girls about what they’re wearing, and to little boys about what they did that day. You hear female comics introduced like this, “She’s smart, funny, AND beautiful, please welcome to the stage Boobers McPussy!” (I wish Boobers was a real comic, but alas, she is not.) But the rest is true. Moreover, sometimes I’m the person who gave that intro. Yep. Just like I was giving out ribbons at a dog show. “Julia, in addition to being an amazing writer, and having a wonderfully dry piercing wit, and being an amazing road trip partner, has toned haunches, an excellent shiny coat, and her whiskers are downright bushy! Let’s give Julia a hand, everybody, what an excellent specimen!”
Gross. And for me, it comes from a nice place, too. It comes from the place where you want to sing the praises of your friends to anyone and everyone, and just let people know how wonderful and accomplished your friends are. But that’s the thing, being pretty is not an accomplishment. Having a unique sense of style can be praised, but being born with the right features is nothing anyone earned. It’s pure luck. What are we saying about each other when we praise those traits? That those of our friends that are chubbier, or have bald heads, or big noses, or tiny T-Rex arms, or lower halves that are horse, are somehow worse than our other friends? Surely we don’t mean that.
And as for comics, how is a funny woman with nice sweater puppies worth any more than a funny woman who’s got little tiny sweater mice? IS THAT WHAT WE ALL BELIEVE? Call me an optimist, but I really don’t think so. We laugh at what’s funny. As much as TV executives try to make us believe that a fat funny man is perfectly paired with a bland pretty woman, we know better. Being funny has zero to do with looks. Iliza Schlesinger is not funnier than Melissa McCarthy because one of them is more classically beautiful. The great thing about encouraging diversity in literally every area of life is that there are unlimited kinds of funny, a broad spectrum of looks and characters and gags. How much richer would our movies and TV shows be if instead of encouraging the best-titted physical specimens who are also funny we tried to encourage the best female comedians regardless of looks or “type?” Can we have female Steven Wrights and Demetri Martins and David Crosses and Emo Philipses, comics who are weird-looking but are never obligated to address it because they’re men?
So I’m going to try to be more conscious of my compliments. There’s nothing wrong with telling women they’re beautiful, but keeping those compliments out of the talents arena is so important. Otherwise our little girls grow up to believe that being pretty is an accomplishment, and that it makes them better than other little girls, which makes them entitled and competitive and catty and vicious, which in turn makes them marry for money and status and be on reality TV, and teach a new crop of little girls to be bratty and shallow and dumb. And the whole time they’re not learning math or science or much of anything at all, because being smart isn’t sexy, and they don’t know how to have self-esteem outside of their looks. Let’s ask them about their day in school, and whether they’re proud of how they did on their Bio quiz, and stop calling them pretty-pretty princesses, so maybe they grow up into women who will even out the gender gap that plagues our country in nearly every industry, and these charts will have a lot more fuchsia in them: http://www.upworthy.com/a-chart-about-silence-that-will-leave-you-speechless?g=2&c=bm1
But let’s start small. The next time you or I list a woman’s accomplishments, can we agree to keep her tight ass out of it?
For more “Important Thinkings,” follow Sofiya on tumblr. Be sure to check out our Giggle Goddess interview with her, too!