Pick up any magazine and you’ll find at least one article on how to improve your appearance. Hair, hips, weight, teeth, and skin are all popular subjects.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against beauty tips. (Thanks to Crest White Strips, there’s no reason to walk around with yellow teeth anymore.) I believe that men and women should take care of themselves, striving to look the best they can. I’m not an advocate of slobs.
The problem I have is that Americans seem to have fallen—hook, line and sinker—for the notion that outer beauty is the ultimate goal, and this mindset causes our children to believe a lie, from early on. I’ve met women (of all ages) who think if only they were thinner, had thicker hair, bigger breasts, fuller lips, slimmer thighs, smaller waists, and longer fingernails their lives would improve dramatically.
It doesn’t help when art directors and magazine editors do everything in their power to put out covers bearing the “perfect” woman, going so far as to airbrush and retouch women who are already beautiful by most people’s standards.
Take, for example, the debacle at Redbook a few years back involving the Faith Hill cover.
What you see above is the un-retouched photo of Faith Hill. Redbook didn’t want you to see this photo, but some sneaky journalist/blogger/photographer was able to obtain it and the rest is history. It created quite a stir in the news media, and you may have already heard about it back when it happened.
As for me, I don’t see anything wrong with this photo. Do you? Faith looks awesome, right out of the camera. But, apparently, not awesome enough for the art director and certain editors at the magazine.
Take a look at the retouched photo below, used on the cover. Quite frankly, I think Faith looks better before they made her appear fake.
If you want to read the details of the 11 (count 'em) different areas that were edited (some as radical as giving her more hair, and removing her elbow "fat;" see diagram below), you can Google “Faith Hill airbrushed in Redbook,” and click on a site adress called Jezebel (something or other) for the full story. But I must warn you. The editors there seem to enjoy using foul language, for some reason, which is why I'm not linking to it here, but it is quite interesting if you can get past all of the "f" words.
The Faith Hill Redbook cover only proves my point. When women wonder why they can’t look like the perfect woman on the Redbook cover, it’s because that is not a “real” woman on the cover. She doesn’t exist!
What is it about outer beauty that drives us to seek it so desperately? Perhaps it is because we see too many unattractive people left on the fringes of society, shunned by others at the workplace, looked over when promotions are handed down, turned away when the movie director looks for leading characters, stared at in public places and ridiculed by rude children. Why can’t we understand that beneath an unappealing exterior there just might be a person of exceptional intellect and skills?
I wrote an article some years ago, about a woman I’ll call Karen. The corporation I worked for at the time agreed to hire an administrative assistant to handle my overflow work. Karen was one in a long line who came to apply for the job.
While I wasn’t the hiring manager, I’d been asked to interview the candidates, and when I walked into the room for my interview with Karen, you could have knocked me over with a leaf. There was nothing attractive about her. Bad hair. Bad clothes. Bad posture. And from what I could see, a frightening set of bad teeth.
Forgive me, but my initial thought was: Whoa! Not in a million years will she be the one. However, I determined not to fall into the trap of judging the proverbial book by its cover. I would give Karen a chance to impress me before passing her up.
As we talked, it became clear that Karen was no dummy. Intellectually, she was sharp. This was back in the day when employers could actually test applicants before hiring them (imagine that), and Karen passed a myriad of complex tests, with flying colors.
Looking over her resume, I couldn’t help but wonder how many doors had slammed in her face, simply because of her sad appearance. Now faced with my own decision, I wondered what I would do. There were other applicants who looked much more together and professional, but Karen was, without question, the most qualified of the pack.
As our interviewed ended, she thanked me for the opportunity and started for the door. I noticed that she walked as if her feet were killing her. My face must have registered concern, because she said, "If you notice I'm not walking very well, I had foot surgery a few months ago. The doctors say I will get better in time, so I hope you won’t worry that I can’t keep up with the pace around here."
“Thank you, Karen,” I said. “I have no doubts that you can.”
That was the moment when I knew we need look no further for help. Not only did Karen have a remarkable brain behind that homely face, she was undeterred by circumstances and determined to succeed. What more could I ask for?
Turns out, Karen made an excellent assistant, and it would have been my loss if I had let her appearance cloud my judgment.
Whether you are a delusional beauty chaser, or an arrogant demander of unrealistic beauty from others, I hope you will reconsider your position. To mark off all of the Karens that cross your path, based on outward appearance alone, is as much an injustice to yourself, as it is to them.