By Mirra Kardonne
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us….”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies
For the fellas.
Beautiful women aren’t doing anything to you.
Really, beautiful men aren’t doing anything to women, either. Not once, though, have I ever met a woman mad at a man for being beautiful. I’ve seen women be mad at other women who want the beautiful man, or mad at themselves for some reason for not acquiring said beautiful man. But mostly, I don’t see women being actually angry at men for their good looks.
But Jeez Louise. Do I ever see men getting mad at the beautiful women.
Perhaps some back-story… I am female, 25, non-smoker, 5ft 3in, smallish, not particularly strong. I am an actor and mixed-media artist. Two artistic vocations in which there is pretty much an even helping of both men and women making a go at it, although I’d say there are more female actors out there than male.
As a beginner visual artist, my first muse was bodies in motion, all kinds of bodies! Appreciating someone else’s body, not mine, in all it’s splendour, its other person splendour.
Now, as a jaded mixed-media artist with a tendency to glare menacingly, exhibitions and sales under my belt, and many bewildering experiences to draw on for inspiration, my second muse is Power. I’m a little obsessed with it—I find Power to be a slippery and insidious concept. What is it? How do you get it? Who already has it? How did they get it? How do you lose it? How to you keep it? How can you have a lot of it with one person, like a lover or a friend, but none at the same time, like with a boss; a parent? Does it draw you in? Does it repel you?
In making a new mixed-media art collection last year, I came to understand that I had no idea, literally zero gauge of my own power. I didn’t know where I acquired the power I already had, nor could I identify where in myself it lived. Did I have a finite reservoir of it, or could I replenish it at times? I also didn’t know if other people saw me as powerful. If they did, what kind of powerful? Personal power, that comes from the inside out? Or superficial power: a fortified exterior. Flimsy on the inside, but damned if the outside is going to crack.
I’m not sure what people see when they look at me, if they see a beautiful person or a not-beautiful person. I know what I see… I see what I’ve always seen. Sometimes I see my flaws more, sometimes less. And, you know, my journey is a typical one. I played chicken with my health and life more than once by losing more weight than I could afford to. I would ponder the cost and ramifications of getting a nose job because I felt that my ethnicity shouldn’t literally be coming out the top side of my nose. I had to change schools not once, but twice due to relentless bullying, which was (surprise surprise) focused around being a dirty, wild haired, ugly kid with no friends.
You can imagine my surprise when I found out twenty years later that am I considered a beautiful woman. Perhaps you can imagine my indignation when I discovered that Beauty status doesn’t deliver women from bullshit—it just exposes them to a new flavour of bullshit–the Insanity Flavour. With a shit tonne of Anger Sauce on top. And with all the insanity and anger coming in their direction, it leaves them both angry, and feeling…well, kind of insane. Before they were a target for being an ugly loser. Now they’re beautiful idiots. Or snobs. Or bitches. Or sluts. Or ice-queens. Or idiots.
I’ve been duped! I was led to believe that beauty meant something good! Beautiful people have glory and respect and the most sex and the best jobs, and all those things tumble gracefully into their laps, like a cloud of butterflies and bluebirds that help them get dressed in the morning while they admire themselves in the mirror, singing.
No. It’s more of the same. Only now I’ve been reduced to a pair of legs. Evil legs. Legs that want to make you feel like shit. Which is obviously The Plan. It’s not that I deserve whatever’s coming to me, but it’s not all that surprising. “I know I know, pretty girls have problems too. Boo. Hoo.” “Jeez, now you know you’re sexy, relax!” And surely- “You must know what you’re doing to me.” “You want to fuck all the time because you’re hot and you know you can”. “I love that you’re hotter than his girlfriend”. “I love being seen with you because everyone knows you’re mine”. “It’s so weird that you’re so smart!”. My personal favourite: “How does someone like you want someone like me?! You’re so you and I’m so …so ME!! GO! Take your pick from the legions of men that surely must be banging down your castle door, FUCK YOU for your interest, let me cry my aesthetically inadequate tears in peace!” (followed by compulsive verbal masturbating and mental meanderings).
Well, thanks for clearing something up. You perceive a large portion of my power to be in my appearance. You think it must imbue me with special powers of awesomeness that you’ve never come close to touching. Apparently you think you’re way less than awesome, because I’m me and you’re you, and I look this way and you look that way. Fellas, let me tell you: that’s *completely* logical and not at all emotional.
Let’s get one thing straight: ~I have no idea what you’re talking about.~ That’s not modesty, it’s that the experience of seeing me is something that you and I can never share, so however it’s making you feel, that’s how it’s making YOU feel. I’m not involved with how and why you feel the way you feel. If you think it’s some great barrier between me and you, that’s because you’re wrong, not because I’m beautiful.
Ladies: I get it. Now, on top of everything, if you’ve accepted that friends and others aren’t lying and you must in fact, be beautiful, then you may find yourself feeling like this new type of bad behaviour aimed at you is deserved. Why? Because you still haven’t figured out the pass-codes that all beautiful people supposedly have that protect from the shit-storm of nonsense. Obviously, you fucked up. Unless… you’re not actually beautiful, it was all an elaborate ruse after all. Don’t you feel like a prize idiot.
I find myself having to manage quite a bit of other people’s anger. It comes out in all kinds of ways and at all kinds of times, like when I crack a joke at a party, when men touch me on the street, when some men I’ve known for years talk about raping me in my sleep…whenever. When my ‘friend’ grabs and lifts me (because I’m soo light and teeny that he can’t resist), pinning me to a wall and fake ‘doing’ me in front of his girlfriend and his buddies. My protestations are part of the fun. Ha. (His girlfriend later told me that I should have known better than to sit beside him if I didn’t want the attention. Attention, that’s what they’re calling harassment these days?) Or when I’m told that I should be thanking a guy for not being all over me after a second date, as though his chivalry is so epic that he can bring himself to not demand sex after a cumulative total of 4 hours spent in each other’s company. Or when a male friend asks me how drunk I’d have to be to suck his dick. So I have re-examined my encounters, and what perceived Beauty/Power means, not to myself, but to the spectator:
It is a key that unlocks a whole host of negativity. I’m yet unconvinced that coveting the surface beauty of people is anything more than idol worship. And we all know how that goes. (It goes badly.) Worship that idol! It’s a THING that represents something enormous! I can’t explain what the Enormous Thing is… that’s why there’s an idol! This one is made of GOLD! It’s shiny and simple, so much better than getting down to it and asking, why is it important? What is it? How do we get it? Who already has it? How did they get it? How do we lose it? How to we keep it?
I see a lot of men talking at beautiful women. When this happens, it takes about 10 seconds to determine that the person these men are really talking to is themselves.
Ahem…Guys? Someone lives in here.
I know it’s weird, but beautiful women aren’t machines programmed to merely respond to your voice. You are talking to a person, and if you fuck up, it counts. There are no do-overs. If I had a nickel for every time I saw a beautiful woman being shown-off like a prize, or talked about like she was tricked, or else she’d have never seen him… Oftentimes, I’ve heard that beautiful women are good to have fun with, but a dude will eventually find someone grateful to be with him, not the other way around—someone more in his league. Barf. If you happen to be one of these fellas: Congratulations, you’re right! You’re not in those women’s league. But it’s still not because they’re beautiful. Again, it’s because you’re wrong.
I wish I had known as a kid that chasing the beauty fairy would be a thankless pursuit for almost no reward. I could have saved a lot of time and emotional energy. I also wish I had known that beauty isn’t currency. I thought it was! I equated beauty to money—something essentially worthless, but if everyone agrees that this piece of paper has X value, then that’s X value more than I had before. I thought if I had enough of it, I could exchange it for things I want. Little did I know that it’s not something I have, nor is it something I can save, trade or invest in. Beauty isn’t power. It’s a branch thereof, but a somewhat flimsy one. It ain’t holding no treehouse.
In Summation: stop punishing Beautiful Women–they may have no idea what you’re on about. Don’t punish them if they think they’re beautiful, either. It’s not a fault. They’re going about their day, doing their thing. And believe you me, with all the alienation they feel and poison lobbed at them daily, many beautiful women aren’t feeling so great that they’re considered beautiful. Remember, the story about the beautiful woman is hardly ever one in which she is a character with a voice. Man and woman alike can all be doing something to eliminate our ‘us versus them’ narrative around beauty. Beauty isn’t real, people. We’re freaking out about nothing.
Post Script: If you are a man who doesn’t think of beautiful women as fem-bots placed on earth for your viewing and fucking pleasure, this article is not meant for you. Keep doing what you’re doing! If you are a beautiful woman who actually does use your beauty as leverage for power, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Why not walk one of the only available avenues to power we are given? Any other way and we run face first into the same old brick walls. Nonetheless, I urge you to be brave and run those other avenues anyway. Your face will be ok. It’s a difficult road, but you’ll feel more beautiful for taking it.