You don’t owe life pretty
On the Body Acceptance subreddit, we often get posts proclaiming that the poster is simply ugly. Sometimes they even post photos as proof and, to be honest, it’s almost always people who are conventionally attractive. And they get plenty of replies telling them so. I never reply with “oh you’re beautiful” or “there’s no such thing as ugly.” While these are popular replies and I know they have every good intention in the world, I’m not so sure they’re helpful. Because, here’s the thing. Life may often be treated like a beauty contest, but that’s the wrong way to look at life. You don’t owe beauty to anyone — not anyone.
This definitely applies to fat people, as we are very often seen as conventionally unattractive because of our fat. But we don’t owe anyone thinness — not a single person. Not our doctors, not our friends, not our family, not our loved ones, not even ourselves. What we do owe ourselves is self-acceptance and love and a path to taking care of our bodies if we so choose to do so.
Now, I hope as much as anyone else that one day our standards of beauty disappear completely. That every single person is seen as a unique and beautiful person because variety is so fucking awesome it’s unbelievable. I hope that fat people can be seen as beautiful, I hope that conventionally unattractive people can be seen as beautiful and I hope that everyone can appreciate the beauty that is difference. Mostly I think this will happen when we start learning to look at people, especially women, without objectifying or sexualizing them.
Let’s face it, conventionally unattractive men are seen everywhere on the arm of conventionally attractive women (several TV shows, movies, and cartoons come to mind). Whether or not we see these guys as gorgeous, we do see them as complex human beings with their own bodily autonomy and the ability to succeed, find happiness and love, have friends, have sex, etc., regardless of how they look. Women? Less so. Almost everything about women is contingent on their appearance.
I believe that the objectification and over-sexualization of women plays a large part in life’s little beauty contest. After all, thin women get paid more than fat women (the same does not hold true for men). And hey, what about the multi-billion dollar beauty industry intent on selling us creams and makeup and weight loss products and eye lash lengtheners and hair removal products and all of the things that tell us we’re not smooth enough, we’re not thin enough, we’re not young enough, we’re not pretty enough, we’re not good enough.
My point is that until we do see an end to beauty standards completely and view people as individual, whole people, you don’t owe life pretty. You don’t owe anyone or anything beauty. Feel free to be ugly! Let that ugly flag fly because ugly people still find love, happiness, have friends, families and children, successful careers, etc. Ugly makes life harder, it’s true (although, again, I haven’t yet seen one of these people post who was conventionally ugly), but not because there’s anything wrong with being ugly. It’s because people are assholes.
It’s the same thing I argue for fat people. Yes, being fat is hard and almost every fat person wants to be thin, but not because being fat is so horrible. It’s because being fat in a world that idealizes thin is horrible, because people are horrible, because our culture of fat hate and discrimination and oppression is horrible. But fat? Ugly? No, it’s not bad. By itself, our looks don’t make life hard or hopeless. As soon as I learned that there was nothing wrong with me as a fat person and, hey, maybe not even that attractive according to a lot of people, my life got easier (I also stopped judging other people). Remember, it’s not you, it’s them. It’s our culture. It’s misogyny, looksism, fatphobia, ageism, ableism, racism and a dozen other things, but it’s not you.
Life is not a beauty contest. And you don’t owe life pretty.