“Inner beauty is what matters” does NOT a feminist message make.
It sounds kinda good, but let me tell you, it's a bait and switch.
I’m thinking about this because of the big Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs marketing blech.
Here are the basics of that mess.
This fat-shaming poster:
And this creepy-ass trailer:
Thank goodness for body-positive model Tess Holiday, who called this shit out right quick in the Land of Tweets. And thank goodness for the feminist backlash that had Locus Films pulling their posters and canceling the ad campaign practically within the hour.
To explain themselves, Locus Films basically says, "Hey. We misstepped. Our film is actually about how it’s what’s inside that counts. How inner beauty is what matters."
Yes, we have come a long way since beautiful (and fair and slender and petite and therefore Good and Pure) Cinderella triumphed over her ugly (and dark and fat and large and therefore Bad and Toxic) stepsisters.
"Hey, fat girls are actually pretty on the inside” is bullshit.
[No wonder that Tess Holiday, who makes her living being large and beautiful ON. THE. OUTSIDE. was the first to sound the alarm here].
“[This fat woman’s] inner beauty is what matters” implies that her fatness is not beautiful. It accepts and reinforces excessively narrow standards for outer beauty.
“Inner beauty is what matters” implies that appearances don’t matter, when they absolutely do. Appearances are, in fact, crucial to our understanding that not everyone is the same.
Humans are all different. Look and see and marvel and appreciate.
Beauty norms do not adequately appreciate differences in bodies, and are therefore oppressive. THAT's the problem.
You don't have to "look inside" to find beauty in the fat princess. Just ditch the bigotry and open your damn eyes.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Maybe let's edit that. Because the beholder is often a misogynist asshole.
This pretending that appearances don’t matter is such an important piece of the misogynist puzzle, this sexist Catch-22 (it’s more like a Catch-22 squared. A Catch 484?) around the way embodied women present themselves in the world.
You see: there is power in embodied self-expression, and we prefer that women not exercise it.
It goes like this:
we like it when women look good and reward them for that, but Women should not CARE about looking good. (If they do, they’re vain! Antifeminist! Superficial! Part of the problem!).
we like it when women look good, but Women must not ASSERT OR EVEN AGREE that they look good. (God no not that. Conceited whores! Asking for it!)
we like it best when we can all pretend that our beauty standards are totally reasonable so Women should look good, but in a “natural” and “effortless” sort of way. (Turns out this actually takes a lot of effort).
Basically: women should look good for everyone but themselves.
Because when a woman outwardly celebrates her body and its beauty on her own terms - when she’s powerfully, confidently self-expressive through her appearance - she must be trouble.
No wonder the patriarchy loves a “pretty on the inside” girl, whose beauty is revealed in a non-threatening, almost passive way. Whose beauty gets discovered, rather than announced.
Baby Houseman in Dirty Dancing.
Laney Boggs in She’s All That.
Even freaking Hermione Granger in the Goblet of Fire. (Okay okay, I’m gonna let JK Rowling off the hook and decide that Hermione got all fancy for herself and on her own terms).
We’re at a critical juncture, feministly speaking. “Inner beauty is what matters” is not an adequate counterpoint to this phenomenon:
What we need instead are beauty anti-norms: an insistence that beauty is borne of autonomous individuality, not conformity.
This starts with recognizing and rejecting the norms - the racist, ageist, cis-privileged, fatphobic, ableist norms - wherever we see them imposed.
We insist that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is where YOU are.
We declare sovereignty of self-expression for every woman. Even - no, especially - those Fox News anchors. Please, ladies, look how YOU want to look. Roger Ailes can’t get you now.
We decide that if you care how you look - if you want to be beautiful on the outside - you are a self-expressive human, not a vain bitch.
Wear what you want, ladies. Take your selfies, too. Strut down the street and pepper-spray the cat-callers and take up all the space you want and be pretty on the outside in your own damn way.
I WELCOME YOUR TROUBLE AND I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU.