I'm the fairest and so are you. by natalie miller

“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:

What if marketing departments employed more women?

What if marketing departments employed more women?

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."

NOPE.

Please.

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.

But:

"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].

Look:

“[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.

Also?

“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.

Hmm.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Maybe let's edit that. Because the beholder is often a misogynist asshole.

Furthermore.

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).

Listen.

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.

what is broken is not ruined by natalie miller

Fix it.

This is my knee-jerk reaction.

Something is broken? My body? Our country? Your heart?

If it’s broke, fix it.

What else is there to do?

*

Language has deep roots, and when I dig down to the taproot of break, I expect ruins and shards. Broken means damaged; this is the broken I must fix.

I do find some ruins in the etymology of break. But among them, there is possibility.

I find: “to burst forth,” “to spring out,” and “to break into,” and I expand my thinking.

Daybreak is a beginning.

We break bread to share and connect.

We create comfort by breaking the ice.

We hear the latest through breaking news.

We recharge with a lunch break - or we used to, anyway, when we still took them.

When we are boldly original, we break the mold.

We have a breakthrough, and expand our sense of what’s possible. What is.

*

Thinking of brokenness as not destructive but generative - as a means not of dis-integration, but of deeper connection - brings to mind that well-worn Leonard Cohen lyric:

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

In breaking: that’s how the LIFE gets in.

I love how Walt Whitman describes lifeforce: Nature without check with original energy. Life, like Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” is unruly, unpredictable, unstoppable. Each moment breaks open, bursts forth into the next.

Urge and urge and urge
Always the procreant urge of the world.

For Whitman, the brokenness is not regrettable, but lovable. It is an aspect of lifeforce propelling us to become more of who we are. It conveys Original Energy, and is not to be resisted. It is to be embraced. Look for me under your boot-soles and all that.

I love him.

I love him.

During the Civil War, Whitman volunteered in hospitals with wounded soldiers. He did not try to fix them. He simply loved them. He helped them pen letters to loved ones, entertained them with games, brought them candy for sweet tooths, re-membered them in his own writing.

What happens when we embrace the brokenness, when we tend it with love?

*

I inherited a beautiful vase from my grandmother. It survived World War II. It survived a journey from Poland to Chicago to New Mexico to Maryland.

It survived Grandma.

And then - sunny afternoon, children laughing, ball thrown indoors - it broke. A small piece of the rim, and (also, again) my Grandma-grieving heart.

I never did find the little triangle of porcelain chipped away.

Until today, I winced to think of the vase’s ruin. But now, in that little triangular space in the broken rim, I sense small, laughing children on a sunny afternoon. I imagine Grandma in the scene with arched eyebrow and suppressed smile. My eyes brim with tears.

That’s where the life got in.

*

So, what to do with what’s broken?

Look for the light, and the life, coming through. Tend it with love.

And remember that you choose the word that comes next.

Break through. Break open. Break free.

why you tryin so hard to be cool? by natalie miller

I was sitting on a restaurant patio, waiting for my cheeseburger, and this most excellent question wafted over from a neighboring table.

“Why you tryin so hard to be cool?”

I couldn’t help it - I had to turn and see the people having this conversation. They were two young men, one of them with an effortlessly quirky-chic look going, sitting back in his chair, hands folded, looking at his friend with kind eyes.

Of course he was the one who asked the question: why you tryin so hard to be cool?

Because if you want to get that effortlessly quirky-chic, comfortable in your skin & threads, kind-and-true thing going? There’s only one person you need to impress:

 

You.

 

"you know I wrote this while I was lookin in the mirror, right?"

You're so good

Baby there ain't nobody better (Ain't nobody better)

So you should

Never, ever go by the letter (Never ever)

Here: go watch Prince play Cream and then come on back.

I clasped my hands like a delighted toddler, threw back my head, and shrieked in delight the first time I saw this performance.

WELL OF COURSE this song is To Prince From Prince With Love.

I don’t dare presume to know what guided Prince’s revolutionary choices - where to live, what to wear, how and what to play, whom to partner with - but I bet one priceless, assless yellow pantsuit that none of them came from Tryin To Look Cool.

thank heavens for the Interwebs that put this image at the touch of my typing fingers. and thank the photographer, whose name I couldn't find.

thank heavens for the Interwebs that put this image at the touch of my typing fingers. and thank the photographer, whose name I couldn't find.

Prince exemplifies (yes, present tense - still. always.) how Cool comes from deep confidence, unbound creativity, and a generous daring to be wholly oneself - one’s evolving, capricious, learning and growing self.

You're so cool

Everything you do is success

Make the rules

Then break them all 'cause you are the best

the narcissism of needing approval

Think about it: how does it feel to be around a person who desperately needs your approvals and affirmations?

Who constantly interrupts the point they're making to ask questions like “Does this make sense?” and “Do you know what I mean?”

Who feels slighted when you haven’t complimented their new haircut. So upset when you disagree with them that you tend to keep your thoughts to yourself.

I find it draining. And unsettling.

And hey, how does it feel to have an approval-ravenous person as our PRESIDENT?

Trump clearly illustrates the deepest end of the strange paradoxes of the Please-Like-Me needy narcissist:

1.  The more approval-hungry we are, the less likely we’ll be open to real feedback. We seek compliments and affirmations and can’t bear anything else. We want to you to SAY you’re pleased, but we can’t handle hearing how you REALLY feel.

2.  The less self-secure we feel, the more we tend to stoke fear among others. Misery loves company. When I hear someone mocking another person’s taste in music, for example, I immediately suspect they’re worried about the Coolness Rating of their own record collection. So it makes total sense to me that Trump, an indebted, inept businessman, must tell an entire country, “We never win anymore.”

3.  At the extreme, the more we need other people to approve of our doings, the more we tend to control and/or belittle those who don’t. Instead of saying, “I understand I’ve made a controversial decision,” we say, “Everybody agrees with me, and whoever doesn’t is an idiot.” In the weirdest way, our lack of self-assurance makes us over-compensate with an inherently unstable, because insecure, self-aggrandizement.

Probably you’ve witnessed this very thing - especially if you’ve watched the news lately. And probably - because humanness - you have done it a little yourself.

I know I have.

loving yourself is GENEROUS. really.

When I teach about self-love and self-kindness, the most common concern I hear is this:

“But if I love myself that much, won’t I be a selfish, arrogant asshole?”

NOPE.

If you love yourself into self-security, you won’t need to control other people’s reactions to you. You will be strong enough to allow them to disagree with you, and even - maybe - to consider and learn from their criticisms.

If you love yourself, you will be increasingly comfortable in your individuality. You won’t, as Glennon Doyle Melton writes, need to  “send your representative” - your carefully-cultivated-for-status-quo-maintenance self.

If you love yourself, you will Be Real with other people. You’ll let yourself be vulnerable. You’ll be open to authentic connection.

And you’ll be strong: in your sense of self, in your willingness to grow, in your openness to evolving how you show up in the world.

If you stop tryin so hard to be cool, and love yourself so much that you can show up TRUE, in all your mess and quirkiness and beauty, you will inspire with your example.

You will shine like a beacon.

Your people will find you, and it will be such fun, because you won’t feel desperate to make them love you.

You and your people will delight one another by being resonant, but not homogenous. By celebrating - and embracing the challenges of, and growing wiser because of - your differences.

What could be more generous?

In the name of Prince, for the delight of peoples everywhere, and especially for YOU:

Do your dance

Why should you wait any longer?

Take your chance

It could only make you stronger.

all the world's a stage and you should get up on it.

all the world's a stage and you should get up on it.