Thursday, 21 April 2011

A New Paradigm: Real Beauty

In her closing chapter of The Beauty Myth ("Beyond the Beauty Myth"), Naomi Wolf, as Wollstonecraft did, calls for a revolution. One of the points on which the revolution will hinge has to do with women choosing to see, love, appreciate, and celebrate other women. I'm encouraged. We can do this. Women I know already do this. Actually, all through the last chapter, I was thinking of my mentor, Gaby Edwards.

Gaby is the embodiment of "seeing other women as allies rather than competitors" (282). She has "compassion for [herself] and other women for our strong feelings about 'beauty,'" and is "very gentle with those feelings" (276). She makes "joy, rowdiness, and wanton celebration as much a part of [her] project as hard work and bitter struggle... by rejecting the pernicious fib... [that is] called postfeminism, the pious hope that the battles have all been won" (281). Her sexy performance in the famous red dress at Breakthrough comes to mind!

Gaby helped me see and believe that: "The best that 'beauty' offers belongs to all of us by right of femaleness", that "A woman wins by giving herself and other women permission", and that "A woman-loving definition of beauty supplants desperation with play, narcissism with self-love, dismemberment with wholeness, absence with presence, stillness with animation" (285, 290, 291).

She constantly mentors and supports colleagues and friends--male and female--acknowledging that "it is also in men's interest to undo the myth" (289). Gaby started a Gender Task Force, bringing women and girls together through the Independent School Gender Project and later bringing men and women together on gender issues as part of that action-based Force.

Gaby lives out Wolf's appeal to do with "what we decide to see when we look in the mirror", choosing to see a powerful, beautiful person, and in doing so, inspiring others to choose this way of seeing ourselves (291).

Most of all, I think of Gaby when I think of Wolf's call to:

"explore[e] more useful role models than the glossies give us. We are sorely in need of intergenerational contact: We need to see the faces of the women who made our freedom possible; they need to hear our thanks. Young women are dangerously 'unmothered'--unprotected, unguided--institutionally and need role models and mentors" (283).

She has been my personal mentor professionally and personally for years and the mother (not to mention wife and grandmother), friend, teacher, supporter, colleague, and mentor to hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women, boys and girls for decades (which would sound ridiculous if it weren't just TRUE), changing one life at a time, inspiring collective, loving, collaborative relationships, and thereby changing the world by shifting what is often a toxic paradigm towards one that is whole and lovely for all of us. 

Other lines I love:
--"Let us start with a reinterpretation of 'beauty' that is noncompetitive, nonhierarchical, and nonviolent" (286). 
--"To protect our sexuality from the beauty myth, we can believe in the importance of cherishing, nurturing, and attending to our sexuality as to an animal or a child" (279).
--"Let us charm one another with some of that sparkling attention too often held in reserve only for men: compliment one another, show our admiration" (287-288).

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