We are in a world where we’re surrounded by successful women. Politicians, writers, athletes, singers, actresses – all of whom possess amazing talents. So why is it that we overlook their abilities and focus on their looks instead?
Recently on popular reality show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!’, Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington broke down in tears after a conversation with former Miss Universe Amy Willerton and Emmerdale actress Lucy Pargeter. Both Rebecca and Lucy felt that beauty pageants encouraged the idea of a specific type of beauty, a particular mould that neither believed they fit into. It’s been argued that they were targeting and even bullying Amy but I don’t for one moment believe they were being malicious. Amy is a beauty queen and represents the foundation of every nasty comment about their looks that Rebecca and Lucy have received, so I believe it was more Amy’s profession that they were criticising rather than Amy herself. However, the obvious tension between the women shows just how damaging the concept of beauty can be, as rather than being proud of an impressive Olympic career or a successful long-term acting role, these women were comparing themselves to each other, which is something that inspires so much of the criticism women hurl at each other on a daily basis.
For years, women in the public eye have been judged on their looks, with countless magazine pages covered in ‘red circles of shame’, a scrawled warning that cellulite, no make-up and sweat patches are unacceptable and will be forever remembered. It’s not just magazines either, as millions of social media users can join in with the unnecessary critiquing of women’s appearances. Rebecca confessed that she regularly receives horrible comments on Twitter about her looks, despite the fact she “was an athlete, [she] wasn’t trying to be a model.” It’s sad that a girl with such an outstanding career and obvious talent is so insecure because the public focus more on her face rather than her achievements. It’s even sadder that even after her breakdown on national television because of her body image issues, Twitter users continued posting nasty insults. One female user wrote ‘99% of the time I hate my nose.. The 1% when I don’t is when I’m looking at rebecca adlington‘s’, which unfortunately encapsulates why in particular women criticise women – to reassure themselves about their own flaws by pointing out someone else’s.
Sadly, there are those in the public eye who have made careers out of posting spiteful comments, like the former Apprentice participant Katie Hopkins, who often features in televised debates to boost ratings with her ruthless abuse. Recently she mocked the weight of 17 year old X Factor contestant Hannah Barrett, who she referred to as ‘a mermaid from fat club’ after Hannah sang in a sequinned dress, and also labelled girl band Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson as a ‘chubber’. If this woman can be rewarded with a media career whilst bullying teenage girls about their weight, what kind of message does that send? Should we not be celebrating the talents these girls have rather than slamming their body shapes? If society is saying to women, ‘you might be able to sing, act, or even compete in the Olympics, but none of that matters because you aren’t slim, your nose isn’t perfect and you have small breasts’, then that is diminishing any sense of pride or achievement we might feel and is replacing it with self-doubt, insecurity and jealousy, which in turn only instigates more criticism so we can reassure ourselves.
There shouldn’t be a template for beauty or such a focus on looks. Each different talent, achievement, characteristic, body and face should be appreciated and accepted. After all, women are not paper dolls, we are individuals. And really, what is more beautiful than individuality?