Point of Pride

If you’re female, you’ve most likely heard this line. (I don’t know if males get it as well, but women and girls most certainly do)–that taking care of your appearance shows that you value yourself. It’s a frustrating line, because it implies that women who don’t take great care to maintain their appearance don’t value themselves (as opposed to, say, valuing themselves enough to not feel the need to put in the amount of effort required to maintain an ‘acceptable’ appearance). It also tends to reinforce certain standards of beauty. For example, larger women may hear this line as a way of pressuring them to lose weight.

I’m not about to suggest that women shouldn’t take care of their looks, because as long as they’re doing it for themselves, I really don’t care. Some women do feel better about themselves when they try to look their best, and it can be a matter of pride for them.

On the other hand, some of us just don’t care that much.

The problem, however, is that often women aren’t pressured to do it for themselves as much as for others–either we wind up doing so to get other women off our backs, or to be attractive to males. (There are of course some times when tidying up ones appearance is a good idea–job interviews come to mind). Sociological images posted a vintage ad that reinforces the latter type of expectation. Women are encouraged to buy good pantyhose to maintain their appearance in this ad, but it is aimed at doing so SOLELY for the benefit of the males in their lives. As a married woman myself, I would be foolish to say that women should never take into consideration what makes their significant others happy–it is certainly something I frequently take into consideration. But women are generally encouraged to ALWAYS be thinking of others. This comes to an extreme in some fundamentalist Christian circles with the JOY principle (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last–or as some would argue, Yourself never), but it is an undercurrent of the general culture as well. This pressure to dress certain ways (or wear makeup, or lose weight) is only one iteration of that, although a fairly problematic one as it also contributes to the objectification of women.

Some women do take pride in maintaining their appearance, but the point of pride (in anything) isn’t to show others how you feel about yourself.  The point of pride is to boost your self-esteem so that you don’t need external reinforcement.

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