Beauty Isn’t A Virtue

Joanita Olivia doesn’t care if you don’t think she’s beautiful.

Joanita Olivia doesn’t care if you don’t think she’s beautiful.

Is beauty1 important for women? I’m not sure. I would be lying if I said no, but Dove campaigns have repeatedly made me uncomfortable with the idea of beauty. Without it, Dove argues, a woman cannot feel worthy or proud of herself.

While claiming to promote female empowerment, Dove subtly reinforces the principle that physical appearance should be a woman’s main priority – not values, skills, or personality.

One probably shouldn’t take lessons on body image from a beauty product company. But, are they completely wrong?

It is still less socially acceptable for women to be ugly than men; looks are considered integral to womanhood.

To attack women on the internet, trolls almost always resort to mocking their appearance – and somehow it’s often effective.

In movies, ‘plain’ girls have to undergo a makeover first before they can achieve their romantic or personal goals, while it’s common for ‘plain’ guys to avoid any references to their looks altogether.

Once, a guy friend, then single and desperate, said, “Hey, do you have any female friends that you could introduce me to? Is she prettier than [redacted mutual friend]? Ah, never mind then.”

Appearance to a certain extent matters. I believe that people with better looks gain more approval from others.

To hold it against those who make an effort to improve their looks, be it by make-up, clothing, or plastic surgery, would be unfair; not only because that would be criticising the choices they make about their own body, but also because in a lot of cases, that is what is expected of them.

But the problem with Dove and all of this is, why should beauty define a woman’s self-worth or value? I don’t think every female pedestrian I pass on the street is beautiful – that would be dishonest.

But I also don’t believe that they are worthless just because of the way they look. They may have qualities in themselves that are not visible to the eye, and this benefit of the doubt should not be exclusive to, you know, the men.

Every day, I still take time to pretty up by choosing clothes, shoes and jewellery to put on. But if you think I’m ugly, that’s fine too.

1Sometimes the word ‘beauty’ is used in advertisements to euphemistically suggest “great personality”, “self-confidence” or “kind heart” – the ‘inner’. But ‘beauty’ or ‘beautiful’ connotes physical qualities and is often taken to mean ‘prettiness’ – the ‘outer’, and it’s time to be honest about what we mean when we say it.