This will be the fourth year I have participated in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. I am honored to have the opportunity to write on a topic I might not otherwise consider, but which always causes me to reflect deeply. My posts from previous years:
- 2014: Three beauties and a redefinition
- 2013: I want to be like Carol Winfield even when I’m dead
- 2012: Tribute to a different kind of beauty
And on to this year’s…
As a society, we’ve made progress in the last fifty years. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Still, we spend way too much time thinking about how our private parts define us. That’s both understandable and disappointing.
Understandable because the human brain is wired to categorize. Friend or foe? Sustenance or poison? Safety or danger? Woman or man?
Disappointing because I believe one of the hallmarks of evolution is the ability to recognize shades of gray (presumably up to fifty). Or perhaps we simply need to rediscover this recognition. Eastern philosophy came up with the idea long ago that “feminine” and “masculine” constructs co-exist within an individual. We all have characteristics of each gender, to varying degrees, to the extent that we wish to label any characteristic as either feminine or masculine.
This is not to discount the excruciating pain suffered by people who feel their biological gender is at odds with their perceived sense of self. I recently heard a fascinating story on the new podcast Invisibilia (definitely worth checking out all their stories) about a person whose sense of gender flipped multiple times during each day. I do see evidence of evolution in the increasing ability of mainstream society to discuss transgender issues—witness the popularity of the Amazon original show, Transparent. People who experience gender outside of the norm have a lot to teach all of us about our own preconceptions and biases.
This brings me to the question: What do we mean when we talk about “the beauty of a woman?” More, I would hope, than whatever today’s culture deems outwardly appealing in terms of facial features and body type. Do we dig deeper, then, and praise inner strength, courage, generosity? But what makes these traits inherently beautiful in a woman? Is it because we still believe, at some level, that women are weak, cowardly, and abstemious?
I would like to devote the rest of this post to celebrating the beauty of the human. (I know, we could use another word for our species that doesn’t include “man.” Homo sapiens, then.)
We all arrive on this earth blessed with gifts and hampered by challenges. Whether male or female, we use those gifts and overcome those challenges in a thousand different ways. Our chromosomal, hormonal, and even enculturated differences are minuscule in comparison to the differences between us and other species. So why not focus more on what unites us? Perhaps if each gender could open to what we stereotypically consider the characteristics of the other, we could save the world. The men who march us to war (and it is, overwhelmingly, men) would find their hearts opening in what might be considered a feminine way to the lives and situations of those against whom they formerly raised arms. The women who sit meekly in their places would find what we often think of as a masculine trait: the power to lift their voices in protest and take action for their beliefs.
And that would be, simply—beauty.