Girls, you are so much more than your looks.
Have you caught Melissa McCartney’s interview with Ellen? If you haven’t, you should. Apparently, Melissa was criticized by a reporter for “really look[ing] bad” in her latest movie, Tammy. According to him, she was only a good actress when she looked attractive (never mind she was playing a broken-down woman, whose outer appearance was supposed to reflect her terrible internal struggle). When she encountered the reporter at a film festival, though, rather than attack him, she used the moment to educate him.
“If [your daughter] comes home and someone says you can’t have a job because you’re unattractive, are you gonna say, ‘That’s right?’ And he took that in his heart and he was like, ‘No, I would never want that to happen. I would never in a million years want that to happen.'”
“I said, ‘Just know that every time you write stuff, every young girl in this country reads that and they just get a little bit chipped away.’ I just think that we tear down women in this country for all these superficial reasons and women are so great and strong.”
Isn’t that the truth?
I’ve been privileged to have many strong women in my life, starting with my mom. She worked as an accountant, having three kids and putting my father through graduate school before finally graduating herself. Though she eventually had five children, she continued to use her formidable analytic and organizational skills as an accountant, church leader, and volunteer social worker. She’s a wonderful example to me.
I met other impressive women in college and, later, in law school–women who somehow managed to juggle all the demands on their time: spouses, children, jobs, and intense studies. These were smart, educated and driven women. Yet, if you passed these women on the street, you’d probably have no clue just how incredible they are. None fit the Hollywood mold of the perfect woman; that rare Angelina Jolie-type female who wakes up, meets her personal trainer, shoots a scene for her latest film, meets with the UN and, at the end of a long and satisfying day, calmly tucks her kids into bed–all while looking flawless. No, these women were all average-looking; not overly fashionable, or beautiful, or exceptionally thin. These women are some of the most intelligent people I’ve met; and yet, if you believe the overwhelming message from Hollywood–that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her– these women would be considered less…less attractive, less desirable, less worthy–simply because they did not put all of their efforts into their looks.
And that is such a damaging message.
How many girls do you know who have issues with their bodies? I’ve watched friends shrink away, depriving themselves of food simply because they believe their worth is tied to how much they weigh. Other women push their bodies to the limit with exercise and “healthy eating”–myself included. After having my first child, I was anxious to lose the baby weight, so I adopted a punishing exercise routine. I would get up in the early morning, even after little sleep, to run and exorcise some imagined calorie overload I’d had the day before. One ulcer and a torturous year later, I realized I couldn’t push my body so hard- and I learned to accept myself as a complete human being, not just a physical body.
Now my children take up so much of my day, I don’t have the time or the energy to pursue a physical ideal that, quite frankly, I will probably never reach. This is a point most of us come to, as mothers. We make a conscious choice to put our children’s needs above our own needs, even the need to feel beautiful. While we may not have Hollywood-worthy bodies, what is important is that we like the people we are now. And we are not lesser for channeling our energies into our families; we are better and greater people for it.
It’s a shame that our entertainment industry can’t seem to grasp that truth.