We Can All Be Beautiful

A woman’s take on something I wish other women knew

We Can All Be Beautiful
Photo by Baylee Gramling on Unsplash

A woman’s take on something I wish other women knew

One fine evening, I was having my tea with a few female friends. We were discussing our favourite movies — a conversation that slowly drifted to our favourite books. Being a huge bookworm, I started talking about the books I could read over and over again. There was a light in my eyes, and I was talking animatedly, gesturing with my hands to indicate my excitement.

One of the ladies caught my wrist, looked at the shade of turquoise I had painted my nails, and remarked, “Wow, this colour looks good on you.”

Before I could finish thanking her, another lady piped up, “Yes, Anangsha has got beautiful hands and feet.”

And then, as if that compliment wasn’t enough, she added, “Her hands are more beautiful than her face.”

I had beamed at the previous compliment, but, her follow-up remark left me with a frozen smile on my face. Maybe she could see it too, because, in a moment, she added, “I meant it as a joke. Don’t mind.”

Don’t mind.

Fast forward a few days. I am at the same friend’s place, having dinner together. We were meeting after the winter vacation. Naturally, we had a lot to catch up on.

I told her the stories of the trips I had taken during the holidays, and she shared about how she had spent quality time with her sister. One thing led to another, and I started telling her about all the exciting incidents that had occurred over the past decade.

In the flow of the moment, I showed her a picture of my family clicked ten years ago. She peered into my phone and remarked how my brother and father look the same, whereas I look different from everyone else.

“But people have told me I look like my mother,” I insisted.

At this, she made a pitying face, as if she felt sorry for me that I didn’t know the truth. Then, she said, “That can’t be possible. Your mother is beautiful.”

She continued browsing through the photo gallery as if what she had just said was not worth a moment’s pause.

That was it — a seemingly harmless compliment to my mother designed to make me feel bad about my looks.

The Need to Constantly Put Others Down

The two stories I mentioned above are not isolated incidents. I have been at the receiving end of hate like this on several occasions. The women I’ve met in my life throw thinly-veiled insults at me at every chance they get. It takes a lot of will-power not to let the negativity affect me, and there are times when it feels like too much to bear.

When I talked about this to a few “sensible” female friends of mine, they told me they could relate. That their female colleagues were “jealous” of them, and they felt happier and more accepted with a group of male friends compared to a group of women.

But, the big question here is: why do some women do this?

Why do they feel that bringing other women down will make them feel better about themselves?

Internalised patriarchy

A possible explanation could be the internalised patriarchy that continuously pits women against each other. Such social conditioning makes it feel as if the world is a stage where only the most beautiful woman can survive.

Instead of this false sense of competition, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world taught us women to stick together and help each other out?

Sadly, all we do is spend time and energy thinking up back-handed ways to bring other women down so that we can be at the top.

The truth no one cares about

Since the beginning of memory, the world has kept finding more and more ways to put women down and make them stay there. But this is not how things should be.

In truth, a woman can be beautiful when everyone else around her is bathed in beauty. Every other woman being ugly is not a prerequisite to her being beautiful.

What I Wish Every Woman Understood

I wish that every woman would know her own worth and understand that it isn’t dependent on either of the following-

  1. A man’s appreciative gaze
  2. The beauty (or lack thereof) of her female friends
  3. How good-looking society considers to be.

Yes, a woman can be worthy without external beauty.

And yes, to be externally beautiful, a woman doesn’t need all other women around her to fade in comparison.

Closing Notes

If you are wondering if there is some truth in what my friend commented about my mother being more beautiful than I, here is a picture of us together. Do we look similar?

Image: Author

Yes, my mother is infinitely more beautiful than me, but that is not because she looks pretty.

She is beautiful because she has climbed her way up the corporate ladder all on her own, while at the same time raising two children and caring for her husband. My mother is beautiful because she knows what her principles are and chooses daily to stand by them in spite of a world designed to bring women in power down.

Is she more beautiful than I am?

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!

And I am proud of that fact. I am proud to be her daughter.

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An Injustice!
A new intersectional publication, geared towards voices, values, and identities!