My colleague has an eight-year-old daughter who worries about having fat thighs.
Let’s pause to contemplate this. She’s eight. She’s active–she rides her bike and hikes with her dad–and she’s skinny. And so what if she wasn’t skinny… (a) that would be fine and (b) she’s eight.
This kid isn’t a woman yet, won’t be for years, and she’s already dealing with the pernicious body-consciousness that women face. She knows the standard, and she knows she doesn’t measure up.
What she doesn’t know yet is that it’s a fucked-up standard, and that no one measures up. The most beautiful women in the world don’t even measure up. Tabloid headlines find imperfections in Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez. How’s a kid supposed to read that?
I really want to fight this standard. I want beauty to not even be a standard. I want beauty to be a grace note, something we can enjoy and celebrate, but not a job we have to do, not a price of entry.
How does this tie into writing? I think it goes along with committing to diversity in general. Speculative fiction, like romance, has a lot of examples of princessy female characters whose worth is partly situated in their beauty, and while I don’t at all want people to stop writing beauty if that’s what moves them, I feel a need to go out of my way to write characters whose relationship with beauty is complicated.
I don’t want to forget that beauty can’t be separated from sex and class and race and every other axis of oppression. I don’t want to forget that beauty and its lack can both be used as weapons, especially against women.
And I don’t ever, ever want to leave a kid feeling like there’s something wrong with her thighs.