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I read this post by Matt Walsh a while back. It was a letter to his daughter, who is still very young, about her beauty and how he hopes that the magazine rack and social media will never convince her she isn’t beautiful. He’s knows it’s wishful thinking but it was a very well-written and honest piece from a father to his daughter. I’ve thought about it a lot. Partly because I get it. I have a dad who feels the same way about me and my sisters and made it clear to us growing up. He knew it was important for a father to tell his daughter he loved her and that she is beautiful. Many days I remember this and am so so grateful for it.
But I’ve also thought about this letter a lot because it fell flat for me. I wanted to love it and agree with everything he said but something about it sounded hollow. Reading it not as a letter written personally to me (I think this will be a whole different story for Walsh’s daughter one day, and it will be treasured by her. I have not doubt of that.), but as a woman in general, I didn’t walk away feeling better about myself or my appearance, reminded to ignore the messages on the fashion websites and Instagram accounts I follow. Instead, I felt confused by the message.
Walsh talks about the standards of beauty in our culture and how they warp the young girl’s mind into thinking she isn’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, all that. This is true. I agree that the media has not been the best for our self-esteem, but it’s more than the images themselves that confuse girls, and women, about what we’re supposed to look like. It’s deeper than that. When I saw cover girls and Most Beautiful lists growing up, I made the connection that whatever girl was being splashed across various media avenues was the girl that was desirable to a man. It’s a subconscious connection I think we all make. She is being upheld as beautiful = she is what men want.
This is why it’s hard for me to listen to a man talk about the wrong message the media is sending women about our bodies, because for as long as I can remember I have associated women in the media as the women men want. It’s confusing to hear them say otherwise. It also confirms something I’ve been suspicious of for a while now that most of you probably figured out a long time ago, men are not able to make women feel beautiful. Temporarily, yes. Long term, no. That is far too heavy a load to bear and too high an expectation to put on men anyways. And because of this, I don’t think it has to be their role to convince us to ignore the media either. As long as the convincing is coming from a male voice, we will be confused.
I think it’s why I almost ignored the beautiful letter Matt Walsh wrote, and I think it’s why I ignore most guys when they speak out about beauty standards. It’s too confusing for me and by default I don’t absorb his message. When I do perk up, is when a woman I respect writes or speaks on the topic. I perk up when the focus is on my innate worth that is in Christ and focused less on working to ignore the messages that have always been there and always will be there. It’s a conversation every woman should have with every woman, and it’s a conversation that needs to go deeper than the media and its messages.