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Girlism and beauty in women

Wed, Jul 16, 2003; by Dave Winer.

Over on BurningBird they're giving Halley a hard time about a couple of pieces she's written about what she calls Girlism. I'm writing today to say Halley has my support, I think she's onto something, and I think some of the people at BurningBird are misunderstanding what it's about. Since Halley wrote about Alpha Males, extensively, I think it's okay for me to write about beauty in women, and my ideal of it, and how that differs from the cliche of feminine beauty promoted by, well, I've gotten ahead of myself.

I had a flash of insight on my flight from Boston to Seattle last week on American Airlines. I picked up the inflight magazine and leafed through it. It had been a while since I had done that, as it's been a while since I watched television. This time I noticed how incredibly polished all the pictures are, how devoid of humanity they are. In contrast to the pictures you see on weblogs, they are so perfect, but so lifeless. Then I considered the writing. It also is perfectly polished and totally soul-less. Now according to some these are the most beautiful photographs and writing, but to me they are the least beautiful.

I like photos taken by people with weblogs. I like weblog writing, rough and rambly, even angry and reckless. See, I think people expressing themselves honestly is where beauty comes from. We all need love, to be heard, appreciated, admired, cared for, but so few of us accept that we're entitled to it. We see our imperfections and want to erase them. But when I see an imperfection, I see something real, and to me that's beautiful. I'm not just saying that, I didn't feel that way when I was 24, but now that I'm 48, that's what's inside me. I don't love women for the attributes that the inflight magazines idealize, quite the opposite. I find the airbrushed, silicon-inflated bodies to be worse than ugly, they suck life out of all they come in contact with. Beauty is in the reality, and the expression of reality.

A picture named pbquery01b.jpgNow onto beauty in women. First a disclaimer. I'm a heterosexual male. I'm quite masculine, a big hairy guy, with a big laugh. If you were to list masculine and feminine traits, most of my traits would fall in the masculine column. So I don't really know why some women like to dress up, wear clothes that call attention to themselves, say silly things that I don't understand, spend hours getting ready to go out, cleaning everything and then cleaning again. I like that kind of stuff, but it kind of scares me. In a way I wish women were more like men. But on the other hand, I'm glad that they're not. Now of course there are homosexual women, and if I am confused about girly women, they confuse me even more. Just a fact, I don't understand them. Maybe if I read more of what they write I would.

But please -- why does it bother so many women that some women like to be feminine, that this way of expressing themselves is threatening to them? In the BurningBird thread they seem to confuse their girlishness with the idealized form of beauty. Hey, the women I love aren't like that. But get this, they aren't men either. They're different. And dammit I'm glad they are because that leaves me room to be who I am, a hairy guy with a big laugh. They can make more money than me, they can be smarter than me, and at the same time they can wear high heels and perfume and go out with their friends, and laugh a lot and watch Legally Blonde and think that's pretty good stuff. I watched The Godfather and felt that way. And we can go see Casablanca together and think that's it's great that there's more than one way to be, and feel safe that it's great to be who we are and nothing more and nothing less.

So many people need to hear this. The inflight magazine view of the world is a lie. Nothing is like that. Don't measure yourself against that. And do what you enjoy, and what you can do, and then and only then will you be beautiful. And don't worry so much about the little things, even the ones that seem really big. The things you think are imperfect are the things that make you so pretty.

Hey if you want to know where I'm coming from, go get a copy of Joe Cocker's You Are So Beautiful. In his crackly, squeaky imperfect way he speaks for every man who has ever loved a woman. Hey I know I'm a dork, but I love you. Now if we can all accept that about ourselves and each other, think of all the fun we can have.

You are so beautiful to me. You are so beautiful to me. Can't you see? You're everything I hoped for. You're everything I need. You are so beautiful. To me.

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