Taking Back Our Beauty

It seems like beauty is a hot topic these days. A couple months ago there was the revelation that Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, said that they don’t carry XL and XXL women’s clothing because they only market to “cool people.”

And then this amazing, brave, beautiful (and full-figured) woman told Mike Jeffries off. Don’t you just love her?

I’ve been following a new blog called The Sophia Collective: Sacred Women, Wise Women, a blog which is written by two female ministers. They recently shared a post on beauty, highlighting the now famous Dustin Hoffman interview about becoming a woman for Tootsies and our society’s perceptions of beauty.

I recently read a YA book called Feed. It was set in the future, when everyone gets a feed inserted into their brain when they are born. The feed has replaced radios, televisions, computers, the internet, etc. Things like watching movies, listening to  music, advertising, and online buying occur in people’s minds through the feed. The characters in the book have lesions on their skin, which I assume come from all the radioactivity (or something like that), but nobody thinks the lesions are weird just because everybody has them. In fact, at one point in the book, it becomes cool to have lots of lesions. People start paying to get “fake” lesions made on their skin so they can be popular.

While this seems extreme, I don’t know that our modern society is any different. For a woman, beautiful means size 2, high cheekbones, tan, toned abs, and big boobs. And for women who can’t measure up to that, there are a myriad of surgeries that will get those things for you.

I’m not knocking women who’ve had cosmetic surgery here – I actually am close to several people who have, and it was a personal decision that was important to them, and I know it has boosted their confidence and allowed them to love their bodies more. And I don’t know that surgery is really all that different from me wearing make-up or getting my hair colored or choosing clothes that I think make me look smaller.

But I have to ask: Why is it so hard for women to love their bodies in the first place? Who told us that our bodies were unlovable? Who said we can’t be loved and accepted if we don’t fit the mold? 

A huge part of it is Hollywood and the media. It appears that 90% of female celebrities are skinny. Thank God for women like Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, and Rebel Wilson, who have forged their way into Hollywood even though they are overweight. But I still doubt they’d be called “beautiful” by say, People magazine. (Which is ridiculous: all three of them are beautiful!) And when’s the last time you saw a bigger girl on a commercial for – well, for anything? There’s a billboard I pass all the time that is advertising a knee surgery place. Guess who’s on the billboard? A skinny, tan, blonde 19-year-old girl in a tank top and short shorts. For a knee surgery place. Good grief!

As for me, I have rarely felt beautiful. I was always the girl with the too-big, goofy glasses, and then I became the girl who was chubby with too-big, goofy glasses – AND braces. AND thick, frizzy hair. I still remember being measured for uniforms in seventh grade and being told I was “fat.” Then I got contacts and became the girl who never-EVER-wore-her-glasses-in-public-EVER-because-they-made-her-look-terrible. Still with thick, frizzy hair. And still too wide in the hips. As a 35-year-old, I’m about 15 pounds heavier than I would like to be, I have a zillion stretch marks, I have chipmunk chubby cheeks, and I’m pale. (That picture of me over to the right? Taken from an angle that plays down my chubby face. And photoshopped.)

My husband tells me I’m beautiful all the time. All. The. Time. (I’m actually pretty lucky to have him because I know there are guys out there who get upset when their women gain weight or change in appearance.) And honestly, my husband is the only one I have to impress. But I still don’t feel beautiful. I still feel like I need to lose weight and wear better make up and whiten my teeth and dye my hair.

It is time to take back our beauty. It is time to announce it to the world. It is time to tell Hollywood that it can’t define beautiful anymore. We are all colors and all sizes and all shapes and all kinds of beautiful.

Here’s what I really think: A beautiful woman is a woman who loves her body.

I’m not there yet. But I’m working on it.


  1. Margie says:

    Your comments here reminded me of this (which you’ve probably seen, too) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dove_Real_Beauty_Sketches

    personally I believe the best reason for you to write what you’ve written is for your daughter, young as she is, I hope she reads this! And I’ve found a lot more peace with myself when I don’t look at the ads. We don’t watch commercial TV and the internet ads can be annoying, but sometimes they can be avoided altogether. Plus I pray a lot for the ability to be grateful and content and I need to pray a lot more for these gifts freely given! Then there is the strange thing that looking at icons has done for my eyesight and beauty. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Karissa!

  2. valerie says:

    I think you are beautiful, plus a really good writer, plus stunningly honest! I’m still struggling to love my body (especially the girls) at 52 – and I still find myself thinking everything would be better if only I was skinny. Hang in there! You’re not alone.

  3. Jacqueline says:

    Thank you for continuing the conversation about beauty here and linking to our site. The challenge I find, as a minister, is that I am continually affirming the beauty in others–seeing them as God does–but then what about me? When will I have eyes to see myself as God does? Becoming a mother has put me in touch with a deep need to eradicate those places in me that are self-destructive. I do not want my children to see me through my lens, but through God’s. Why? Because I am terrified that if they see me through my lens they will see themselves through it as well.

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