Stand Beautiful on Feminism — For More Reasons Than You Think

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Lots of wonderful buzz this week about female empowerment, especially amongst us nasty women ;).  The election has certainly heightened our awareness, emotions and convictions around this topic.

But there was another piece of news on this topic that had nothing to do with elections.  Instead it had to do with an unlikely new “face” for a beauty brand: Nigerian author and feminist speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie .  She is the new spokesperson for Boots No.7.  According a statement emailed to Mashable, Adichi feels “women use cosmetics to be ready for something: to show up, speak up, and make an impact in their world in their own way.”  For her make-up isn’t a tool to hide women’s power and turn them into sexual objects.  Rather it is a wonderful source of transformation, confidence and power.  What’s better, she gets to the heart of the matter and addresses the seeming conflict of being a feminist who loves make-up.  She reveals that she shied away from make-up at one point so as not to be deemed frivolous.  But this wasn’t her true self.  It was only when she gained a greater sense of confidence that she chose to go back to wearing make-up again. Check it out in this great new video.

While we may have heard similar statements in the past about the powerful role of cosmetics, to have such a powerful voice speak about her appreciation for cosmetics is new.  And then to take such a strong stance by associating herself with a brand in such a way is even more surprising.  I applaud her for fighting against the typical rhetoric that claims enhancing our beauty is wasteful at best or degrading at worst.

But I would interpret the empowering nature of cosmetics and skin care in another important way too.  Beyond how skin care or make-up make us look, think about what the actual process of engaging with it does to ourselves.  Sure, there are the usual mini frustrations of a wobbly eyeliner lid or a spilled nail polish bottle.  But most of time, the ritual of applying these lotions and potions or colors and creams, is deep.  I wrote about this a few years back in a few different posts: Another Powerful Role for Cosmetics & One More Minute Please I explained that the very act of pampering or applying skin care and make-up allows us to gift ourselves a form of, in what my good friend and Anthropologist, Tom Maschio calls, “self-care.”

Here’s how I described it in then:

When we touch, caress, adorn and pamper our bodies, we are connecting with them and, eventually, our spirits too. Caring for our bodies is soothing and uplifting at the same time.

Our bodies aren’t detached objects just to be prepared for public appearance but, rather, are inextricably linked to the self.  And every part of the body — appendage, organ, secretion, etc., function together harmoniously. Beautification, i.e., the act of massaging, applying, fixing, plucking, whatever the actual activity, isn’t just a means to an end but an act of health care and self-love.

So, for all of us women –and men included –who enjoy adding some scent, sparkle, color or plumpness to our appearances, remember that it not only boosts our confidence but it gives us a spiritual high too.  It helps us connect to our bodies — to admire them, care for them, energize or calm them and, ultimately, connect with them.    And if loving and caring for our bodies doesn’t lead to feeling empowered, I don’t know what does!

What’s Your Most Attractive Quality? It’s Deeper Than You Think

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Given the nature of my posts, I absorb myself in reading and writing about beauty.  While I’ve presented many theories on what makes something or someone beautiful, I don’t often share what I consider beautiful or what attracts me to someone or something.  I guess I feel you really can’t pin the answer down to one thing.

But just the other day I heard a definition of beauty that I never had before.  And I found it to be the best one yet.  What’s even better is I heard it in the most unlikely of places: during a manager training course!

Allow me to explain.  As my colleagues and I were getting valuable coaching tips, the trainer explained that we can better coach our teams if we let them come to their solutions on their own.  To do this, we need to guide our conversations using open questions, like “how do you imagine doing XYZ “or “what possibilities come to mind?”  By being curious we not only let them know we care about them, but we allow them to be creative and find a solution.  As the trainer summed it up: “Curiosity is our species’s most attractive trait.”

Bam! It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Sure we are visual creatures and we are attracted to the obvious signs of health (e.g., physical symmetry) and reproductive capabilities (e.g., large breasts).  But the invisible trait that draws us like a magnet, holds our attention and then captures our heart isn’t our pheromones, but our curiosity in others.

Our curiosity lets others know we are interested them and more importantly that we are concerned with them.  It gives them a sense of safety and security.  Who wouldn’t be attracted to that?!

According to a BBC Story, Why Are We So Curious?curiosity is one of the few childlike traits that we have held on to as a species.  While other species grow out of their childhood traits, e.g. lack of body hair, we actually retain some of ours.  In addition to being far less hairy than other species, we still hold on to our capacity to be curious.  Evolution made us the ultimate learning machines.   Our curiosity gives us the capacity to learn and progress, but ALSO attach to one another.

What’s even better about curiosity? It inevitably makes us happier people.  As a blog I happened upon, Experiencelife.com, states:

“In his book Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006), Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, PhD, shows that, while we think we know what will make us happy in the future, we are actually less likely to find joy as a result of a planned pursuit than by simply stumbling upon it.  It follows that by cultivating curiosity and remaining open to new experiences, we increase our likelihood of encountering those surprising and satisfying activities.”  And in the end, happy people inevitably attract us more, right?

While I’m all for looking our best, don’t forget what will make us the most beautiful: our sense of curiosity.  And for all of you celebrating Valentine’s Day, remember be curious in your loved one. 🙂

I Say “Beauty,” You Say “Attractiveness” … Why Can’t They Be One in the Same?

What is the difference between being attractive and being beautiful?  Vivian Diller PhD, a frequent blogger on Huffington Post and author of Face It, answers this question.  She explains:

“Beauty is a rigid, static physical image.  Attractiveness is a fluid, variable psychological experience.  One that moves from inside out and back again.  Beauty can be inherited, Photoshopped or surgically attained.  Attractiveness develops, evolves over time and can be ageless.  One can be attractive to others or simply feel that way about oneself.  Beauty leads women toward the pursuit of the physical features associated with the word.  Attractiveness is an attainable goal for those who take care of their bodies, enjoy their lives, maintain sensuality and engage with others.”

I don’t agree with her distinction.  I actually believe a beautiful person is what she describes as an attractive one.  I really like the imagery she offers of someone who is “fluid” and full of “energy.”  But I think the notion of enhancing one’s beauty by surgical or artificial means can actually contribute to people feeling more confident, and, therefore, help them be more “fluid”, “sensual” and “energetic”.  In other words, attractive.

Given her role as a psychologist to women facing their aging beauty, I’m sure Diller is reluctant to advise them against seeking surgical solutions right away. I get it. But if one wants to feel more beautiful with some “help” or through natural means, it doesn’t matter to me.  It’s all about having a positive attitude, a sense of grace, and making the most of what you have.

When Will Hair Bias Ever End?!

In an apparent attempt to appeal to women, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the many ways we seek to straighten our frizzy locks.  Why is this a WSJ-worthy piece?  Well, we business women, especially those handling financial matters, must be seen as tidy and put together.
Now wait a second.  Does anyone have a problem with this?
Who decided that curly hair is “ungroomed”? Even the title of the article, “The Taming of the Curl,” pissed me off.  The implication, of course, is that curly hair (ah, dare I say ethnic hair?) is untamed, wild and crazy.
For the sake of argument, let’s say you buy into this theory, i.e., straight hair equals solidity and conservatism.  I can kinda understand wanting to see my financial advisor with a straightened do.  After all, I’m as cautious about my money as the next gal, so of course I want to know that whoever’s handling it dots their i’s and crosses their t’s.
But at the same time, I want to know that this person is always thinking ahead and has creative solutions to my needs.  If straight hair represents solidity and conservatism, then shouldn’t curly hair represent innovative thinking and new ideas?  So, in the end, isn’t curly hair as or more desirable?
The thousands of dollars we spend a year on our hair is evidence of how critical our do’s are to our self-confidence and work lives.  No question, hair matters.  But why must certain styles communicate professionalism and competency?  As women living in an ethnically diverse, open-minded culture, shouldn’t we be passed these old-fashioned judgments?