Pretty vs Human

Oh, look! A man has an opinion on why women should strive to be "pretty" and not "hot." I seldom try to respond to things like this anymore, but this was just so...wrong.

Let's start with Archbold's definition of "pretty." He calls it "a mutually enriching balanced combination of beauty and projected innocence."

Projected innocence. Projected innocence.

Once upon a time, women wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many beautiful women, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as pretty.
Reality doesn't matter, then? It's all about show? No matter what I'm really like, or what my experiences have been, I need to project innocence? I need to pretend?

Now, I would like to pause a moment here and interject that I am in some ways a great fan of hypocrisy. This is because actions are formative. It's by acting like the people we wish we were that we become them. We habituate ourselves into a certain way of being. A frivolous example: The first time I tasted Guinness, I almost spit it out. I really did not like it. But I kept drinking it--because, sigh, I wanted to impress a boy--and after a while I found that I appreciated it, and then I found that I actively enjoyed it, and now I love it. Character works just the same way. You can start out a jerk, but if you repeatedly do good things you will become a good person. So, I'm all for aspiring to be better than I am, and trying to behave as if I'm already there, because that behavior is part of what gets me there.

But innocence--and this is a big problem--cannot be acquired; it can only be lost. Merriam-Webster defines innocence as "freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil," which is certainly the usage I'm familiar with.

Friends, once you've known evil, you can't forget it.

Furthermore, as a Christian who believes in original sin, let me tell you this, men: If you are looking for an innocent, pure woman, you can quit now. She doesn't exist. If you think you've met her, you've met someone who's excellent at dissembling. And that's why I find this particular form of hypocrisy so pernicious: it doesn't cultivate innocence. It cultivates lies.

Why aspire to this version of "pretty" in the first place?
By nature, generally when men see this combination in women it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.
Lest ye forget, ladies: it's our job to civilize those beastly, hairy, icky men. We are somehow responsible for their behavior. We have to inspire them to protection and defense because of our pretty.

Silly me, I thought the best inspiration for defending someone was self-sacrificial love, or perhaps a strong sense of justice. That shows what I know. (Also, how is defense of the innocent the domain of men?)
Young women today do not seem to aspire to pretty, they prefer to be regarded as hot.
Know what I prefer to be regarded as? Smart and honest and loyal and kind. But I've always been weird that way.
Hotness is something altogether different. When women want to be hot instead of pretty, they must view themselves in a certain way...
And we all know what that certain way is, don't we?  Sexual beings. Newsflash: most of humanity had that whole women-as-sexual-beings thing figured out way before the 21st century Western cultural concept known as hotness.
and consequently men view them differently as well.
Because, you know, if a woman is a sexual being she can't be pure. Is it just me or is this a skip and a jump from the kind of "she must have been asking for it" victim blaming that goes on in rape cases?
It is ironic that 40 years of women’s liberation has succeeded only in turning women into a commodity. Something to be used up and thrown out.
When in doubt, blame feminism! Besides, the above statement can be proved to be true by the fact that prostitution, pornography and sexual slavery did not exist before women's liberation. Oh, wait.
Once upon a time you would hear girls talk about kind of women men date and the kind they marry. You don’t hear things like that anymore.
Thank goodness!

I am not even going to spend energy on articulating all the issues with assuming that a woman's entire focus should be on getting married. Let's just assume for the sake of rant that we are only talking about the subset of women who do want to get married some day. Men date and marry exactly one kind of woman, and as it happens it's exactly the same kind of man that women date and marry: the fallen, sinful, messy, fully human kind.
Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real or imagined.
Given the number of women and children victimized in the international sex trafficking industry every year, it's difficult for me to argue with this statement. But to ask women to cultivate a projection of innocence at the cost of personal integrity, just for the sake of your oblivious and misinformed nostalgia, is selfish and wrongheaded. It will not suddenly decommodify and humanize the bodies of women.

How about, instead, we cultivate an appreciation for our fellow humans of whatever gender, in all their imperfections and flaws and goodness?

If you would like to see the beauty in every woman you see, sir, you need to do just one simple thing: look for the image of God in her. Unless you willfully blind yourself, you will find it. It is there.

9 comments:

Bibliomama said...

You said it, sister. This is the corollary of Muslim women having to wear burkas so as not to inflame the passions of those poor weak-willed men. Also, I like your defense of hypocrisy.

Zanshin said...

THANK you.

Peter said...

Agree on a general level. But I would note for the record that innocence can be regained. But fleshing that out requires more thought than I have time for at the moment.

Annie Patterson Rothgeb said...

I wonder who in the world is going to protect and defend the plain, the ordinary, the deformed, and the ugly women. Jerk.

The one who promised "forever" left, in part, because the pretty faded. Idiot.

Some women are slaves to their projected images of beauty-pretty-hotness. Fools.

Annie Patterson Rothgeb said...

I agree with Peter. I experienced a redemption of innocence long after the actual loss. Difficult to explain outside an understanding of God's grace, and impossible in a few sentences.

Mary Bogan said...

Thank you for this especially:


If you would like to see the beauty in every woman you see, sir, you need to do just one simple thing: look for the image of God in her. Unless you willfully blind yourself, you will find it. It is there.

Kimberly said...

Good combination of several thought streams I have had. Excellent.

GrammyKing said...

Well said my sweet. Growing up in the 50's and 60's women were divided into two groups; the "fun" girls and the ones to take home to Momma. It was never the smart one that will grow up to be president or a scientist or inventor. No that would never be our classification however I did have my teachers take notice when one asked if I had anything other than A's on my report card. Too much is made of outward appearance. So what if you married the beauty queen. What happens if that beauty queen looses that beauty from a fire or car accident or, heaven forbid, natural aging. "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30 ESV)

Joshua Eiben said...

"Projected innocence"? How about "actual purity" instead, Mr Archbold?