Stop Being Ugly

Beauty is out of fashion. Worse. Beauty is not just out of fashion; it is downright rude even to notice beauty. To call a woman “beautiful” is to commit an egregious faux pas. It is much better—according to the new feminist keyboard app SheBoard—to call her “happy.” Not “beautiful.” Anything but “beautiful.”

But it is not just women. To call anything beautiful—a painting, a poem, a story, a landscape, a building, a song—is considered by many an affront against justice or, conversely, a kind of attack. To give excessive regard to the beautiful, it is argued, is to to neglect the injustices that judging one thing better than another—because more beautiful—commits. Conversely, it is contended, to direct one’s gaze towards the beautiful—particularly but not necessarily a person—is to rob that object of autonomy, to “reify” it by the very act of looking at it, to deny it subject status, to make it a thing.

Noticing that someone or something is beautiful—or so the argument goes—is at once violent and unfair.

No wonder the feminists hate Milo so much. He notices. And says so.

“Stop being ugly,” he says. It seems so cruel, as if people could just stop. Aren’t some people just born more beautiful than others? Isn’t pointing out a woman’s beauty hurtful to all the women who aren’t?

It rather depends on how you define “beautiful.”

Last night at the Easter Vigil, Father Elias talked about how all of us should leave the church feeling changed. About how, if we didn’t, we were resisting the working of the Holy Spirit, who wants us to be changed. Because God loves us and has marked us through baptism as his own.

“You are all beautiful, my love,” the bridegroom tells the bride in the Song of Songs. “There is no spot in you.”

I have wanted all my life to be beautiful. I used to spend hours in elementary school drawing Before and After pictures on my homework of a young woman transformed from rags to beauty by the ministrations of her fairy godmother. At that age, I wasn’t even clear about the prince; I just knew I wanted to be a princess.

Beautiful. Like the bride in the Song of Songs.

If only I were beautiful, I tell myself, then I would feel loved.

“Stop being ugly,” Milo would say. “You should feel changed,” Father Elias said.

Feel changed. Stop being ugly. Feel loved.

I’m not quite sure how it happened, and I am a little worried that the insight will not last. But last night as we were celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord I realized in that moment that I already was.

Beautiful.

And loved.

Because God created me that way—like all of his creatures whom he died to save.

Happy Easter!

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