Even when a woman wins, she ends up losing.
I don’t know how many of you follow tennis, but on Saturday, French tennis player Marion Bartoli won the women’s championship, absolutely trouncing her opponent.
And yet since her victory, much of the chatter hasn’t been about her athletic prowess, it’s been about her looks. Even one of the sportscasters felt it was appropriate to comment that she didn’t look like a model and how her dad must have dealt with that.
Twitter is filled with posts about Bartoli that are so ugly and so hateful that they will sicken you. Here’s a link to some of them, if you feel like diving in. And here’s an excellent piece by The Guardian’s Tanya Gold about “the taunting of Marion Bartoli,” who has handled all this with incredible grace at a time when all she should be doing is celebrating her victory.
We try to pretend that we’ve made progress in this world, but we haven’t. Whether she’s a tennis champ, a secretary of state, a world-renowned surgeon or head of a Fortune 500 company (yeah, there are actually a few), a woman will always and forever be judged by her looks in the way that men simply aren’t.
Years ago, I saw “Cagney & Lacy’s” Tyne Daly on a talk show and she talked with exasperation and sadness that society’s ultimate valuation of a woman will always come down to her beauty, as if that was the only thing she had to contribute to this earth and because it is irrefutable that her looks are what people comment on, no matter what she accomplishes.
I’m so glad I don’t have daughters. I don’t think I could ever explain to them that this world will do everything it can to try to break them and make them feel that they aren’t good enough, because even if you’re a goddamned super model, there’s always going to be someone who is going to make you feel like you’re not pretty enough. Pretty enough for what, I’m not exactly sure.
I don’t have any uplifting words to impart here because it feels like a battle that will never end because we feed the beast every time we buy a magazine that applauds a woman for losing weight or plasters photos of celebrities with cellulite on their cover: “See! They’re just like us!” It is always open season on a woman’s looks. Every single day.
One of my guy friends once said to me that all men want to be told they’re competent and all women want to be told they’re pretty. I protested that I wanted to be told I’m smart and funny and kind. And I do, but, sadly, he’s right, primarily because we’ve been conditioned to see our beauty (or lack thereof, according to traditional standards) as the most important marker of who we are as measured by the outside world. I’m not proud to admit that there are days when I would gladly trade some of my IQ points to be prettier.
Smart-Girl is a Colorado non-profit that takes pre-teen and teen girls and helps them become confident creatures. According to the website, “near-peer mentors provide role models while guiding girls through a curriculum that addresses peer pressure, bullying, body image, refusal skills, communication, leadership, friendship and other challenging topics.” In its 14 years, Smart-Girl has worked with more than 6,000 kids.
I don’t ever foresee things changing, but I’m glad there are organizations like Smart-Girl to help females through these shark-infested waters so the next generation of girls can realize strong and smart are sexy and just laugh at people who try to tell them otherwise. Or beat them at tennis.
July 8: Smart-Girl
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