sonia: Quilted wall-hanging (Default)
[personal profile] sonia
I've been thinking about pretty privilege. I feel like I've somewhat abruptly lost whatever part I had, gaining weight on top of achieving middle age and looking at people crookedly out of one eye.

I'm paying attention to how I use "ugly." "The fight got ugly." "An ugly solution." "Ugly behavior." None of those are about a lack of visible pulchritude. They speak to our culture's pervasive idea that badness is monstrous and monsters are ugly. I veered away from it in a last-minute revision a while back in an article title, "Apologies: Good, Bad, and Abusive." Now I'm trying to excise that usage more thoroughly from my speech and thoughts.

Visual ugliness can arise from genes; from a lack of time, energy, or skill for socially approved grooming; from external or internal scars; from years lived; from the unaccustomed eye of the beholder. Ugliness is in part a lack of symmetry and in part a social construct. None of those tell you anything about a person's ethics or accomplishments.

"Beautiful" can be a problem, too. "Beautifully done," sounds like an innocent synonym for "Well done," but it reinforces our idea that beauty and goodness and skill go together.

Some of the most dangerous badly-behaved people are very pleasant to look at, and can demonstrate excellent manners when it suits them.

Date: 2013-06-30 05:36 pm (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Bambi fawn cartoon with two heads (Conjoined Bambi)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
You've identified yet another unhelpful value system baked into our heads and tongues.

Lack of health care is another cause of "visual ugliness." Most of the poor/welfare class people I know have uneven and missing teeth, since very few dentists accept Medicaid/Medicare.

The "unaccustomed eye of the beholder" nicely summarizes the shock I feel when I meet someone whose face has encountered fire, acid, misadventure or just widespread acne.

In fact, those who bring pleasant visage and good manners to a position of privilege and power seem most willing to believe that they "hit a homer when they were born on third base" (to quote the late Molly Ivins re: GWBush). They believe that anything is available to anyone who tries, because it was available to them when they did.

Date: 2013-07-03 12:13 am (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Macro photo of my Blue Heeler Lucy's deep brown left eye (Calm the fire)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
I wish I had an answer. I'm not familiar with what's being taught in schools today (and of course there isn't a unitary "school" experience anyway). What I remember from growing up was a lot of "it's the thought that counts." Which might explain the widespread "but I didn't mean anything by it!" response when I notify someone that they're stepping on my neck -- or have a hand on my shoulder. (Today. Again. Twice, same person.)

Date: 2013-07-03 03:16 pm (UTC)
jesse_the_k: those words in red on white sign (be aware of invisibility)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Self-gas-lighting for the lose! /o\

So many times I've pondered, "How could I have made the boundary brighter, the issue more clear?" The next day, or when I'm speaking with invaluable comrades like you, is when questions like "Why aren't they listening? Why don't they care about boundaries" finally insinuate themselves into the weasel wheel.

(Although I must remember to differentiate the political and the mental, so to speak. But then again, they are intertwined. My particular mental is finely tuned for beating up on myself; this particular society I live in is finely focused on kyriarchy.)

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Sonia Connolly

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