Does beautiful have to be sexy?
I started teaching pre-ballet classes about 10 months ago on top of the teaching I do for Surrender Dance. Believe me, it has been an eye-opening experience. I guess we tend to forget what it was like to be a four year old after a while; I was surprised to find that much of a little girl’s world is made up of only a few things: mom and dad, “owwies,” pink and purple, butterflies and princesses. Most of them are taking ballet because they admire beautiful ballerinas, and they would like to dance and be admired too. The core desires I have seen in them are to be beautiful, valued, and loved. If they have these things, their pains are validated, their beauty is seen, and their potential is encouraged to grow and develop. If they do not, then often their hurts turn into hurting others, and their talents and potential are diverted to attention-seeking and disruptive behavior.
The funny thing is that if we’re all honest here, as grown women our core desires are to be beautiful, valued, and loved too. So what happens when we grow up breathing the air not only of consumerism (as I addressed last week), but of an image for women that is positively dripping with sexuality? You hardly need to look around for examples, just try to recall from memory: how many times has an image reinforced the idea in your head that to be beautiful, you must be sexy? And sexy looks like a particular image: young, thin, clear skin, full lips, perfect hair, perfect breasts, that naughty-girl look in your eyes. As teenagers we flip through magazines and compare ourselves to the models, inevitably realizing that we don’t measure up. I am repeating what many sources have said well, so I’ll skip to the point.
What happens? We are consciously or unconsciously taught to pursue our goals of being beautiful, valued, and loved by striving after a hyper-sexualized, impossible ideal of beauty. We fall short. We get frustrated and anxious, or we turn to other coping mechanisms to drown out the noise of our restless hearts. Is there any other way?
I have my own personal beliefs and ideas of how we can embrace healthy identity, but I would love to hear from you on this. One of the foundational things that makes Surrender Dance what it is is our desire to give value to all women. The hope is that from that place of trust and value, we are able to have fun and challenge you through dance classes, engage you at happy hour and in online discussions, and do what we can with our donations to help other women who need help getting out of sex trafficking. But we recognize that even as we try to do positive work with and for women in Seattle, the outlying problems do not disappear. Many women do not come at all for fear of being seen dancing in public. Many of us have our own private struggles that do not go away as we engage in community.
So what do you think? Do you agree with me that there is a problem? How do you think we can realistically reject the media’s ideal of beauty? How do you think sexuality plays into beauty—are they inextricably tied? What are ways in your life that you’ve felt freedom from our culture’s ideal and been able to feel beautiful in your own skin? And how can we encourage others to let go of their fears and come dance with us?