having stumbled across your blog not too far after exploring a similiar issue myself, i'm really glad you wrote this post and i happened to find it. i think it's really important to talk about how ideas of beauty affect all people, and your voice is a unique and worthwhile one. i don't mean to sound cheesy, only that i took a lot from your post and think most people will too. so, yeah, thanks.


This is an issue I struggle with. I was always told I should be a model, this does feel good I admit. It also left me feeling lots of pressure and I often times found myself looking in the mirror going am I pretty? Something I may not have noticed if people had not been telling me I was my whole life. It also has left this tick in the back of my had always telling me, well if all else fail, HEY! At least I can sell my looks for money! It makes me question myself as a feminist. Can you be a model and a feminist? I sure as hell am not sure and I'm not saying there is a definitive answer, but I'd love to hear what people think.


Thanks for posting this, you hit the nail on the head in your description of that balance between liking the attention yet being stressed how to respond to it in various situations. In general, you really don't see an honest description of what it is like to be beautiful without that description also being arrogant or conceited. I think you did a good job describing it without engendering the animosity of others. Because you don't (and apparently never have) identified yourself first and foremost by the way you look, I predict you will miss your younger body and face, but that it won't bother you too much or in any way diminish your enjoyment of your life and your sense of selfworth.

Nicole Black

Interesting to read your post on the heels of Opinionista's (http://opinionistas.blogspot.com/) "Plastic" post, in which she discusses her mother, plastic surgery and societal pressures to stay young. You both make similar points--especially as it relates to your mothers.

As for your post, it is interesting how the comments/looks decrease with age. I'm not sure if it's related to having kids in tow most of the time, though. I do notice more looks, etc. when I'm alone.

Also, I always wondered to what extent looks affected the practice of law as a woman. I'm not sure if it helps you or hurts you. I think it may depend on the situation.

The Happy Feminist

Whew-- I am so glad to see positive comments on this one.

I think Marjani's question about whether you can be a model and a feminist is a great one. My gut response is to say yes, absolutely-- but I will see if I can actually come up with a well-thought out post on this one. Not that I am an expert on modeling, but what an interesting issue!

Matt Stoller

I never thought about that 'smile' comment thing. That would drive me crazy.


"... I mostly move in professional circles where it is inappropriate for attorneys to tell each other they’re hot."

(chuckle) Hey, there's another post subject for you. SHOULD it be inappropriate?

"Although I may not have fully appreciated it at the time, I had some unharnessed power in being able to command instant appreciation when first meeting people."

You being a feminist, I'm sure you've read Camille Paglia who might have written that sentence in that way. And yet so many feminist swear off beauty. The (literally) ugly feminist sterotype exists for a good reason.

"I am glad that, no matter how old we get, my husband will remember me as I was at 23."

Hmm. If I had a wife, I'm not so sure I'd want her to be remembering my rippled, hard, youthfully bronzed 23-year-old body just as I get up from the table at Sunday brunch for seconds. Memories like that might cut both ways.


Thanks for your courage in posting this. Another issue, though, is the assumption in our culture that gray or thinning hair, facial lines, etc., constitute "losing your looks." I've been thinking about this recently because of the many pictures of Rosa Parks that have been circulating since her death in October. She was a beautiful young woman, but the later pictures, showing a fully mature activist, whose lined face bespoke power and character that a younger person simply couldn't have earned, are awe inspiring. Maybe we should be looking at ways to redefine "good looks."

The Happy Feminist

"Although I may not have fully appreciated it at the time, I had some unharnessed power in being able to command instant appreciation when first meeting people."

Richard, you caught me. I went through a Camille Paglia phase in college, and I was thinking of her when I wrote that sentence. (I actually have not read a lot of feminist authors, though.)

Upon reflection, though, I realize that it is not a great sentence. What kind of power am I referring to? Power to do what? That sentence reflects the seed of an idea, more than a fully formed thought.\

Dr. Sue, I think you're right on. I also think that despite all the naysayers, our popular culture is doing a better job than in the past of recognizing the beauty of different types of people: from the heavier to the older to the androgynous to people of different, non-white ethnicities. We've got Queen Latifah (whom I think is drop dead gorgeous), Lauren Hutton, Stella Tenant, Iman, and lots of others who defy conventional standards. The conventional is still the norm, but I see progress.


Can a woman be a model and a feminist? I was a teen model and a feminist. But I have to admit, I only modeled because I was insecure. The girls at school teased me so bad for being ultra-skinny that I was dumb enough to think the beauty industry could offer the validation I needed. I quit modeling by age 16 or 17. Well, it didn't give me what I was looking for, and I was creeped out by all the old dudes coming to fashion shows to see 14-year-old bods in bikinis.

I still think I was a feminist, though, even when I modeled. I thought, hey, why can't I be both? (Basically what you said.) But if beauty is the only thing you've got, and you constantly pick other women apart for how they look, then you're not a feminist (here I mean "you" in the general sense).

Also, I think very few feminists swear off beauty anymore. I used to wonder why some unattractive women are anti-feminists because it appears, on the surfact, that feminism would be a win-win strategy for them. But then I figured out that anti-feminism is really the only thing they have to offer men. The way they see it is, "Hey, I'm not going to get a guy by my looks. But maybe if I market myself as a servant, I can land one! Because landing a man is my #1 goal!" Of course I don't agree with that. I'm just saying I have read some anti-feminist blogs with that attitude (cough, Charlotte Allen, cough).

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