< BACK  | AT HOME • April 3, 2017
Don’t Call Me Pretty
My mum’s cancer journey has triggered a lot of self-reflection around the concept of beauty, specifically how beautiful a woman should appear, to be readily accepted by today’s society.
On top having to endure breast cancer for everything it is, women have the additional dimension of the ravages it brings to one’s physical appearance. The loss of hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and conversations around surgically removing your breasts leaves you in a tailspin as you slowly start to lose the things society associates with femininity. Had I been in my mother’s shoes – I would wholeheartedly struggle with it too. Hell, I struggled with it just watching her struggle with it.
This begs the question – how deeply embedded is it in society that a woman must look a certain way? Sitting in the chemotherapy ward, a predominant conversation theme with the cancer warriors there is how conscious they felt about their looks. I couldn’t help but notice the invisible monster that society has let loose on women battling for their lives – that regardless of what they are going through, they best keep up ‘appearances’.
I have always been the one to roll my eyes at the compliment “gosh, you’re so pretty” from my male counterparts. You deserve a thwack upside the head for that. Of all I bring to the table, your only focus is my looks? But I digress with my own venting. This compliment, the ultimate compliment, the one often women pine for – is the heartbeat of the invisible monster that roams the cancer ward. We look for validation for our looks by society’s ridiculous standards and deeply struggle with it when it falls to the wayside.
Would I be able to walk out of my house bald, eyebrow-less, eyelash-less and breast-less? No. Most definitely not. And that tells me something about my level of self-acceptance and there is further work required there. Until then, I continue to compliment my daughter in ways that don’t focus on her looks – “you look healthy”, “wow you’re strong”, “aren’t you radiant today”. Lest that invisible monster ever come knocking on her door – he’ll never find a way in.