"That's What Makes You Beautiful."

I take great issue with this song. Well, not so much the song itself, but the fact that it is touted to young girls as a song that they should listen to in order to feel better about themselves. This song, at the moment, is considered empowering to girls, and I wish that people would look at the song and think critically for one moment before they start to push teenage girls back into a box of self-doubt. Most of the song I could just walk away from as annoying but harmless. Then the last, tagged on line from the chorus comes and I just can’t let it be.

“You don’t know you’re beautiful,
And that’s what makes you beautiful.”

Woah. Wait. Hello virgin and whore dichotomy. This line basically makes it so that the most desirable trait in the girl is her naivety to her own attractiveness. It is a catch-22. She can only be attractive as long as she doesn’t think that she is attractive. She can only be attractive if the boy is the one who rescues her by showing her the beauty that she cannot see in herself. This song doesn’t promote the agency of young girls. It promotes a dependency on boys to imbue girls with beauty. Self-awareness of beauty is considered narcissistic and unattractive, as is embellishments of beauty. The most desirable trait in a girl is the opportunity for a boy to exercise agency over her by revealing her own beauty to her. If she sees the beauty on her own, without his assistance she is considered spoiled and no longer beautiful or desirable. 

Yes, I understand that is a lot to glean from one line of music. However, the fact that the line just hangs there as the final word, hovering in the air, makes it too obvious to not say anything. It is not hidden in the song. It is the blatant message that stays with you at the end, and in my opinion it is harmful. Well, again, the song itself is not harmful as much as it being spoonfed to shy, insecure girls as a way to feel better about themselves. Sure, it is intended to give them hope that maybe someone else secretly finds them attractive, but instead of empowering them to love themselves it just increases that dependency on that external validation.

At the moment there is a lot of discussion about empowering young girls. The most prevailing example at the moment is the Disney-ization of the pixar princess Mirada. When transitioning from the 3d world to the 2d world some ‘improvements’ were made in the poster-girl for tom-boyism, mainly a bit of taming and sexualization that pulled her in line with the other disney princesses. Parents were angry. They were so angry that the new figure has been temporarily pulled while disney searches for a solution (how about the solution of leaving her unruly and boyish?). I haven’t read any reactions of little girls though- whether they thought that Mirada no longer represented them. I would like to know whether little girls at a young age are being taught feminist rhetoric, or maybe they honestly see a problem with the changes, or maybe they don’t care and it is the protection of the parents. These are questions that I have and don’t see any answers to. I always hover in a weird space concerning parental and societal protection of youngsters. How much of the world do you hide until what age? And when do you actually introduce these issues and discuss them with your child? And how do you go about letting your child form their own opinions? For so long I have worked with teenagers, who already have a strong base of decision making and critical thinking skills. I never really thought about having to get them to that point. 

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