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Ugly Pride

May 2, 2012

Reddit is a giant social news site ranking internet stories and links, and has hundreds, if not thousands, of subreddits. Each subreddit is a specialized group, or forum, for people to post links, ask questions, and create discussions around specific interests. I mod for the body acceptance reddit, the fat and proud reddit (a private group), and the fatosphere reddit. Today I got a message saying I had been banned from the Ugly People Alliance reddit.

Now, when I clicked the link (because you know I had to click it) I found this:

In case you didn’t guess, hlkolaya is my reddit user name. I wasn’t sure if this was a troll post or not, considering the trouble I’ve had with trolls on Reddit, including death threats, cyber-stalking, and stolen photos of my family, etc.

However, I quickly discovered that anyone who opens it will see their user name. My best guess is that a bot goes around banning people so that they’ll click the link and see a post telling them that they’re beautiful. Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? It’s a nice reprieve among subreddits like Am I Ugly? where people post photos of themselves to have their self-worth confirmed or denied by a site which seems to pride itself on it’s sizism and looksism.

However, when I thought it was a troll post and that someone really was banning me from an alliance of ugly people in what I thought was probably a made up subreddit, it didn’t bother me. I realized that I don’t find ugly to be insulting. I don’t think being ugly is a bad thing. I’m sure I’m ugly to lots of people (and lots of people have told me so), but who cares if I don’t fit their personal definition of beauty? Or society’s for that matter?

On our body acceptance reddit we often get people who feel ugly or fat (I know, fat’s not a feeling, but bear with me)  and get reply after reply assuring them that they’re beautiful to someone and wanted by someone. This only reinforces the belief that our self-worth must be validated externally.

How about it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful because that doesn’t determine your value as a human being? In my last post I wrote a little about looksism and beauty privilege, and gave examples of people getting free merchandise, services, and more because they’re beautiful, cute, hot, or whatever else they are. This is just one of the problems I was talking about — the only possible outcome of beauty privilege is that people who aren’t beautiful are treated as less-than.

People, we have to stop with the “but you’re beautiful” crap. I’m tired of hearing it and I’m sure a lot of you are too. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful because beauty doesn’t determine who you are as a person or how you should be treated. What would be wrong with an actual ugly people alliance?

Rock that ugly pride!

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. Bronwen permalink
    May 2, 2012 11:34 am

    “How about it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful because that doesn’t determine your value as a human being?”

    That’s actually a very radical thought, you know. One I’m behind 100%, in fact. But still, very radical.

  2. May 2, 2012 12:34 pm

    I don’t see what the big deal is, sorry. Someone saying you’re beautiful doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent or otherwise worthwhile. It’s someone trying to pay you a compliment, and they’re being well intentioned, even if the compliment didn’t land the way you would have liked.

    • May 2, 2012 1:07 pm

      If I may expand upon Heather’s post, the problem is that our society places sooooooooo much value on beauty above and beyond all the other qualities that a person should value, like intelligence, compassion, generosity (to name a few). To be told that you’re beautiful is often the only salvation from self-loathing. You could be the smartest, kindest, most thoughtful person in the world, but still feel like crap because you’re not attractive. I’ve struggled with this my entire life and still seek validation, though I know it’s essentially meaningless. But when you “feel ugly,” it really hurts the way you think of yourself. What Heather is proposing is a world where beauty is just one of many traits a person has, not the King of Traits, which has such an unbalanced influence on how we see ourselves. Hope that clarifies some.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • May 2, 2012 5:18 pm

        aww atchka i think you are adorable….if we were both married and lived in the same city…….. but seriously i get what you are saying. why is attractive the be all end all?

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 2, 2012 3:38 pm

      Well, to be fair, I didn’t say it was a huge deal. What I’m saying is that if we want to challenge beauty standards then we have to challenge the idea that beauty is the ultimate compliment or that if you’re not beautiful that you somehow don’t count. I’m tired of the “you’re worth something because someone wants to fuck you” train of thought. And, of course, just because someone’s intentions are good doesn’t mean it’s okay. Remember “you look like you’ve lost weight!” is meant as a compliment too,but it’s really just backhanded and frowned upon in the body acceptance community.

      • May 3, 2012 11:02 am

        I suppose that makes sense. I’ve just never been all that attuned to how I look personally, so I suppose I have a slightly different perspective given I just don’t care how I look as long as I’m clean and relatively presentable. If someone tells me I look nice, I just say thank you and move on, because it’s not an insult, just a well-intentioned statement. I may think differently at this point.

  3. May 2, 2012 1:50 pm

    Yeh I dont see the big deal either actually. Heather doesnt seem to be “proposing a world where beauty is just one of many traits a person has”. She seems opposed to even considering “beauty” in the equation at all. She seems to be suggesting that beauty is actually a bad thing and doesn’t want to be a part of it. Is that how she reconciles the many comments she’s received suggesting she is not beautiful?

    I’d be concerned about such an over-reaction to the whole beauty myth if it weren’t one of a thousand “issues” human beings have to deal with. Heather and her ilk are trying to change the world, and good on them, but I wonder if it’s (a little bit at least) just their way of seeking and gaining the same attention that “beautiful” people are seeking, or disabled people are seeking, or disenfranchised people are seeking, or artistic people are seeking, or … well, you know.

    I agree that our perceptions of some things (“beauty” being one) are not a little warped, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Everybody has their own idea of what is beautiful (except, it seems a staunch few opposed to anything “beautiful”). Most people will accept the compliment with varying degrees of comfort, but we live in a world where increasingly it’s becoming anathema to compliment anyone on anything because it might offend a zealous few.

    • May 2, 2012 2:14 pm

      I don’t see this post as opposed to beauty, I see it as opposed to the idea that validation of our beauty is necessary for our self-worth, which is the status quo. Heather is encouraging people to find self-worth regardless of whether anyone confirms that they are, indeed, beautiful.

      I also think she’s trying to say that there is no inherent value in being seen as “beautiful.” Just because you arbitrarily match a particular group, or individual, standards for beauty does not inherently mean anything. It’s something you’re born with, not something you develop or refine or improve over time. This is especially true since theories on the objective nature of beauty hinge on symmetry, something you cannot improve without undergoing drastic surgical alteration.

      I doubt Heather really objects to people finding you beautiful, it’s the value and judgement that come along with beauty (or lack thereof) which she is taking a stand against. But that’s my interpretation of her post.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • May 2, 2012 3:03 pm

        I accept what you’re saying, but I do think it’s an interpretive difference. I can only go by what Heather wrote in this post, and smidgeons of what I’ve read in her various blogs. Personally I see a lot of inconsistency, but I realise it’s hard to be consistent in the current environment where everything can be “true” and nobody can be “wrong” because it hurts their self-esteem.

        I’m not sure why “beauty” is not something that can be improved upon without drastic surgical alteration (thats quite a provocative phrase). A little bit of makeup can improve “beauty” dramatically. I too would be careful judging any persons human value based on the application of a little makeup, but I don’t think it’s counter-productive to human value to buy into that. As a photographer I have followed Heather’s modelling through her blog and she routinely uses quite dramatic makeup and hair colour effects, if not to look more “beautiful” then surely to look different to her everyday look. Photographically that’s brilliant, but doesn’t it contradict the very thing she’s suggesting in this post and many others in her blog? She regularly opines her struggle being fat in a thin-thinking world, especially the world of modelling. Is she trying to change that world? One could think that her participation in it tacitly validates it. But she complains when she is not fully accepted into it. She can’t have it both ways.

        But surely its as valid to judge someone on their “beauty” as it is their “intelligence” or their “artistic” ability. Or are we simply to not judge anyone on anything. The logical conclusion of that is…well, who knows? But it wouldn’t be pretty (oops…)

        We could go round and round on this, but I won’t. I respect the opinions on this post and others but Im not sure exactly what the motivations are, especially in light of what seem to me to be huge inconsistencies, and I simply disagree with some of the conclusions.

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 2, 2012 3:46 pm

      Woah there Peter. I’d appreciate if you asked me to clarify rather than putting words in my mouth. I’m not proposing a world without beauty. That’d be like proposing a world without art or music. What I’m proposing is that being beautiful shouldn’t be seen as anything more than happenstance- like being born into money. It shouldn’t be seen as any better or worse than anything else. Just because someone doesn’t fit the beauty standard doesn’t mean they should have to sit around feeling inferior because of how they look. Just like fat shouldn’t be an insult, simply a descriptor, beauty shouldn’t be a compliment- just a descriptor!

      Do I like fashion? Yes- i see it as any other art- I like decorating myself! And not everyone likes it. And yes, I absolutely have to struggle against what’s expected of me compared to what I believe in. But just because I have to look a certain way for a shoot doesn’t mean I enjoy having that dictated. And maybe I was just in a particularly apathetic mood about beauty when I wrote this post, but I think there’s room for both ideas- that you can shows that fat women can be beautiful while also working towards knocking down that whole box that says beauty is a good thing. I’ll tell you that a lot of people don’t think I’m attractive at all.. and I don’t care.. because it doesn’t make me less of a person. (i realize I’m rambling a bit- I’m sick and fuzzy brained)

      • May 2, 2012 4:02 pm

        IMO your reply contradicts itself and your argument. But I’m not convinced of the validity of your argument – or at least the way you articulate it. Perhaps “sick and fuzzy-brained” is an adequate excuse.

        And I didn’t suggest you were proposing a world without beauty.

        • hlkolaya permalink
          May 2, 2012 5:29 pm

          Peter, there may indeed be some contradiction- it’s a complicated issue which mashes up against other contradictory issues. For example.. a lot of bisexuals dislike labels. They have the idea that in an ideal world labels aren’t needed. But we don’t live in an ideal world so it mashes up against bi erasure and bi invisibility. So saying that no labels contributes to bi erasure and that labels shouldn’t be necessary are both valid even if they’re not both possible in the same set of circumstances.

          I apologize if I misread your statement- it wasn’t very clear. What I’m not misreading, however, is your rudeness which is unappreciated in a civil discussion.

          • May 2, 2012 5:48 pm

            I didn’t intend any rudeness and apologise if it came across that way, and while we’re on the subject of clarity, you are the only one who has admitted being unclear. I’m not sure which of my statements is particularly unclear.

            What I really think is happening here is one of those arguments that purports to be civilised, but any amount of disagreement will be met with a wall of denial and accusations of rudeness or non-clarity. Good luck with your crusade. Have you considered the possibility that photographers ignore you not because of your physicality but more because you come across as a zealot in a cause that very few others are really bothered about? It’s one thing to rail against thin beautiful people in the industry you are trying to fit into, but it’s another thing to expect to be accepted into it simply because you are the opposite of what the industry appears to require and your stated intention is to change it. (that will no doubt reinforce how rude you suggest I am, but it is in fact a genuine question)

        • Kala permalink
          May 2, 2012 5:57 pm

          Please stop bullshitting Peter. You’re being rude and you know it. Your writing has an obvious and decidedly negative tone. You use harsh language that doesn’t befit someone pretending to respect Heather in a supposedly civilized conversation.

  4. May 2, 2012 6:05 pm

    LOL If this is representative of the thinking and ability to argue the cause of the Fat Acceptance community it’s no wonder it’s not really gaining any ground. As I’ve said before, good luck with your crusade.

    • Kala permalink
      May 2, 2012 6:53 pm

      Oh yes, calling a movement a crusade is so reasonable and civilized. Do you think it’s particularly reasonable to start up conversations with a condescending tone, and then flounce when it’s not received well. With your superior intellect, I’m sure that makes perfect sense to you.

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 2, 2012 7:05 pm

      I couldn’t reply to your other comment because the convo bar got so thin, but you said

      “Have you considered the possibility that photographers ignore you not because of your physicality but more because you come across as a zealot in a cause that very few others are really bothered about?”

      Firstly, I don’t ever bring up my views with photographers. If they visit my model mayhem page then they read about it, but I’ve never had a problem with photographers that I work one on one with. So no, that would not be a possibility. Secondly, if fighting against bigotry bothered them that much then I’m better off not shooting with them. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that bigotry is the reason for some of the issues in group shoots that I come across to begin with, but I’ve never had anyone have a problem with the fact that I’m for body acceptance and if they did, they’d be a special kind of bigot- the kind that not only doesn’t accept other peoples’ bodies but don’t want anyone else to either. I fully expect to come across quite a lot of sizism doing what I’m doing but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t effect me emotionally.

      As for railing against thin people? I’ve never done any such thing. I rail against the idolization of thin bodies, not against thin bodies themselves. I’m as against thin shaming as fat shaming.

      Don’t be coy- you know very well that your comments, all of them, come across as rude.

    • Mulberry permalink
      May 2, 2012 11:50 pm

      Yeah, we all think alike – doesn’t everyone know that? Of course, if we DIDN’T all think alike, people just say – look, they can’t even agree with each other! No wonder they don’t gain any ground!
      I agree with Peter that some words can be watered down to the extent that they don’t mean much any more, a sort of linguistic homeopathy.
      I agree with Heather that fat shouldn’t be an insult. In fact, I think it should be a compliment, except that most people can’t pull that off.
      The problem with using beauty to judge people is that, like BMI, it’s simple, easy, and deceptive. Beauty’s a bit of a losing battle. For poor people, it means trying to look rich, for rich people, it means trying to not look poor.
      As for Fat Acceptance being a crusade – bring me my trebuchet!

  5. ChironsGate permalink
    May 2, 2012 7:31 pm

    Don’t feed the troll?

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 2, 2012 7:48 pm

      ha, you’re right of course. thanks, I needed reminding.

    • May 2, 2012 10:08 pm

      I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, if they’re not being outright insulting. His tone was definitely disrespectful (the whole “everything can be true so nobody gets hurt thing” is pretty condescending). I don’t think everything is true, but I also don’t think random assholes get to tell everyone else what “true” means.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • June 28, 2012 12:52 am

        I’d still challenge you to point out where I was even disrespectful let alone outright insulting. But apparently you can call me a random asshole? Presumably on the basis that you already think I was rude so you can automatically be rude (worse) back? And I’m the unreasonable one? Your defenses are on auto-pilot and kick into high gear when anybody looks like disagreeing with you and that clouds your judgment.

  6. May 2, 2012 11:20 pm

    This “peter” sounds an awful like another troll we’ve had here under the named Dr. Peter.

    • Kala permalink
      May 2, 2012 11:48 pm

      Not enough thermodynamics.

  7. May 3, 2012 12:17 am

    Just a wandering thought… I don’t know if there IS such a thing as “beautiful” and “not beautiful.”

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 3, 2012 11:49 am

      Interesting wandering thought 😀 definitely fits right in with this piece. I could point to studies on objective beauty, but I believe those studies are all BS. After all there was a study which said “objectively” black women are the least attractive *coughbullshitcough*. So maybe you’re right.. maybe the idea of beauty is just a huge social construct. We’d all think spiders were beautiful and flowers were ugly if we were told so our whole lives.

      • Mulberry permalink
        May 3, 2012 1:37 pm

        I’m not so sure that there isn’t objective beauty. We may be hard-wired to find certain shapes and color combinations beautiful, but such preferences can be overridden.

      • May 10, 2012 12:51 am

        I mean, if you want to get WAY down to brass-tacks. I suppose that when humans were becoming what they are now, they would go around seeing what was good and what wasn’t. What was nice and what was mean. So… fruit- tasty, chases away hunger, beautiful. Big animal with sharp teeth- scary, kills my friends, ugly. And maybe that made it’s way into oral tradition, folk lore and fairy tales what with all the ugly step sisters and witches…

        But I question if there is such a thing as beauty when some people can find me hideous, while my boyfriend (and other people I’ve met) can find me stunning. You’d think if things were as cut and dry as “beautiful, normal, ugly” it’d be pretty much unanimous.

        Kind of off topic, but it’s so funny how in fairy tales ugly evil things are women, but ugly nice things (Quasimodo, Belle’s Beast, princes trapped in the skin of a frog or bear) are men. Of course this is coming from a life-long Disney fan and that’s admittedly not the most women/body positive.

        • hlkolaya permalink
          May 10, 2012 6:56 am

          except that people often find those hungry man eaters beautiful like lions and tigers. They’re seen as beautiful, majestic, graceful, etc. I’m sure someone could argue for an evolutionary point to beauty, but then why would beauty be so subjective from person to person or from decade to decade? Why is fat beautiful one century and ugly the next? Like you said, is beauty even a real thing when it’s different to everyone? and fantastic point on the misogyny in beauty expectations of women but not men. You’ll see the same in things like sitcoms where the husband is less conventionally attractive and the wife is a standard beauty. The lesson? Looks don’t matter got guys, only for women.

  8. May 3, 2012 11:57 am

    It kind of feels like a double-edged sword. If someone is in the state of mind of needing to feel acceptance and believes that the way to get there is to be seen as beautiful, and if they ask how they look….saying “it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful or not” vs. “no, you’re not beautiful” basically has the same affect. You’ve pretty much said the same thing either way to that person because he/she is feeling sensitive and subjective. The objective notion that “beauty” is a made up concept and doesn’t really matter or exist, just doesn’t reach them.

    At least, that’s how I’d probably feel. If I asked my husband if I look good in an outfit and he said “it doesn’t truly matter how you look because no one’s opinion matters but your own”–I would interpret that as “no, you don’t look good.” Recognizing that paradigm is the first step of trying to change it, I think. What do you think?

    • hlkolaya permalink
      May 3, 2012 1:04 pm

      we deal with this all of the time in r/bodyacceptance. Generally the “it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful” comments are received pretty well. I think you have to tailor your comment to the person and the circumstances. Obviously this would be more of something in an ideal world rather than something that’s realistic right now.

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