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“You Look Hot!”…..Thanks! But There’s More To Me


Ice breakers – the first few sentences you say to someone when you meet them. To make them comfortable. To warm up a social interaction.

So what are the first few things women say to other women in a social gt (leaving out the men for now)? Typically, after the salaam or hi, it’s about “you look lovely”, “where do you get your hair done?”, “relaxing karaee hai baalon kee?”, “which lawn is this?”, “nice handbag!! LV?”. And honestly speaking, I myself often do this. Don’t know what else to talk about for starters of a social meet-up. Also, no other way is such sure shot popularity-gaining methodology….nothing works like praising a woman about how she looks. Also because unconsciously, I know that this is what I like to hear as well when I go somewhere. Somewhere, as women, our self-esteem is tied up to how we look, not who we are or what we do. And the brightest, the smartest, the humblest and the most down-to-earth of us also fall into the vanity trap.

Apart from the obvious disadvantages of excessive vanity, one of the problems is that the actually more important parts of your personality take a back seat. We hardly know many of our friends in reality. We know what they look like, but not who they are or what they do.

What made me think over it more today was this brilliant blog by Lisa Bloom in Huff Post titled “How To Talk To Little Girls” in which Bloom traces it back to our childhood. What is the first thing you say to a 3, 5 or 7 year old? Unknowingly, we perpetrate this conditioning in little girls who will be women tomorrow by talking to them about “ooooh how pretty is your frock” and “did mom do your hair?” or “where do you get these shoes?”. While in itself, there is nothing wrong with complimenting a little girl or a woman on her looks, there is something seriously wrong with making it the pivot of the conversation, the ONLY thing we seem to notice, and reiterating to the other person (a female) that “hey, how you look is the most important part of you. That is who you are!!!”

Listen to what Bloom says in her blog: “Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.”

When we become used to, as girls, that everyone compliment us on our appearance, how we look becomes our core value even as we grow older. We judge ourselves according to how we look, hot or not, and not on the basis of who we are.

When we have been subjected to this, the same attitude is then transferred to the men in our lives. Mostly sons. For I do believe that behind every “superficial ogler who wants Miss World as biwi (not to forget she should be able to make qeema bharay karelay)”, there are mommies and chaachis and aapis and cousins who have conditioned him to think that “LOOKS” is the single most important currency when it comes to women. No doubt, physical attraction is a natural pre-requisite when you choose someone for your (life) partnership, but it being the only one is just sad. And this sadness is reflected in matrimonial advertisements to the fullest.

The media doesn’t help….it milks every social attitude to it’s advantage. And so, “shaadee” is synonymous with “Khilee khilee ranaai” and “Goree rangat”.

So here we are. In a world where we are actually beginning to believe in “Kill me, but make me beautiful”.

My point here is not to undermine physical beauty. I am not implying that one should appear unkempt and disheveled. I am a proponent of maintenance of everything – your house, your car, your relationships, your brains…..as well as your looks. Work on it. Look good and feel good. But don’t make it the core of your existence. There is more to you.

So next time, girls, let’s talk about more than LOOKS!

Highly recommended reading: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

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About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, blogger & activist. Currently working for The Express Tribune. Focus on human rights, health, gender, peace & Islam. Idealist. Wannabe photographer. Chaai, traveling, reading, friends and motherhood.

25 responses »

  1. Truely its our obsession with looks and the fact that its a key to social acceptability makes us focus on it. Why only “khilliee rangat”…weight is another issue that ppl think its their inate right to comment on…. Physical appearences is the barometer to judge others apart from money….. My sons school did snow “white” and the fairest girl got to play the part sadly the darkest complection girl got to play the witch….imagine the misery of looks start at birth now….. !!!!!

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  2. I loved reading this blog , it is so true, I can relate with everything written in it , Indeed Major sadness is reflected in matrimonial advertisements to the fullest. Looks do count most definitely but there is more to everyone than just good looks and a beautiful body.

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  3. It’s true. We are suck a look-ist society. So if you are a fat, and this is especially true for women, it’s the first thing that is registered. Or colour. look at the plethora for creams in teh market for teh fair and lovely complexion. Men face this too but not to the extent women do

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  4. Excellent points here. Vanity is a woman’s worst enemy. But I can tell you safely it really depends on the woman too. Substance essentially comes with activity & what plagues Pakistan’s urban woman is not being contributing members to society. Privilege has made them powerless & opaque & they cling to accessories to make their presence felt. Fashion & the look is the easiest way to acceptability. There are countless women, who do great work and still look stunning.

    Society must break the Glass Walls that surround the privileged urban Pakistani woman. What makes the illusion unbearable of the chaste, virgin woman must be destroyed, for there are no virgin women, only women with untouched virgins. I rather an ugly woman any day than a silly twit!

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  5. nice one! I admire people who can actually break the ice by complimenting… I cant do that… something has to be really outrageously GAGA for me to cough the compliments out or something that touched me or appeal to me.. and it doesnt hap…pen easily..its not that I have very high taste or am a snob, its perhaps just the opposite, maybe am so carefree most of the times that I dont pay much attention to the glitter and glam. I think its inherited from my MUM.. after the function if someone would say so and so was wearing this or that..she would be totally clueless cause it so happens she never gave much attention to all that..its the conversation and the topics and opinions of people which left an impact not what they wore or how they looked.
    and Subhan Allah when you like someone for their brain, their thoughts, their ideas, their heart you overlook if they are rich or poor, wearing fancy or ordinary etc.. having a critical eye for fashion is good but judging a person based on the goodies is totally off! 🙂

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  6. perfect one.
    we need to compliment each other especially women because we are the precious ones. irrespective of physical beauty, a “kalee” looks beautiful too. we need to compliment each other.
    u said it right, we need to look into the personality too but then again breaking the ice is the moto.

    Well said Ma’am!

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  7. Totally agree Farah… no one cares about what a woman is thinking about, or what her dreams and goals are! We are obsesses with her looks, the designer dress or branded lawn she is wearing or her looks, shoe, handbags, jewellery, everything which is physical Only a handful few have the ability to judge her apart from these things, to grade her by her mental abilities, her sense of humour, her intelligence or the purity of her thoughts. Looking good and well groomed certainly adds to your self confidence, but making it the only aim of your life is sometimes a sheer waste of the talents you have been gifted with!

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  8. I’m completely with you on this one. In fact, people have become superficial observers and openly judge and categorise you for the kind of person you are by ‘what’ or ‘who’ you are wearing. It is happening everywhere: work places, social gatherings and even market places. There is definitely more to a woman than just her externals!

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  9. Good observations farah… we are really stuck in the looks groove and what a load of effort goes in to create that ‘u are so hot’ look!! Doesnt leave much time for other more meaningful pursuits i guess.

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  10. Tarannum Zahidi Ahmed

    The irony is that no takes you for “Who you really are”, but judge you by your external appearance. Complexion does not matter at all; I have two very good looking friends,one from Ethiopia and the other from Tanzania,its not about your “rangat or main yahan”,these things seriously put me off but about how intelligent you are and moreover how you carry yourself.

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  11. With every blog of yours that I read I become more of a fan:) Brilliant writing and such a true reflection of our society….If someone would compliment us (3 sisters) my mum would say, ” Feel proud of something you did yourself, you didn’t make your face yourself, you didn’t earn this status yourself, So never take these compliments seriously they were truly meant for Allah (SWT)”. So we never learnt to be impressed by beauty or status and now when I raise my boys I try to instill the same values in them so when they grow up and look out for a soul mate, they do look at the brains of a young muslimah girl and not what she got from our Lord.
    I am new to Karachi and sadly I see it sooo often it’s just depressing sometimes:(
    Anyways love reading your blogs…All the best

    Reply
  12. Jazakillahu Khairan Ayesha. Lovely hearing from you. Stay i touch & follow the blog 🙂

    Reply
  13. Thanku. .i lovd ua blog

    Reply

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