Many men and even some women believe that feminists are ugly.
Men who only value women who meet conventional standards of beauty and are willing to please them sexually interpret all women who don’t fit those categories as “ugly”, because to them women only exist to be decorative penis holsters, and any women who isn’t beautiful enough or who doesn’t put out on demand is “ugly” because “ugly”, as we all know, equals “worthless”.
To be ugly in a misogynist society is to be worthless. When men call feminists ugly, they are calling us worthless. Worthless because we’re insufficiently decorative, don’t practice femininity enough, won’t submit to them sexually. Women are not allowed to say no, to decide they don’t want to dredge themselves in makeup or wear impractical clothing, to have a body that doesn’t fit socially acceptable parameters, to have sexual preferences or desires of their own. When a woman tries to do any of these things she is called “ugly”, because she is acting in her own interest and not those of a man’s.
But there is some truth to the stereotype of the ugly feminist.
Those of us who don’t fit conventional beauty standards find out so much sooner how badly society treats women and girls it deems ugly. Bullying; social ostracism; if you’re lucky, mere invisibility. Being ugly influences every transaction one makes with another person, because every person judges based on appearance even if they claim they don’t. (Those who claim they don’t are often the worst offenders.) So ugly women find out much sooner how women are hated. Pretty women enjoy social acceptance and male attention (even if that attention is unwanted) and often don’t discover how society hates women until they begin to age and that approval and attention goes away.
Being hated can lead to feeling like shit about oneself, and self-destructive behavior, and/or it can lead to a search for answers. Society is full of victim blaming; to those it ostracizes, it blames, like the bully that grabs your arm and hits you with it while taunting: “Don’t hit yourself! Don’t hit yourself!” In this way it deflects all criticism or blame away from itself and onto the individual, and continues to operate under the radar.
Self-help books and articles create the illusion that the effects of misogyny are under the individual’s control, which is insidious because when the person fails to successfully overcome these effects, she feels like it is her own fault for failing at the techniques, and learns to blame herself.
Feminism explains that the cruelty directed at women comes from a misogynist society, that they as individuals did nothing to cause it. Which is truly liberating for women. Anything that is liberating for women is a threat to those who want to maintain the status quo, so they try to suppress it.
“Feminists are ugly”, they insist, because they want to scare women away from feminism. The threat of pariahdom, of male disapproval, is powerful. They want to scare women away from feminism and even turn women against feminism, because it’s a whole lot easier to maintain privilege if members of the oppressed class can be tricked into fighting each other rather than collectively resisting the power structure. Women can fight amongst themselves and men can sit back and relax as the patriarchy runs itself.
So what can we do?
The typical reaction is to insist that all women are beautiful, but I don’t believe that expanding the range of beauty to include everyone really works. When the media does this, like with the new “plus size” models, they’re only expanding the range of women to be objectified and sexualized.
Beauty is an oppressive concept when applied to women. We can and should seperate beauty from value, and acknowledge that to have beauty is not necessary to have value. Feminism is a lone voice in a woman-hating wilderness telling us that all women are worthy human beings. The men who want to categorize us don’t want us to believe it, but pretty or ugly, thin or fat, young or old, all women have value.