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Beauty First

We heard the news in December about the Ukrainian President candidate Viktor Yushchenko. It appeared that he was poisoned with dioxin, a chemical that could bring a man to death. One of the side effects left his face pockmarked and ashen, which will eventually disappear, but this previously good-looking face now looks heavier, and filled with crater-like acne. Tests revealed the poisoning two weeks before the election.
I’ve heard these things on the news about Yushchenko’s condition, and most of the time people mentioned that we would be fine now that he is bring treated, but otherwise they talk about the condition of his face. The fact that it has altered the way he looks. But at the end of every story, they make sure to stress that Yushchenko was a good-looking man, and he will gain his looks back when this disease is completely out of his system (which should be from one to three years).
Did you know that dioxin was one of the ingredients in Agent Orange? Now the company Monsanto altered it slightly, called it RoundUp, and now has it as a weed killer.
But you’d see photos of Yushchenko before the dioxin poisoning, which they guess could have been put in his soup once (his Chicago-native wife even remembered tasting something on his lips one night months ago), and the news reports would say, ‘look at how good looking Yushchenko was, and look at him after months of exposure to dioxin.’
Interesting.
That’s interesting to me, because hearing these stories reminds me how how interested everyone is in how we look.
Beauty first.
It makes me think about television shows that do countdowns of the most beautiful dresses, or couples, or men or women out there — because people need to know which movie and television stars are the most beautiful, so they know who to mold themselves after and aspire to look like.
Those same networks have shows where female models and actors discuss the need for plastic surgery to stay ahead in the industry. There are parents who want to give their daughter breast implants for her sixteenth birthday.
Come on , I wasn’t even fully developed by age sixteen.
And my parent’s would never have thought that my self esteem would be helped by surgically putting silicone under my skin to make me primed for the objectification.
It makes me think of Miss America, where they parade a bunch of women around in fancy dresses and in swimsuits (and make people think this contest is about more than looks by having a “talent” section as well, that most people turn off when they’re watching it on TV). For that matters, there’s the Miss Universe pageants, or pageant of each of all of the United States, even child pageants (wait, wasn’t Jean Benet Ramsey a five year-old model before her parents... er, I mean, before someone, killed her?)
In fact, I just heard of a pageant in China for “Miss Artificial Beauty” — created because women in beauty pageants got angry that they had to compete against women with so much plastic surgery done on them. So “Miss Artificial Beauty” is a pageant of women who have gone through a lot of plastic surgery.
And recently, they even had a contestant that was once a man.
Now, that’s a lot of plastic surgery.
It makes me think of cheerleaders. I know, I know, they do a lot of more physical, acrobatic work now as cheerleaders, but in general they have been used as sidelines entertainment, dressed in skimpy clothes and dancing provocatively, for men to keep them entertained during sports game breaks.
I know, women watch sports now too, but they haven’t been able to get rid of this sexist practice yet.
But seeing this focus on Yushchenko’s looks makes me think about how many women aspire to be models (well, some men want to be models too, because Hell, why would you want to aspire to excel by using your brain?) The notion is to try to excel, based only on your looks. Remember that.
It makes me think about department store make-up counters (sometines they’re almost as big as the clothing departments). If you have to wear the right clothes to look good, you have to make up your face so it looks good too.
It makes me think... You know, it makes me think that there are a lot of ways women are supposed to be made to look good.
Oh, but wait, this was not supposed to be a talk about how women have to look got for men. The point was about the fact that everyone is concerned with looks in our society. The point was that this man running for Ukrainian president was poisoned — but more importantly, a side effect is that he looks like an old man with bad acne because of it.
Good thing they caught it in time, because now he won’t have too look so ugly forever.

•••

“Damnit girl, you’re bitching a lot. People depend on looks, and i’m sure you do too, Janet. Hell, I’ve heard you say that you loved the fact that your husband is tall. That’s based on looks, isn’t it?”

I hate it when I let my alter ego get a hold of me during my editorials, forcing me to not be do one-sided.
And by the way, my husband is really good looking.
And yes, looks do matter. I know that any single person interested in meeting someone will look for cute people first. I know that a person’s looks can tell you nothing about their personality, but if you’re going to be dating someone, it might as well be something other people are envious of. Know that I mean?
And yeah, when you’re interested in meeting people, you’ll look for the good-looking person. Then you’ll try to talk to them, to see if their personality matches their good looks. And maybe, on a personal level, we use that as one of our rulers for judging people.
You know, because we’re all so interested in good looks.
But then consider about how good looks effect popularity of people on a mass scale. Like consider actors in movies or television - the better looking you are, the better your chances at getting good roles, because there’s a better chance more people would like to stare at you on the big screen. And when it comes to politics, it’s much easier to be sweet-talked by a good-looking politician than an ugly looking hermit.
Consider that President Kennedy was a looker (by some standards), that there are theories that Marilyn Monroe had a fling with him, even though many people had a lot of problems with his policies. And think of what you think of when you think of President Nixon: well, you think of Watergate, and him resigning to avoid impeachment. Oh, and also think of his looks. Don’t his looks reflect what we think of his presidency?
Consider that Americans want to give President Clinton credit for the Internet boom, and people forget that the crash of the dot com industry happened in the last six months of his second term.
Consider that fact that Bill Clinton had repeated sexual encounters with an overweight intern, and people considered impeaching him. But that’s not how he’ll be remembered: Bill Clinton was not a gorgeous man, but he was not old, and he had a suave personality and interacted well with people, he had the right tone to his voice, he gave you the impression that he “felt” for you and “understood” what you were going through.
Yes, in America it often seems to be all about looks. But although he had age on his side, this may be some evidence that personality goes a long way.







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