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Must a Woman Be Beautiful?

Christy Rizk | Lebanon

Not too long ago, I was discussing the topic of female nudity on TV with a friend. I made a joke about how scarce male nudity is in comparison, and my friend replied that, unlike the female form, the male body isn't meant to be appreciated.

Now, my friend certainly didn't mean that beauty is the primary quality of a woman's body, but even if they did, it would not be their opinion alone. Haven't we all been conditioned to believe that a woman, above anything else, should be beautiful?

Summer is dubbed the season of fun and relaxation, but for the average woman, a day at the beach is tainted by much anxiety and tedious, sometimes painful preparations; fad diets and laxative teas in order to get a "bikini body" and time, effort and money spent on removing every square inch of body hair. And how many of us have sat at the edge of the pool after these measures with our bellies sucked in, ashamed of every curve, stretch mark, and supposed imperfection?

On the other hand, media celebrating womanhood and female sexuality goes above and beyond to romanticize every insecurity a woman could have; your vulva is a flower, your stretch marks tiger stripes, your hair a lush forest.

But must I see my vulva, hair, skin, and every other part of me as beautiful before I come to understand them and care for them? Must we see our bodies as beautiful in order to appreciate their worth?

I have always known, even as a little girl, that to be a woman is to constantly perform for a voyeuristic audience, and my body is the best act. Unlike men, women cannot simply exist. A woman must be beautiful on her way to school, must smile at every job interview, must represent the workplace with her appearance…Because beauty is the precedent to every achievement in a woman's life. How much more time and energy could we possess if we did not spend so much of it on harnessing, maintaining, and retrieving something as transient as beauty?

Christy is passionate about feminism, mental health advocacy, and pasta. She also writes sometimes. Connect with her at

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