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Beauty and Judgment

“Gross, horrible, ugly…revolting…you look disgusting.”

After viewing this video, My Pale Skin, #youlookdisgusing, it reiterated my understanding that the concept of beauty is highly contextual and deeply cultural. But beyond the academic assessment, the acts of incredible cruelty are jarring. During the video, comments about a young girl suffering from acutely-visible acne devolves into nasty attacks which evolves into cautious complimentary acceptance and then cycles back into damaging brutality.

Simply, she begins by exposing her face in a natural state, her skin without make-up or cover. After enduring merciless comments about her appearance, she attempts to disguise her “ugliness” by using deftly applied make-up. Her success is rewarded by audience comments complimenting her façade, “you look beautiful…you’re so cute…I love your make-up”. Her demeanor changes from shame to wary pleasure. She smiles tentatively and with guarded optimism.

Gradually the comments regress again into callous condemnations about her alleged fakery, “you wear too much make-up…this is false advertising…you’re so ugly that’s why you wear make-up”. The girl’s face begins to show troubled doubt. Finally, tortured tears fall from her eyes, while the comments continue to swirl around her head. A barrage of phrases emerges in the background, exposing the thoughts of so many of us who are made to feel, “ugly”. She shakily wipes away all the make-up she applied and the video ends with this young girl in her natural state once more.  A final duo of sentences appears, “you look beautiful…you are beautiful”. The young girl’s response is a blank stare.

It’s difficult to watch. And more difficult to live.

My freshman students watched this video and I prepped them by encouraging them to be mindful. The power of judgment can make one feel devastation or euphoria, merely by the utterance of a few discouraging or encouraging words. This is power.

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