When discussing a situation in which a person–almost always a woman–possesses a weight or any other feature that is not attractive by general media standards, supposed critics of body criticism will often use the term “inner beauty.” They will focus on its importance, as well as other non-appearance related aspects, even if the person they’re discussing is absolutely gorgeous. When talking about a model, this rarely happens. Well, unless that model has just donated to charity, wherein she’ll be declared “beautiful inside and out.”
For example, when Jessica Simpson gained weight, all the media’s focus went to that aspect of her life. Then, as she lost weight, everybody started discussing about how “strong” she is and how “driven”–because apparently, if she hadn’t lost weight, she wouldn’t be any of those things. But before weight gain was involved, people primarily just discussed the “chicken of the sea” shenanigan that happened in like 1804.
Women who do not embody “standard” beauty–that is, looking similarly to those in a typical fashion magazine–are often discussed as though they’re in an entirely different class of person.
At some point, nearly every larger woman I’m friends with has told me that people often say they have a “pretty face” and that they’re “beautiful on the inside,” as though they don’t know this implies they’re not pretty in other ways. Yes, I’m sure some of those people are being genuine: they may actually just be trying to compliment the face or personality and do think the rest is pretty. That said, typically comes out sounding like the opposite of being called a “butterface,” which is equally hurtful.
A couple weeks ago, some guy at a bar told a friend of mine that I had a “pretty face” and “could model parts” of myself, and though he “usually prefers smaller women, she’s interesting.” Apparently, I was supposed to see this as a compliment–this guy decided I was pretty enough for him! Oh my god, lucky me! He normally would think I’m too fat (I’m a size 10) but luckily, those “parts” of me and my personality led to his thinking otherwise. Goodie! Instead, I just started feeling really shitty about myself until I remembered that I didn’t really care all too much. That said, if somebody had said that to me 3 years ago, I would’ve quit eating–obviously, that would be my issue, but having your worth be negatively judged based on particular aspects of your appearance is quite painful.
Look: complimenting somebody is one thing. Here, we regularly call women beautiful and point out when they look absolutely stunning. But those compliments are not accompanied with “…except for her thighs/double chin/face” nor do they come with judgments of the people’s personalities based on their body shapes or clothing sizes.
Treating non-standard attractiveness as though it has to be derived from personality, whereas standard beauty is totally unattached (and, in fact, women of standard beauty often face being called “conceited” or “bitches” for their appearances), will lead to an even greater divide. Connecting outward appearances to inner goodness is never a good idea–it just leads to even more books being judged by their covers. Instead of making a variety of appearances seen as beautiful, it creates subclasses of beauty to be treated as more or less significant than others.