Ugly is as Ugly Does….

Lately I’ve been ruminating on beauty as society judges it, and in particular how it affects women, although men are not immune to the attraction of being thought of as attractive. Many studies have shown the advantages of being seen as physically appealing as opposed to not so much.

Women in particular want to be seen as beautiful, mostly because since before anyone can remember that quality has been valued for them. If the chief job of a woman centers on wifedom and motherhood, then beauty helps achieve that precious position of acquiring a husband. So traditionally, women need to be pretty.

I love this poem my friend DJ posted recently:

Somehow we have valued beauty over other things we should find more important. My concern heightened recently due to public shaming based on appearance. Blue Ivy, the daughter of Beyonce, has been called ugly because she more closely resembles her father Jay Z than her mother. Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore has suffered the same taunts. In a recent roast Peyton Manning joked that Ann Coulter won the Kentucky Derby. When I read that I had to look up what on earth he meant, as his tasteless humor did not register. Although I wouldn’t claim her political views, I cannot sanction comparing someone to a horse as funny or appropriate.

As this poet so aptly notes, what we should really value centers on accomplishment and ability not on outward appearance. We have little control over what we are born with, for good or ill. And who gets to decide what beauty is? Different standards dominate different cultures. When a dominant culture determines the standard, certain ethnic looks suffer more than others.

Along my walk through life I always find that the people who I grow to respect and love seem beautiful to me. Arrogance cannot hide behind a face that standards find attractive. I learned a great lesson when my great aunt Maggie required nursing home care. Maggie’s hoped for suitor died in a long ago war and she never married. She would not have met the typical standard of beauty as promoted in magazines. Yet I listened with admiration at the nurse feeding her cooing, “She’s so pretty.” That nurse looked beyond cultural standards, straight to not just her heart, but her need to be loved and cared for. That’s true beauty.

I feel confident saying that God’s standard of beauty differs from our cultural choices. After all, I believe God made us all quite purposefully, and likes the variety of His own creations. Since I also believe God loves us all equally, surely he did not try to favor some with more beauty, but instead finds all of us beautiful.

I hope you can look in the mirror and believe that. And as you become convinced, I hope you can treat the others around you with the same positive regard. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, so let’s have the eyes of God and see it in everyone.

By Katherine Callahan-Howell at

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