Hi, beautiful

Apparently the UK has a minister for women and equalities. This is good. The current minister, Jo Swinson, thinks that parents shouldn’t tell their daughters they are beautiful, in order to avoid making them obsessed with their looks. This is scary.

I agree that among women—and men—of all ages, there exists today a disturbing preoccupation with physical appearance, an over-emphasis on looking young and thin and sexy. But I don’t think the solution lies in denying that looks aren’t important, because they are.

Our faces, our clothes, our bodies are the first things that others see when they look at us, and often, how they judge us. Is this unfair? Maybe, if how we look doesn’t match how we are inside. Maybe what we need to be is coherent. As an oft-quoted line attributed to Coco Chanel goes, “Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.”

I very recently wrote an essay on what my mom taught me about beauty. Reading the article on Ms. Swinson reminded me that my dad taught me a lot about beauty, too. One of my fondest childhood memories is of my dad greeting me with a smile and a “Hi, beautiful.” I always took it as an endearment, as a sign of how much he cherished me, more than as a reference to my physical appearance. I think one of the best things a parent, especially a father, can do for his daughter is let her know she is beautiful in his eyes.

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