During a recent visit to my dermatologist for skin cancer biopsies, the doctor fretted over my appearing at a Thanksgiving gathering with bandages on my face. She counted the days. "You might be able to wear make-up by then," she said with a grimace. I don't wear make-up and I assured her I was much more concerned with healing the skin cancer than I was with my appearance. Even so, she shoved fast-healing ointment at me and tinted sun screen "to hide all the blemishes." Dermatologists seem to focus on one thing: superficial beauty. And their target is women.
On the final DVD in the Harry Potter movie series, The Deathly Hallows, Part Two, J.K Rowling talked about her disappointment when the characters chosen to play Harry, Ron and Hermione were attractive. She didn't write them that way. Hermione was meant to be a buck-toothed, bushy-haired waif. The producers conceded to the bushy hair on Emma Watson in the first film but that disappeared by the second. I shook my head when soft-cheeked, pouty-lipped Jennifer Lawrence was announced as the actress playing Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming Hunger Games movie. In the book, author, Suzanne Collins presented Katniss as a hard-edged teen, focused on survival in a merciless society. How does Lawrence, who looks like a privileged California girl fit into Katniss's world? Are we so obsessed with pretty that we can't tolerate seeing the Katniss of Collins' imagination?
Last year a group of girls at a Texas high school started a campaign called "Redefining Beautiful." One day a week they come to school without make-up which is a brave thing to do if your peers have grown used to seeing you in lip gloss, mascara and blush. I know lovely, older women who have never shown their bare skin to the public. It seems criminal to me that we raise girls to believe their bodies, especially their unadorned faces, are offensive to the world. Boys aren't burdened with that message. Try as they might, marketers have yet to sell men on make-up and body-shaping undergarments. Men's legs are perfectly acceptable sans panty hose. Their nails remain colorless and their hair grows gray with no shame, while women spend enormous sums on self-improvement, eventually succumbing to plastic surgeons and dermatologists' procedures . . . beauty at any cost. I applaud the Texas teens and writers who create realistic female protaganists and I urge women everywhere to embrace the bodies they were born with, from cowlick to toenail.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Baggott, Asher & Bode
Rear in Gear
Kate DiCamillo on Writing