Beautiful You

I hear this song all the time on Christian radio, and I want so very much to like it. The first verse is fantastic.

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine, Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight, her body isn’t fake, and she’s always felt overweight

I remember feeling that way at fourteen. And at sixteen. And at twenty. And every now and again at twenty-nine, though it’s getting better. I think those couple lines beautifully sum up how hard it is to be an average-looking girl in a world where we’re bombarded with unrealistic beauty all the time. I like the way the “her body isn’t fake” bit alludes to silicone and airbrushing—the girl in the magazine doesn’t really look that way either.

I also like how it says that the title girl has always *felt* overweight. We don’t know if she’s fat or not, and that ambiguity lets fat girls and thin girls alike relate to her. It also hints at the way nobody can ever be thin enough to feel like she’s beautiful.

I’m even more in love with the end of that first verse:

…you were made with such care your skin your body and your hair Are perfect just the way they are”

Not just “beauty is on the inside,” but your body is perfect and beautiful as-is, flaws and all. We aren’t told this nearly enough, women especially and young girls most of all.
But when we get to the second verse is when I start to have severely mixed feelings. “Little girl twenty-one” annoys me because a female 21-year old is a woman, not a girl. And the “things that [she’s] already done” seem to consist largely of sex. Why is it always sex that’s the biggest, most horrible sin there is? Not lying or cruelty or greed—always sex, especially for a woman.

And we’ve got two guys in this scenario, both pretty stereotypical. Her current boyfriend, who’s just using her for sex, and the mythical guy who’s out there somewhere and “will love [her] for the jewel [she is].” There’s a lot of problematic stuff there.

First off, what if she doesn’t find True Love Guy? In a song that tries to build young women up, it bugs me to see the subtle implication that her worth and happiness should be dependent on finding a guy to love her.

Secondly, the song comes off as patronizing—a combination of referring to a grown woman as a little girl and the slut-shaming, I think. That it’s sung by a guy only adds to that effect—we have a man standing in a position of authority, telling the little girl woman how to fix her life.

I still want to like this song. I’m all about the body positivity and the message of forgiveness; I just don’t need a bunch of sexist tropes alongside that. (This is not to rag on the songwriter, by the way—there’s a lot there that I like. But the problematic stuff is worth talking about.)

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2 thoughts on “Beautiful You

  1. leeleegirl4 says:

    I like that song too. And I also agree that there is still a lot to go in the self image realm, both within and without Christianity. I think the guy who wrote the song wrote it from a parent’s perspective, which would go further in any argument about calling a 21 year old a girl, not a woman. I’m not saying its a fully justified move, or that I approve of the use of diminutive terms. I just wish we didn’t need songs to tell us that we are beautiful or special.

    • itsalllissasfault says:

      I think you have a point about the parent’s perspective–even at twenty-nine, I’m sure my parents still think of me as *their* little girl if not *a* little girl. The songwriter might definitely have been going for “affectionate and protective” rather than “condescending” or “patronizing.”

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