Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Purpose over pretty: don't define women by their clothing

Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Nicolette Baker

Last weekend I visited the mall in search of new career basics. As I floated among racks of professional apparel, a clothing tag caught my eye. Identical tags were attached to rows and rows of similar black slacks in the misses section, all carrying the same implication. It was not the design or price that caused me to pause; it was the message. In defining grey text, it read: “Constructed to secretly minimize your shape.”

It took a minute to process.

Men and women both occupy the workplace, completing similar tasks and carrying out identical responsibilities; yet, this tag would be ridiculous in the menswear business section. Extending the expectation of thinness to even the workplace can hinder not only body image but the very purpose of the office: productivity.

One of the most pivotal points in the road to self-love is the exact contrast to this pair of pant’s message. Being told to simply “Love your body!” can feel entirely unhelpful without also learning to appreciate your body for the amazing things it can do, not just how it appears. The legs I deemed too short? They had carried me for miles and hiked forgotten places and supported me through numerous adventures. The nose I saw as too big? Without it, my face would not be my own.

Every perceived flaw tells a story of the person you are today, and without them, you wouldn’t be the same. We should respect ourselves for the incredible achievements our bodies have made and the milestones we have reached instead of evaluating ourselves solely based on appearance.

It’s also unfair to focus only on outward achievements; consider the creative capabilities humans possess as well. Works of art, literature, music — endless examples of these were created by incredible humans with sometimes minimal consideration of their own appearance. Being caught up in physical capabilities can also exclude individuals who might have mobility concerns.

Perhaps, instead of worrying only about our pretty potential, we should appreciate what we can contribute.

Outward appearance is a large part of self-expression but should not overshadow achievements, both in and out of the workplace. A great outfit can give unstoppable confidence, but unfair expectations can zap that amazing feeling. To paraphrase what many have said before: your beauty is not just how you appear; it is what you give.