The Perfect Woman

As I mentioned the other day, I finished Breaking Dawn this week. After a couple of weeks of occasionally cracking into a book that should have taken me all of two or three days to read, I finally made myself sit down the other night and read the last couple hundred pages.

It is no secret that I have failed to understand the enthusiasm that some have for this series. Part of it has to do with the actual writing. I have read several other beautifully written books recently and the writing in this series is, well, so-so. The best analogy I can think of is to say that it’s kind of like listening to Weird Al on your way home from The Metropolitan. Not that there isn’t a certain entertainment factor to White and Nerdy–it just isn’t Puccini, you know? How I feel about the Twilight series is kind of like that.

There are a lot of things I could comment on with this final book (like the fact that one of the teenage girls I work with at church who loved the first three told me the other night that she is having a hard time plodding through this one, too) but I really just want to focus on one thing that really bugged me. Coincidentally, it is also extremely time-appropriate to events of this week in grown-up land.

What constitutes a perfect woman?

In Breaking Dawn, Bella’s perfection involved her becoming extremely beautiful. “Extremely beautiful,” however, seemed to also mean being almost unrecognizable. By her own father, even. She ran around thrilled with who she now was, even though (because?) it was no longer her.

That, my friends, bothered me. Deeply.

Go ahead, tell me it is just a story and I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Accuse me of being a bitter harpy. But, seriously, what kind of message does that send to the Paris Hilton obsessed demographic that these books are aimed at? Most of them are smart enough to realize that they can’t get an Extreme Vampire Makeover, but how many will be asking for a new nose and bigger “assets” for their birthdays (already a frightening new trend among the teenaged set)? After all, it was only a few months ago that they were hearing one of the cast members of MTV’s The Hills talk about how she would rather risk death than continue without a “better” chest and nose. Just like Bella, she was dying to be perfect.

Females, young and old, face tremendous pressure in the realm of perfection. We are given constant images of who we should be, how we should look, what we should think, and how we should act. Some are positive, but an overwhelming amount are destructive. And, of course, even when a woman attains some standard of perfection, or even just great achievement, there are always those who are standing by, ready to change the standard and find fault with the accomplishment.

Just ask Sarah Palin.

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6 Comments

Filed under Books, politics, Soap Box

6 responses to “The Perfect Woman

  1. I won’t say whether I think Sarah Palin constitutes the perfect woman or if she’s being scrutinized any worse than other women in politics–from Elizabeth Dole to Hillary Clinton–but here’s an interesting article about whether the rules should be different or the same for Palin than they were for Hillary or have been for women who have preceded Palin onto the national, political stage.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/05/AR2008090502656.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

  2. Don’t misunderstand–I didn’t say that I think that Palin is a “perfect woman.” And that last line was just a tease for when I have a chance to say exactly all that I think. But, honestly, your article is a good example of what I was hinting at. The media *is* treating her differently and harsher than Clinton. They were incensed at the Tanya Tucker “Stand By Your Man” comparisons back then. They absolutely made questions about her personal life off limits (questions, I might add, that wouldn’t have painted her as a bad mother, just as someone who does appear to have a political partnership for a marriage). They are holding Palin to entirely different standard than other women in politics, and I honestly believe it has a lot to do with many liberals being furious at the thought of the Republicans doing something as progressive as putting a woman in this position before they do. IF McCain wins and IF something were to happen to him (I would never wish that on him), I think Hillary Clinton might just commit suicide.

    And, don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me where you stand on Palin. I read it. 😉 Obviously, we disagree.

  3. I know we disagree, but this is your blog and I’m trying to be respectful. (Although, some days are harder than others! But that’s not unique to just your blog.) 😉

    I’m not opposed to Palin as a choice for running mate, but I am highly, highly skeptical about why McCain chose her. Given his criticism of Obama’s lack of experience, I thought for sure McCain would choose someone more appropriate like Romney or Ridge. I would love to see a woman as president, but I don’t think Palin is that woman (and, fwiw, I didn’t and still don’t think Hillary is that woman.) Whoever ends up being our first female president will be setting precedents similar to those Washington set as our first president. Hillary was too power-hungry for that and Palin is too uncertain. I’m waiting for a fair and balanced female candidate. I don’t who that is or when that will be, but I hope it’s in our lifetime!

    I could be at least interested in Palin if I didn’t feel, as do many women I’ve spoken to on both sides of the political divide, that McCain chose her under the misguided notion that somehow all those women who voted for Hillary would be so enamored of his choice that they’d switch their vote just because he picked a woman. That’s insulting to those women who voted and it’s insulting to Palin. I’d like to see Palin get a fair shake, but she’s not going to get one in this election.

    Switching gears and on the subject of perfection: that is one of those concepts in Mormonism that is such a struggle for so many, particularly women. It certainly was for me at one time. Right before I came home from my mission, I read a quote by some GA whose name I can’t remember now that said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Perfection means being righteous and good and being good is enough.” I remember thinking, “Yea! Finally, something I can do. I can’t do perfect and I’ll never be perfect–not even in the next life–but I can be good. That I can do.”

    Ideas of perfection based on beauty disturb me, too.

    Okay, I’ll go away now. Oh, but one more thing. Your comment about Clinton committing suicide if Palin landed in the top job made me LOL! (And in a good way. As in, it tickled my funny bone in a good, isn’t-irony-funny way!)

  4. Oh wow. You just touched on an issue that I feel so passionately about… there would be no room to fully comment on it here. But I’m with you 100%. My mom was Miss Washington and in the top ten in the Miss America Pageant… back when that was a HUGE thing. She was a gorgeous woman, and still is. But there were headlines about her that hurt her DEEPLY. One newspaper article in fact that had a picture of her on the front and the title was, Miss Washington… too fat? My mom was voluptious and had a womanly figure… but she certainly wasn’t fat. But since she didn’t fit this unattainable standard (for her) that the pageant officials expected (even though they put her on a 500 calorie a day diet). It’s just unbelievable what our society is doing to women. It’s tragic how some women buy into it… literally. The plastic surgery, “the costly apparel”, botox… etc, etc. etc. And the comparing and competeing that goes along with it. There is just no end to it, it’s really a bottomless pit once you set out to gain the worlds approval.
    But thank goodness for the gospel!!! I don’t know what I would do without it in this regard. I learning to care about pleasing Him, NOT the world. It’s the most liberating thing. I still think it’s important to look our best of course, but there is no obession to live-up to this unrealistic standard because my worth is simply not based on other people’s perceptions of me. Anyway, sorry for going off!! This probably doesn’t make any sense… I just have seen my mom suffer too much, and working with these girls, and now having daughters of my own has just made me super passionate about this issue. Thanks for getting me to think. 🙂

  5. It makes a lot of sense, Nicole. And I think that it would be a great angle to include in the fashion show this month.

    And, 500 calories? Oh.My.Gosh. That is just wrong.

  6. Janet,

    You don’t have to go away, I know that you are being respectful! I don’t think that there is any question that McCain chose Palin partly for the female vote. And there are entire organizations that love him for it (have you heard of PUMA–Party Unity My A**–they are former Hillary supporters who are furious that Obama is assuming that they will blindly follow him because he is a Democrat. They are intelligent women, and they are getting behind McCain and Palin). I honestly think that Palin will get more votes than Ridge or Romney would have. There ARE females that will vote just because of her (whether that is an intelligent, informed thing to do or not). She has also really motivated the base because of her socially conservative views. I think Ridge would have been a horrible choice–McCain really needed someone to make him look more conservative to the base. Romney might have done it to some extent (although I know there are a lot of conservatives that took issue with his former stance on abortion), but he wouldn’t have had the same impact with women. And, sadly, I think that there are a lot of people who wouldn’t vote for him just because he is LDS. Plus, Palin is amazingly dynamic.

    I know that perfection in the church can be a tricky topic for some people. Certainly, plenty of people drive themselves crazy trying to attain it right now. Shoot, I forget the guy’s name–some famous BYU religion professor compared it to a staircase. He said that a person on the bottom step facing up was in a better position than someone near the top who is falling backwards. The important part is which direction you are travelling.

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