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For my Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I am writing about how storytellers, writers, parents, teachers (in other words, just about anyone) can reimagine beauty to be more inclusive. That way, people with disabilities, varying body types and racial backgrounds, etc. (in other words, anyone) can feel and be recognized by the world as the beauties they truly are.
Reimagining Beauty – H is for Heart
Here is where things can get dicey because H could also be for “Hot Button Issue.”
If you have been following this A-Z blog series, you know that I have been considering how printed and spoken words can be used to reimagine beauty. My goal is to expand and improve cultural definitions of beauty. Inspired by a beautiful girl who was born with a rare genetic syndrome, this series is meant to reconsider how we portray beauty. The idea is that beauty can and should be inclusive of people with appearances and ages that diverge from popularly propagated images in media and illustrated books.
It is said that beauty is only skin deep. But what does that really mean? And how can we give that trite phrase some teeth? How does beauty get under the skin? By way of the heart perhaps.
But here is the dicey, hot-button part.
In many of the old stories, women were depicted as having good and beautiful hearts. By itself, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But it also so happens that a bunch of those characters were passive and powerless. Many of us grew up saddled with that imagery. No one I know wants modern girls and women to look up to the passive and powerless or to feel beholden to some wily rescue dude. They want bold and active princess role models marching stridently onward to proclaim, in the modern sense, that women are strong and can do whatever they want in the world. That is why characters with beautiful hearts might bother those of us who associate goodness with passivity and powerlessness.
But don’t lose heart! Having a beautiful heart is not a synonym for being passive! Heart doesn’t have to be about helpless, namby-pamby women who wilt while awaiting rescue and long term care! First, there is nothing wrong with kindness and goodness (we need to reclaim that people). And second, a beautiful heart can mean other things too.
Bold activists have more heart than a candy store during Valentine’s season. People who turn their caring nature to social causes hearten others. People whose acts encourage and support others, who have the heart to walk the talk, those are beautiful people because of their hearts. A person with a beautiful heart can be described by the depth he cares and by the way she conscientiously applies her values. Examples from life and literature include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ghandi, and Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White. For me, all three are heroic souls with beautiful hearts.
By describing beauty in terms of the heart, we deepen our appreciation of people. We celebrate those who make their heartfelt actions felt by others. When we talk about beautiful people we have known or when we write or tell about characters in stories, let’s consider the heart of the matter: No longer skin deep, beauty can be deep at heart.
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