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Sarah Starrenburg

Beautiful vs. Hot

AudreyHepburnToday is International Women’s Day.

Though not a well-publicised date in Australia, it is nevertheless an official holiday in 27 countries and celebrated in many more.

It’s a day when we celebrate all the progress that has been achieved for women’s equality over the last hundred or so years, we honour those who sacrificed so much – even their very lives – for those gains, and we champion the cause of women, highlighting all that still needs to be done.

There is still so much of the world in which women are treated as barely human – as nothing more than what their bodies can offer to men. We must continue to advocate for our sisters, wherever they are today. We also need to recognise that legal female equality in the West, in many areas, is still very young. The reality is that sometimes laws can be changed more quickly than ingrained mentalities and even organisational patterns. I am reminded of this from time to time when I am stunned by a genuine comment or belief in the legitimacy of male privilege that I had thought obsolete. But then I remember that within my lifetime and my country it has been legal to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of gender.

But this post isn’t about men, or male privilege, or chauvinism, or what men aren’t doing or should be doing or could be doing. This isn’t about how men see women.

This, ladies, is a post about us. How we see ourselves.

You see, there’s something I find troubling, and it’s on a collision course with our little sisters; our daughters; our nieces.

It’s an embrace of sex appeal as the pinnacle and arbiter of style. It’s the fact that as a group, we women, after fighting tooth and nail to be taken for more than the value of our “assets”, seem to be insisting it’s still the first point of reference.

Fashion has always been evolving (that’s half the fun!), and standards will always be shifting, but that’s not what this is about. It’s that there is a distinction, or should be, between beautiful, attractive and appealing…and hot.

‘Hot’ as an adjective has been co-opted in recent years though, so let me paint the picture. It’s the difference, in broad general terms, between Audrey Hepburn and Bridgette Bardot. Or between Taylor Swift and Ke$ha. And whilst clearly there have always been those who have exploited the sex kitten style, we haven’t, in recent decades, always considered it so common to trade in its currency.

And we now have 8 year olds pouting to camera in fashion shoots for mini skirts, and wearing padded bras to school. Because whilst little girls have always wanted to shortcut the route to womanhood, we haven’t always been so collectively enthusiastic to give them the impression that the epitome of feminine value is in how effectively we can display our sexuality.

It doesn’t help, I know, that we’re now more photographed on a daily basis than your average ’90s model. The enveloping world of social media creates an environment that skews us towards an acute awareness of our appearance.

But we’re better than this. We’re more than this. And we live in a society that allows us to be.

Each of us was created to share beauty with the world through our hearts, our actions, our speech, and yes, our appearance.

If we believe we should be recognised first and foremost as individuals of value, worthy of respect rather than objectification, and especially if we are those who believe sexual desire and expression belong within certain contexts and bounds, we have to recognise that it’s a fantasy to imagine we can present ourselves in a way that shoots directly for, not just attraction, but raw desire, and not expect to leave damage in our stilleto-heeled wake.

We who are such privileged representatives of the global sisterhood need to remember who we are; remember all that we are as women.


  1. Brilliant as always.

  2. Thanks Steff:) And thanks for helping me polish it!

  3. Nicely put Sarah

  4. I like this:

    “But we’re better than this. We’re more than this. And we live in a society that allows us to be.
    Each of us was created to share beauty with the world through our hearts, our actions, our speech, and yes, our appearance.”

    I hate when women complain about living in Western culture. We are so, so free here. We can buy what we want, work where we want, go where we want, marry who we want, and even wear our hair the way we want. Instead of spending our days in survival mode (we have clean water constantly at our fingertips), we can spend time developing our particular gifts!

    Isn’t it telling that society will always go for that 1% that freedom affords? Trading in opportunities for beauty in the other 99% of life for the 1% opportunity to be slutty? To be selfish with our freedom?

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