We need to reframe the idea of beauty
"It’s what we do for ourselves, what we do for others, how we relate to others, how we live that life."
When Anita Selzer found out she had skin cancer, she said she felt like she had been hit by a ton of bricks.
While she explained that shock and disbelief were her initial reactions, soon after she started questioning whether she would look “disfigured” following her facial surgery. Then she started questioning why that idea was so important. Why, today, are we still placing so much pressure on the need to be beautiful?
It’s what she investigates – and is hoping to change – with her new book Reframing Beauty, in which the author, who has a PhD in gender history and education, offers examples of diverse women all around the globe who are performing beauty in various and unique ways. “Performing” and “doing” beauty rather than “being” beautiful, something she hopes to show her two precious granddaughters who were born within two months of each other.
“The two girls came along, and I want them to live in a world where external beauty isn’t the number one value for girls and women,” Selzer told The AJN. “I want to show them that there are other aspects of beauty, real beauty, by looking at 30 women who have done fabulous things with their lives in terms of enacting beauty, forming beauty. It’s more about doing.”
Selzer explained that she writes from her whole being, saying her words come from “my head, from my heart and from my body”, and that while she is quite self-critical, and her own editor at times, she very much enjoys the research part of writing.
And there was a lot of research that went into Reframing Beauty, with 50 pages of references.
“The sources of my writing are very varied, and in Reframing Beauty, I read extensively for it, because I thought it was a very important topic and a very significant book,” she said, continuing to explain how she decided on the 30 women she discusses.
“I wanted them to be a diverse group, and I needed to feel that they were doing something that was beautiful in our world,” Selzer explained, saying it was important to her to include people of different colours, races and abilities.
As to what she hopes to achieve with the book, Selzer believes that these conversations need to be had with children at a much younger age, saying they are cognitively able to understand a lot more than we give them credit for.
“I’m hoping that [readers] learn that beauty is something constructed. It’s not static, that beauty ideals change over time. And that we have other ways to look at beauty, but we don’t need to focus on beauty as an external physical attractiveness,” she said.
“We can look at beauty in a much healthier way. That it’s the way we live our lives. It’s about our character. It’s what we do for ourselves, what we do for others, how we relate to others, how we live that life.
“Hopefully they can instil that in their kids and grandkids, and try and break the cycle.”
Reframing Beauty is published by Shawline Publishing Group, $22.95 rrp.