Women. We make daily life beautiful. We keep communities bonded, children fed, spirits dancing, faces smiling and hearts connected. Women are the centre of the social network, keeping the family unit flourishing. Women are resilient, humble and strong. We bring colour to life through beauty. As Zainab Salbi, says: women keep life going.
I have often felt conflicted about the role that physical beauty plays in our society and in the life of women. Beauty can be defined in many ways, but the external, physical aspect of beauty is undoubtedly a big focus in our global society. Until very recently I had much cognitive dissonance over the role and importance of physical beauty in my own life. On the one hand, I would enjoy looking presentable, dressing up and wearing some makeup. On the other hand, I would often feel turned off by society’s obsession with physical appearance, especially when there are much graver and more urgent issues to be focussing on with one’s time. When I was in my 20’s, I would actually resist looking presentable (by putting little time and effort into my physical appearance and wearing the baggiest pair of sweatpants I owned!), as a way of going against the grain of society’s superficiality, and as a way of upholding my belief that what is on the inside, is what counts most. I still fundamentally value the inner self above external appearance, but Zainab Salbi’s interview on TED Radio Hour gave me an ‘aha’ moment, that really changed my perspective into the role that physical beauty plays in the life of many women. I now see that the way we present ourselves to the world can have a meaningful connection to one’s sense of respect, dignity and sense of vibrancy, expression and beauty in daily life.
Zainab Salbi was a woman who went through war. She witnessed war first-hand and heard the back-end stories of other women during war. As she discusses in her talk, women kept daily life going during war: they kept their heads up high, kept the children’s playful spirit going, and kept themselves looking presentable, even when the threat of bombs and snipers were real and imminent every single day. During the TED interview, Salbi tells an anecdote of a woman she met, who was living in war-torn Bosnia. Salbi asked this woman about any supplies she may want or need for herself, to which the woman answered: lipstick. Of all things that this woman could want or need during the time of war, this woman wanted lipstick! Lipstick was the one thing this woman put on every day in the face of war, to demonstrate that she was enduring and that she was upholding her spirit of beauty in daily life. It was a symbol of resistance during the war to show that she would not look, feel or be battered, and, if the time ever came when she would be face to face with a sniper, she would want her killer to remember that he killed a beautiful woman.
From now on, I will assuredly wear my lipstick as an external representation of my inner beauty and of the self-respect and vibrancy I will continually strive to bring to the world, as a woman.