Month: February 2014

That’s What Makes You Beautiful?

Beauty is difficult to talk about. It is an abstract concept with concrete manifestations. It is limitless but exists within the bounds of the material world. To be honest, I’m not sure I know what beauty is—but I’m going to talk about it anyway.

I’ve heard a lot of different theories about “what makes women beautiful.” And I agree with many of them. I believe that beauty is both subjective and objective—that at any given moment there are some people who are simply more beautiful than others. I also believe that a person’s beauty is the product of both physical and spiritual elements—that one’s personality, actions, soul, affect how beautiful someone is. Kindness, charity, humility, confidence and a host of other things all serve to enhance physical beauty.


But there are some characteristics that are widely treated as detriments to or enhancers of feminine beauty that, well, make no sense to me.

Maybe the most pervasive of these is the idea that in order to be truly beautiful, women must be ignorant of their own physical beauty.

(I speak specifically of female beauty only because I am a woman. I suppose I should include male beauty in this discussion, but… I’m not going to.)

We’ve all heard the One Direction song “What Makes You Beautiful.” If you haven’t, the premise of the song is that a beautiful girl exists, and that beautiful girl doesn’t know she’s beautiful—and the fact that she doesn’t know she’s beautiful, in turn, makes her beautiful.

 “You don’t know you’re beautiful,

Oh, oh,
That’s what makes you beautiful”

Now I know I’ll probably get some flak for hating on the untouchable 1D, but let’s get this straight; the implication of this song is that ignorance of one’s physical beauty makes one beautiful—that women who know they are pretty are less pretty than they might otherwise be for their knowledge.


So not only do we demand that women live up to insane standards of physical beauty, but we demand that in order to be truly beautiful, they must also be utterly clueless about their ability to reach those standards.

Just to be clear—this idea is not singular to this song. I’ve heard it casually referenced in conversation, in other songs, in movies my entire life, and I’d be willing to bet that you have too.

How many times have you been on either end of this insufferable conversation?

“You are so beautiful,” says person speaking to beautiful girl.

“No, no, I’m not,” beautiful girl bashfully replies.

Why do women have to respond this way?

If the girl in this scenario isn’t lying, why doesn’t she know she’s beautiful?!

If the girl in this scenario is lying, why is she lying? Why is it such a bad thing to know yourself attractive?

I have to imagine it is very confusing to feel unattractive because you think you look attractive.

In my experience, most people agree there is something unattractive about people who think they are more attractive than they are, people who are unwilling to acknowledge their flaws. While I find it a little disturbing that we’re fine with women thinking themselves uglier than they are, but not with women thinking themselves prettier than they are, I understand the aversion to ignorance of one’s imperfections.

To imagine your nose straight when it is crooked, or your eyes balanced when they are crossed is a sign of delusion—and there is certainly something unattractive about delusion.

But doesn’t not knowing that you are physically beautiful, or thinking yourself less beautiful than you are, smack of a similar delusion, or at least ignorance?

Can we talk about the negative psychological implications of a girl who is so beautiful that she is “turning heads when [she walks] through the door” but is somehow unaware that she’s beautiful. I’m no psychiatrist, but this sounds like the stuff of serious psychological problems.


Now—I’d wager that the basis for an aversion to a pretty girl’s knowledge of her own beauty is rooted in a respect for humility, and a misguided understanding of what humility is. It is true, in my mind, that both humility and confidence are beautiful qualities.

But humility and confidence are two sides of the same coin, and neither is served by ignorance.

Humility is not served by ignorance of one’s strengths, and confidence is not served by ignorance of one’s flaws.

So can it really be an unattractive quality to be aware of your own good looks—or an attractive quality to be unaware of them?

I can’t argue with anyone’s personal tastes, but I submit that, in an objective sense, it cannot.

Physically beautiful women don’t become less beautiful when they become aware of their own physical beauty, they become less beautiful when they think their physical beauty is everything, when they assign to it more meaning than it deserves, when they obsess over it, when they accept the worldly argument that physical beauty is the summit of female achievement.

There is a significant difference between being ignorant of one’s beauty, and being detached from it.

A woman does not become more beautiful by thinking herself less pretty than she is, she becomes more beautiful by knowing exactly how pretty she is, and acknowledging how incidental that prettiness is.

So can we stop shaming women for their awareness of their own beauty?

Can we stop the glorification of low self esteem?

Ladies, know that you are pretty, know that you are imperfect, know that prettiness is a gift of little true import and not to be obsessed over, but don’t let anyone convince you that awareness of your own beautiful attributes makes you less beautiful. It just doesn’t.


The Actual Most Urgent Threat To Marriage: A Libertarian Response To “I’ve Been Divorced Four Times…”

There is an article floating around the webisphere that calls for some attention. In it the author claims that the biggest threat to marriage is divorce. Now I’m not here to claim that divorce is not harmful, that it does not negatively affect the public understanding of marriage. There are many reasons for the prominence of divorce in our society.

But to say that divorce is the biggest threat to marriage is a little like saying that death is the biggest threat to life, or that death is the number one cause of not being alive.

Sure. I guess that has to be true. If you are no longer alive, then surely you are dead. But, for the purpose of preserving life, are we not more interested in the cause of death, rather than death itself?

Just so, for the purpose of preserving marriage, are we not more interested in the cause of divorce, rather than divorce itself?


Now I know that the purpose of the original article was to point out that the frequency of divorce harms the public perception of marriage. Divorce leads to less marriage and more divorce. Fine. That may be true. But to say so much only scratches the surface of the marital problem. Divorce is not so much a threat to good marriages as the result of bad ones. Furthermore, to conclude that the prevalence of divorce requires more government intervention is absurd.

Why did so many marriages end in divorce in the first place? Why were there so many bad marriages? Why do so many people enter a marriage without understanding its permanent nature?


Because people misunderstand what marriage is.

Why do people misunderstand marriage?

Because the government is in charge of marriage.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of history, and a modicum of observational skill knows that if you want something done inefficiently, and with as many unintended consequences as possible, you ought to ask the government to do it. This is one of the reasons libertarians believe that the government should only be put in charge of necessary things that cannot be reliably accomplished in the private market. Even if you are not a libertarian, we can all agree that the government should only be put in charge of tasks that a government is capable of completing.

Marriage is not one of those tasks.

Now, to be clear, the government is not actually in the business of marriage. It is in the business of recognizing marriages. Marriage exists outside of the government as its own entity. It is both a natural union and a sacrament, and it does not depend on the government for existence. And yet, when two people claim to be married, it is the government’s responsibility to deem the marriage legitimate (or illegitimate).

Here’s the problem: the government is not capable of recognizing marriages.

A government body may be capable of recognizing and defending a legal contract, but it is not capable of recognizing a marriage.

We cannot expect the government to do a priest’s, a mother’s, a father’s job. We should not want the government to do a priest’s, mother’s, father’s job.

So what’s the big whoop? So the government can’t recognize marriages? After all, marriage exists outside the government. There are still priests for marrying, and mothers for disapproval and cautionary words.

For the government to recognize marriage, it must first define it.

Due to its limitations, the state must necessarily define marriage as much less than it is.

What is the government’s definition of marriage? A contract.


The negative repercussions of this should be no surprise.

We have elected the government to recognize marriages when it is only capable of recognizing contracts–we should not be surprised to find that a contract is what marriage has become. We have introduced a meaningless governmental blessing as the defining characteristic of marriage–we should not be surprised when couples conclude that marriage is meaningless as well. We have allowed the government to define marriage as a contract–we should not be surprised when people treat it like one.

Now don’t get me wrong, contracts certainly have their place. But to be legally obligated to someone does not make you married. The rampant divorce we are witnessing does not take away marriage’s permanent characteristic. Such is impossible. Marriage is in fact permanent. The rampant divorce we are witnessing reveals the impermanent nature of the contract we call a marriage license.

It reveals that civil marriage is not marriage.

Why do people get into marriage for the wrong reasons? Why do people get lost in their marital roles? Why do married couples turn to divorce at the slightest disruption of their marital bliss?

Because they do not know what marriage is, they do not know what it requires, they do not realize that it has a permanent nature. And they are not cognizant of all this because the fundamental aspects of marriage are not fundamental to a legal contract, nor should they be.

If you’d like to see fewer divorces, and more real marriages, then stop the civil marriage charade; stop allowing a glorified contract to parade around as a marital blessing. Insist that the government perform the tasks of which it is capable: requiring parents to see that their children are cared for, protecting the contracts to which people willingly commit. That is the extent to which the government can protect marriage. By asking the government to do more for marriage, we only do marriage more harm.