Today is Love Your Body Day and is this is our favorite body positive post of the year, re-posted in celebration. Enjoy these seven beautiful minutes in which Kara Kamos explains that she is ugly and she couldn’t care less (most of the time):
What’s more important than being beautiful?
- The universe
- New life forms
- Doing stuff
- Having fun
Personally, I really identified with the discussion that starts at 3:51 about not letting how she looks get in the way of her doing things. Often when I’m asked to do public speaking or appear on video, a part of me silently asks the question, “Am I attractive enough to deserve to do this?” The question is absurd. Not because I AM pretty enough, but because the question assumes that, if I weren’t, I would turn down an opportunity on that basis alone. And that is plain silliness.
See all of our body loving posts from the archive!Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Josh — August 15, 2013
It is so sad to me that this woman defines "beauty" for herself as being visually similar to a cultural norm which is almost wholly artificial and completely subjective. She is looking for ways to see herself as beautiful DESPITE her physical appearance. But her physical appearance IS beautiful. She may not be attractive to certain people. But I guarantee that there are many people who would find her both physically and spiritually "beautiful".
Anon — August 15, 2013
I take her points and thank her for stating them. But her line of thinking completely misses the cultural relativity of beauty. There's very little that's universally true in judgments like "beautiful" or "ugly." Everything is contextual. Treating facial ugliness as if it were real and definite is the flip side of treating facial beauty as if it were a real and well-defined thing.
This doesn't change her recommendations at all, but I think it's important to point out anyway that beauty and ugliness are judgments (even if they are widely shared in a particular time and place) rather than inherent qualities. It could be easier to shake off the internalized stigma of being ugly when you understand that the label is coming from outside you rather than stamped on your genes.
Anna — August 15, 2013
Advocating ascetism towards physical beauty and invalidating its importance to the human condition is every single drop as oppressive as vanity and societal beauty standards.
Laurel — August 15, 2013
Stigmatization is so prevalent in all societies, I'm not surprised that Kara has done it to herself. I continually do it to myself. I believe it's a part of culture strongly tied to profiling.
Is it human nature? Perhaps, this labeling is also culturally based-nurture vs. nature.
This video is amazing and I am off to look Kara up elsewhere.
Then I am going to look in the mirror with a more enlightened pair of eyes.
Alex — August 16, 2013
Thanks so much for this. It reminds me of Gala Darling's radical self love movement: it's about transcending the use of "beautiful" for purely physical beauty, and getting into the nitty gritty of our real beauty: our selves. This lady is a great thinker, and I love her other videos, so thanks for sharing!!
Anja — August 16, 2013
i don't see at all why she is calling herself ugly regarding cultural norm. yes she is not styled like she "should" for being considered beautiful by the mainstream, but that is all. Let us say, if she would put on make up and dress up more "fashionable" she would totally fit in in the very average norm? I know it is not the point what she is trying to say.... but ugly is a somehow "heavy" word I think. Just a sidenote, regarding choice of words, which is somehow surprising, to me at least.
Personal note: Regarding how I look: As long as I remember I do not have a feeling for how I look. I am always surprised how (unknown) people react to how I look (p.ex. I am very small and I look like a teenager but am in my midtwenties) an I do not get it at first most of the time. I always have to remind myself that I look this way and that is why people react the way they do...but it doesn't feel like my personality is reflected by my looks. Probably I should try to send out signals which are typical for adults (again, choice of clothes and make up) but I do not care enough to change.
Kali — August 16, 2013
"Often when I’m asked to do public speaking or appear on video, a part of
me silently asks the question, “Am I attractive enough to deserve to do
Wow, this thought never crossed my mind before any event where I had to do public speaking. I worry about being interesting, not putting people to sleep with technical stuff, about knowing the stuff properly so that I can answer questions, about not blanking out at some point, of staying close to the time limit (not finishing too late or too early), of dealing with people in the same research area who ask questions along the lines of "how is what you are doing better than what I am doing?", but never, ever about whether I am beautiful enough. At the most, I will give a thought or two to whether I have the formal clothes to make the presentation and if they still fit me or need to be ironed. Maybe this is because I grew up in a different culture and beauty was not as important as it seems to be in the US. In fact, when I look at women in the US, I feel very sorry for them about how they obsess over looks. It is really, really sad. They have more opportunities than most other women in the world to achieve big things in life and they are squandering it by obsessing over their looks.
Lorena Turner — August 16, 2013
If this woman was over 40 or over 50, it would make for a much more interesting discussion. The perception that beauty is not a significant part of one's socialibility is true when one is young and in highly social situations where there is the possibliity of interacting with people with whom one has had long term relationships with. But once that context shifts and that same person is within situations where a initial interactions w/ people are more superficial, the need to fit a sociallly acceptable norm becomes more significant. This is particularly true in our culture as a female gets older. I live in New York City where the necessity of meeting some type of definition of beauty is essential for all types of survival.
I'm not denying that what she is saying has significance, it does, but it's contextual. Also, from what I can tell she possess many of the characteristics that do really not place her in a context of understanding what it is to be perceived of as 'ugly' - she's Caucasian, she has light eyes, she's not obese. Come on...
Wg — August 17, 2013
I don't care about beauty so much so that I'm going to do a video all about how I don't care!
Reader — August 17, 2013
I take her point, but there is still an element of protesting-too-much.
Reader — August 17, 2013
Not to be flippant,but I recall how I felt when I saw "The Elephant Man." I told myself that upon emerging from the movie theater I would always remember what it's like to be truly disfigured and to live one's entire life as a societal outcast, despite having many excellent qualities. I would not worry about my appearance to the same extent.
My resolve lasted about an hour. We don't just live in our heads. We live in a world with other people If you're a woman with typical insecurities and a lack of power and then some, you aren't immune to the judgments of others, as much as you might try.
The idea that someone would actually wonder if she was pretty enough to deserve the opportunity to give a presentation disturbs me greatly.
volatileHearts — August 18, 2013
I watched this video several months ago, and it really touched me as an aspiring message. I'm glad to see it on you website!
If you're interested, there is a wonderful video response by Meekakitty, on empathy, in which she addresses the way that at least of a third of the commenters in this video said, "But you are pretty" or "You have lovely eyes" or some derivation thereof and how that serves only to underscore the message of the video. THe main point of the video response is how the words "I understand" are more empathetic than trying to console someone by telling them they are pretty.
Just, food for thought. This is an amazing video, I'm glad to see it being shared with more people. :)
Tusconian — August 18, 2013
Not to diminish her point, but why does this idea only seem to be seen as relevant when coming from someone who only very slightly deviates from the beauty norm, if at all? No one is going to choose her for the leading role in a romantic comedy, but I have serious doubts that her "ugliness" is in any significant way negatively affects her in real life. It's really, really tiring looking at girls and women who could fit neatly into the mainstream with ten minutes worth of effort wax poetic about this concept when people who fall outside of the mainstream are never, ever given a voice. And the point always seems to be "why I don't fit into the mainstream," when it's pretty clear that this has beyond nothing to do with actual physical attractiveness as mandated by our society. It's really clear, since all these conventionally attractive women keep talking about it, the problem is with the way women are expected to look and feel about themselves. She's saying a lot of the exact same things that supermodels and actresses say in magazine interviews, except she has the dubious claim to "ugliness" by virtue of choosing to wear glasses and have her hair cut in a moderately unflattering way. Which is like Jennifer Lawrence and Olivia Wilde claiming "fatness." The question is now not "why do people put importance on being pretty/try to placate those who feel ugly" but "why is society convincing conventionally attractive women that they aren't?"
Anyway, like the last time this topic came up, it would be really nice to hear this message from someone who wasn't by definition socially acceptable physically once in a while, especially if the person's dubious claims to "ugliness" aren't personal choices in regards to appearance (regardless of whether those personal choices are fair or sexist or pressured by society).
Lovely Links: 8/23/13 — August 23, 2013
[...] watched this video last week and found it intriguing and moving. In it, Kara talks about accepting that she is an ugly person and how irrelevant her looks are to her worth and the value she places on [...]
holdmewhileimnaked — September 14, 2013
this would be better if she actually was ugly.
she is just plain, a condition w/ which people—even women—should find no cause for complaint. being plain is more serviceable, more acceptable & surely fraught w/ less torment than, believe it or not, being at either end of the spectrum. in the middle there are no expectations which always seem unmet & that, therefore, create great disturbances in one's acquaintance circle. standing out makes a person not only a disappointment but a target. no matter how good one is there is always room for improvement, especially in the minds of people who feel so inferior that their vehicle of amelioration is putting other people down. as one of the rare, exhausted people who bang like a super ball from pole to pole, i know this firsthand [it is also why i keep my icon photo ridiculous].
she's lucky, this plain girl. she may not know it, as obsessed as our culture remains w/ the foolish gloss of manufactured identical 'beauties,' but appearance of any sort really isnt her topic.
Dora — October 16, 2013
This is bullshit and here is why: If you aren't beautiful, nobody will love you, believe me, I know. Being loved is very important to the human psychology, health, and well-being (studies have been done). It doesn't matter how interesting I make myself, the bottom line is, if they can get somebody prettier, they will. I would be better off dead.
scratchy888 — October 16, 2013
It's not her face that's ugly but her personality. Not much to interest anyone there.
So what you’re telling me is that I’m a 12 year old girl. | A lovely project. — October 17, 2013
[...] then, Sociological Images posted (again on Facebook) a fantastic piece about this girl, Kara Kamos, whose YouTube video went viral a while ago about how she knows she’s ugly and [...]