The patriarchy-dismantling power of female vanity

Vanity is a misogynistic charge (often internalized) emanating from a anti-beauty, anti-pleasure, anti-art, anti-sex American Calvinist tradition. Aside from extreme examples like Donald Trump, men are rarely accused of it. Women are socially (and arguably also biologically) programmed to strive immensely for outward beauty and punished when we fall short of ideals; at the same time, when we recognize or celebrate it in ourselves, we are villainzed as “vain”. Hmmm, irony much??

The urge to witness and valorize one’s own beauty is an innate and ancient one: (look at Narcissus and fairytale examples of Snow White’s evil queen, chanting, “Mirror mirror!”). Despite the moralizing bent of modern retellings, I see the post-verbal, post-rational absorption in one’s own physical beauty as a form of darkly powerful pagan magic, the opportunity for a woman to announce her completeness-unto-herself — the feminine solipsism which poses such a threat to the patriarchal order.

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Simone Grace Seol