I read today that only 4% of all women in the world consider themselves beautiful. The statistic stung staying with me. The remaining 96% do not like their nose, their ears, their thighs, or their legs. 86% feel fat, and more than a third are on a constant diet. A quarter will develop an eating disorder, 20% will die of it.
The world is full of girls and women that it does not see. Starving, binging, purging, exercising, sucking in stomachs, covering scars, nibbling on salads, digging into ice cream tubs, counting calories, fearful of numbers on scales. Avoiding mirrors, crying in front of them. Painting nails, cheeks, and smiles on any given night only to wipe them off the following morning.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had one of the most tempestuous romances in the history of the art world, loving each other ferociously through a twenty-year age difference and multiple affairs. It transpired through their photographs, letters, and art, but perhaps most in the portrait she sketched of him. “I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love. Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes,” she said.
Rivera was a balding, overweight, old man, and the world saw him as such. He was not even remotely beautiful. But Kahlo saw beauty in him and said, “in all of you is a space full of sounds — in the shade and in the light”. She called him auxochrome: the one who captures color. Isn’t that beautiful, to think of your beloved in hues of color.
I wish I could tell the 96% of women who doubt their looks, that they are not insignificant; for centuries women have inspired paintings and poems and stories and songs. They have been the subject of masterpieces. Art is beauty, and therefore they as women are beautiful.