I will begin my essay by explaining my interpretation of the title, which was inspired by a quote from Coco Chanel. I have always felt that the word “beauty” has been mistaken only for the outward appearance, and it seldom encompasses the inner splendor of any living thing. And when it comes to the fair sex, all that is considered is the way she looks, especially in the modern world. So, the problem starts from this very point, and from here on, everything has a snowball effect. For example: because she is being judged for the way she looks, she pays particular attention to the way she dresses up and carries herself, because society is so enchanted by what one wears and what one adorns that she makes extra effort and spends beyond her means to get herself chic clothes, shoes, jewelry; and even the makeup she wears has to be selected carefully lest it ruin the skin. And, of course, because she is so fearful of being rejected and is very much in need of being admired by others, that she forgets to be “herself.”

Women who live for themselves are beautiful.

Despite the multiple roles, since times immemorial women have been labeled as conceited and arrogant. They have had to bear the most brunt and quite harsh allegations about the way they treat not only the opposite sex but also their counterparts. Whether she is a mother, who has undergone excruciating pain at the time of delivery; or whether she is a daughter who has to say goodbye to her own flesh and blood and adopt a new family as her own; or she is a daughter-in-law or a mother-in-law, in both cases accepting a relationship that is not binding except by the bond signed on a piece of paper. A woman, from the time she is born to the time she dies, is someone who is constantly judged by others in all the roles she adopts throughout her life.

However, there is a breed of women who are not only comfortable with the way “men” treat them, but they also advocate that they are coveted and lucky because they have their guards and guardians to look after their interests and fulfill all their wishes and demands— which of course they have more than their share of. These women often come across as helpless and damsels in distress. One may see the men folk hovering over such women and swooning over their beauty. These women make the men feel important and strong, as they are perceived to be in fairy tales and much of classic literature. They would climb the tallest mountain and dive in the deepest ocean at one signal from their beloved. These women live for others and do not have any life of their own. They are like that show piece in one’s drawing room that lies waiting to be appreciated every once in a while but has no power to move. It must stay trapped in the position its master decides for it.

On the other hand, there is another variety of women who is a rebel. She is the one who is out on a crusade. This war she is fighting is targeted mainly at the men folk, but one never knows when the guns are pointed at other of her kind as well. Nonetheless, unlike the weak and frail type described earlier, this woman may seem like a hard nut from the outside, but in most cases she is soft and weak on the inside. Now one would think that this is the category of the fair sex who will not be bothered by “others,” but more often than not she is quite concerned about what people think of her. She is the type who makes sure she gives people fodder to gossip and talk about. The way she dresses up and the way she talks all speak volumes about her love to get noticed. Her rebellion is merely a façade and her outspoken nature is to attract others towards her.

There is yet another class of women who believe that they know themselves and the world. They are beauty lost in beauty; in fact, they are beauty lost. Vanity and conceit shields all human emotions, making these elusive beings drift away from reality and those around them, bringing no color or joy to anyone. Narcissus staring away from the reflection that stares back, cold and stony, a drifting moment yet hard like marble that can be chiseled into perfection— but without a soul. This version of beauty is material, and cracks and crumbles away into nothingness. A Medusa-like existence that is vicious, turning the beholder into stone, consumed by the lethal power of beauty, maleficent in intentions. Though this category of women is only self-focused, she drives people away, throwing them in the abyss of indifference. The fact remains that even to her the “others” do matter.

Finally, there is this type who is nothing like the three categories mentioned above. She is someone who just does what she loves to do. What she wears and what she says is not what she cares much about; for her it is important that she does better than her best in order to satisfy her inner self. She is someone who is always smiling and looks fulfilled. She does not do things to appease others; rather, she prefers being content with what life dishes out for her. She has a sparkle in her eyes and a gleam that tells everyone that her hopes are high and her dreams are big, but she knows that hope she must; and she must know that although dreams are just dreams, the only person who can turn them into reality is she herself. She is beautiful and she is someone who has found beauty in life around her and within her, as she is not looking anywhere else. And she finds it because she is not looking away at a distance. She is looking at what is present and what is within her own reach. She goes at great lengths to break the stereotypes of females being fragile, weak, gullible and naive. On the contrary, she displays an exemplary portrayal of a woman with confidence, intelligence and bravery. She does not worry about the consequences that she might face if caught, for she has immense faith in herself and only worries about saving her partner. The fact that she is selfless and will do anything and everything to save not only herself but her loved one as well is what makes her beautiful.

Women of today have gotten so busy with their appearances and looks that they have actually forgotten how to fight and fend for themselves. They are dissuaded from the actual motive to stay united, and do not let themselves fall under the category of the meek and weak. We need to fall in love with ourselves over and over again until we can step into the world with our heads held high. We cannot live in the shadows of other people’s judgment forever. Instead, we have to come out into the light as what we really are and not as what they want us to be. The only way we will truly and actually live the essence of this world is if we are our purest selves. Respecting your own self first will make others respect you right back.

Farwah Rizvi hails from Lahore, Pakistan. She is a Fine Arts major in her second year at the School of Visual Arts. “I am twenty-four years old and came here as a young, married woman with so many aspirations and passions,” Farwah writes. “But I was never sure I’d be able to make my dreams into a reality. Studying at SVA is a reminder that I, who left a country which provides very few opportunities for women, have made it.”