Every day I see another email – another headline on an entertainment (or, sadly, news) site – another magazine cover:
Celebrity bikini bodies!
See [insert actress]’s baby bump!
The Most Beautiful Women in the World!
Look at [insert famous person]’s body – just 3 months after baby!
Wow – [insert woman]’s amazing weight loss!
And even more depressing:
[Insert actress]’s shocking weight gain!
See [insert famous woman] without makeup – barely recognizable!
Whoa – [insert actress] gains 60 pounds during pregnancy!
And then today, People Magazine released its list of the most beautiful women.
Look – I’m not perfect. I try not to show my own dissatisfaction with my body to my daughter. I try, but I’m not always successful. But even if I were, my daughter – your daughter – everybody’s daughter – is confronted with these stories and emails every day, too. The stories that tell them that they are not good enough.
As a society, we are failing our girls by focusing on beauty (outer beauty, anyway). I was watching a local news show a few weeks ago and they had a mother & daughter from a local company, and they were talking about how important it is to be beautiful inside and out. I know they thought they were saying something good by including the “inside” part, but including the “out” pretty much cancelled any good intentions. It’s not important to be beautiful on the outside. It’s just not. It obviously is to society,
I suppose, because society is broken.
I don’t care – and I don’t want my daughter (or my son for that matter) to care – about who gained weight or who lost weight, or who has cellulite or who is beautiful. I would much rather read about who is helping children, who is educating the world, who is empowering women. Instead of a list of the most physically beautiful women in the world, let’s have a list of those doing the most good in the world. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
So, People Magazine, you can keep your beautiful women. Here are some of mine:
Jamie and Ali McMutrie: Pittsburgh sisters Jamie and Ali McMutrie moved to Port-au-Prince in 2002 and 2006, respectively, not long after each graduated school. Working in an orphanage during that time, they saw developing world poverty and the devastating effects it has on families – forcing many to give up children simply due to the inability to feed them. Days after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, after the 154 children in their care were evacuated to safety from the destroyed orphanage, the sisters established their own nonprofit aimed at keeping families together by providing holistic support to all members of the family, in ways that lead them toward sustainability. Learn more/give here: http://www.haitianfamiliesfirst.org/
Maggie Doyne: Maggie is the founder of Kopila Valley Children’s Home and Primary School, Surkhet, Nepal. After she graduated high school, she set off to travel the world before going to college. She was backpacking (alone and only 18) through the Himalayas in war-torn Nepal, where she met hundreds of orphan children, who she fell in love with. It broke her heart to see them without the most basic of human needs. Maggie then used her life savings (her babysitting money) to leave her comfortable home in the US and move to Nepal to build and open Kopila Valley Children’s Home, where 40 children currently live with Maggie (who they consider their mom) and other kind people dedicated to their care. Soon after, she planned and built a primary school, which has been expanding and helping to educate more kids every year. She has worked to provide uniforms (thus creating jobs for local women), dig wells, build on to the school and home, help the kids with dental and medical care, grow food and raise livestock to provide food, and now is building a high school. You can read more and get involved here: http://blinknow.org/
Malala Yousafzai: Malala is a Pakistani student. She was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban while on her school bus, to teach a lesson to girls attending school, after the Taliban banned them (despite the fact that the ban had been lifted). She survived and went on to become an advocate for education. She is now writing a memoir and has an education fund named after her. You can donate by giving here: http://vitalvoices.org/global-initiatives/support-malala-fund or you can text a $10 donation: Text BRAVE in U.S. to 27722.
Gabrielle Giffords: Gabrielle is a member of the United States House of Representatives, who represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district from 2007 until her resignation on January 25, 2012. On January 8, 2011, a week into her third term, she was a victim of a shooting near Tucson, which was reported to be an assassination attempt on her, at a supermarket where she was meeting publicly with constituents. She was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head, while thirteen others were injured and six were killed, among them federal judge John Roll. Her recovery has been long, requiring her to learn to walk, speak, read and write again. She resigned from Congress in January 2012, and a year later, she – along with her husband – started a political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for responsible gun ownership. You can read more and get involved here: http://www.gabriellegiffords.com/ and here: http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/
Zainab Salbi: Zainab Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International and served as the organization’s CEO from 1993 to 2011. Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. You can read more and get involved here: http://www.womenforwomen.org/
Elizabeth Warren: Elizabeth is a United States Senator from Massachusetts. She is not afraid to stand up to Wall Street and big business. Your politics may not be the same as mine, but I hope you can appreciate a strong woman who is willing to fight for what she believes is right. You can learn more here: http://elizabethwarren.com/
Rebecca Lolosoli: Rebecca is the matriarch of Umoja Uaso Women’s Village, a safe haven for women and girls fleeing abuse, as well as a training center for those seeking to promote human rights and economic development. When she came to see that some of the Samburu traditional practices were forcing women to endure abuse, she felt compelled to speak out on behalf of those who were marginalized and silenced — victims of rape, forced marriage, female genital cutting, as well as widows and orphans. The women of Umoja provide for their children and themselves through the sale of their beaded jewelry and crafts. Through a system of resource sharing, they have established a sickness and disability fund, a community center, and a school for their children and those in the surrounding area. Despite repeated threats and attacks, Rebecca continues to work for women’s rights. Her goal is to curb violence against women and the negative cultural practices that are harmful to women’s health, safety and well-being. You can read more and get involved here: http://www.umojawomen.net/
And finally, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t include a couple local women (in addition to the McMutrie sisters) here, who are doing their part to help others in our community. I’m proud to call these women my friends:
Virginia Montanez: Ginny created Make Room for Kids (MR4K) after learning back in 2009 that kids who are Children’s Hospital for long-term stays (particularly those who are unable to leave their rooms to get to the common rooms) have very little – and mainly outdated – electronics & toys to keep them busy and keep their spirits up. She decided that this – especially in an incredibly giving city like Pittsburgh – would simply not do, and made it her mission to change that. MR4K is now an official extension of the Austin’s Playroom Project at the Mario Lemieux Foundation, and in the years since its inception, it has helped Children’s Hospital (Transplant, Adolescent Medicine and Oncology units), Allegheny General Hospital Pediatric Inpatient unit, The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh, and the Lemieux Family Center. You can learn about MR4K here: http://www.mariolemieux.org/austins-playroom-project/make-room-for-kids/ and read Ginny’s blog (where you will be the first to hear about any MR4K news, as well as other charitable news, and highly entertaining blog posts) here: http://thatschurch.com/
Michelle (aka burghbaby): Back in 2009, Michelle decided to raise some money to buy Christmas gifts for kids living in domestic violence shelters. She started with a goal of $1,000. Generous Pittsburghers exceeded that, and over $1000 in gift cards were sent to two domestic violence shelters, and nearly half a bus was filled with toys. Then in 2010, $3150 worth of gift cards and over 100 Zhu Zhu Pets were sent to a domestic violence shelter and an entire bus was filled with toys. In 2011, over $9200 worth of gift cards, toys, and money were given to two domestic violence shelters. In 2012, the total value of toys, books, gift cards, and clothing donated surpassed the $10,000 mark. You can read Michelle’s blog here: http://www.theburghbaby.com/ and read about Christmas Crazy in particular here: http://www.theburghbaby.com/christmas-crazy/
Please share the women that would be on YOUR most beautiful list in the comments.