In a world of beauty advertisements, and photoshopped images, what does the term "beautiful" mean to a blind person? Well, it's not so different from any typical young woman, writes Laura Wolk—who went blind from a form of retinal cancer—in an inspiring first person essay in Verily Magazine.
"I, like many, long to feel and be perceived as beautiful. And, like all too many other women, I too have experienced the nasty side of a culture that prizes perfection over reality," Wolk says.
Interestingly, her essay points out the many so-called "empowering" messages from artists like Colbie Caillat, John Legend, or Dove's Real Beauty campaign, and challenges them. While these movements are well-intentioned, Wolk says that they also make a fatal mistake—they continue to incorrectly define beauty, boxing people into one category or another. These messages pin woman who actually enjoy self-expression through makeup, clothes, and accessories against the "naturally beautiful" woman, creating an "ingroup versus out group" classification, where someone always feels excluded, she writes. (After all, is wearing makeup bad if it's what you enjoy and how you express yourself?)
Wolk urges, instead, that we show "the authentic beauty of others with differently formed bodies." This is something she has come to understand, given that her world is painted for her through the lens of hundreds of thousands of people. And though some might think of being blind as a burden, Wolk describes the complex process of seeing someone's beauty (without actually seeing them!) as a privilege.
"These experiences have taught me that the mainstay of beholding a beautiful object is a recognition of its total uniqueness," she writes. We couldn't agree more.