“Women are liars! You don’t look like that! Your lips aren’t that full! Your skin isn’t that smooth! You’re not even really that tall—you’re wearing high heels! You’re just trying to trick everyone!”
I think that people are confusing a few prominent archetypes: Aphrodite and the Trickster.
Aphrodite is all about body modification. She wears makeup, special shoes, and cinchy corset. She highlights her hair, uses Botox, and even gets plastic surgery if she wants to. She does it to feel beautiful—and yes, sometimes to attract sexual partners. Aphrodite is all about attracting sexual partners.
Yes, Aphrodite is naturally beautiful. But she also has a magical girdle that “compelled everyone to desire her.” So she pretty much wears a sexy belt/corset/bellydance coin scarf everywhere that makes her even hotter.
And what about natural beauty? If Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty and pleasure, wouldn’t she already be the beauty ideal and not need any make-up?
That’s a confusion of archetypes. There is a goddess who only relies on natural beauty—but it’s Artemis, not Aphrodite. Artemis is natural and raw and wild. She doesn’t wear make-up and sometimes doesn’t even brush her hair, and yet she’s still drop-dead gorgeous. She’s like Nell.
Aphrodite has fun with her appearance—not because she’s a manipulative and desperate and doesn’t like the way she looks, but because she loves playing with self-expression and attraction.
Aphrodite is a fun archetype, a loving archetype, a playful, romantic archetype who wants us to feel attractive and express ourselves—whether that means dying our hair, putting in highlights and extensions, or even shaving our heads.
In honor of self-fulfillment and being her truest, most attractive, fun-loving self, she plays with her appearance. She’s all for body modification, as long as it’s done for the right reasons: be true to yourself, bring out your beauty, let yourself shine.
The Trickster, on the other hand, is another story.
The Trickster is not about being his best self, or encouraging you to be yours. He is not about self-expression and attraction and beauty. The Trickster is about illusion and deception. When the Trickster uses make-up, it’s to deceive and manipulate. He wants to change what you see and shape the way you think.
That’s not his only goal. He’s not always a malicious character (though he sometimes is). Sometimes, he uses his talents for illusion and deception to actually open our eyes to some kind of truth. But other times he really is just a manipulative b—ch.
When we accuse others of altering their appearance in order to deceive members of the opposite sex, it seems to me like a confusion of archetypes—and a confusion of self-expression with deception.
We’re seeing the Trickster. We feel deceived and lied to, bitter and dismissive.
We’re not seeing Aphrodite.
Can altering your appearance go too far?
I think it can.
I think such cases are also an instance of dishonoring Aphrodite. If you don’t know your true beauty and feel confident as who you are, then you’ll never have enough make-up, surgeries, or magical girdles to fill that hole. You won’t be playing with self-expression; you’ll be seeking approval. (I’m not talking about feeling naked without a little foundation or mascara. I’m talking about getting addicted to plastic surgery.)
It’s tough to judge whether someone’s playing with self-expression or seeking validation. So I think we should stop doing it.
L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter, and suitcase entrepreneur—which is a hipster way of saying she travels and works from her laptop. Her memoir, “Working Girl: 132 Somewhat Moral Values I Learned from a Sex Worker,” tells about when she answered a shady classified ad and wound up working as a sex worker’s personal assistant. Follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.