This blog site is called “Total Rip-Off” for a couple of reasons – one of those is that I like piggybacking off of other people’s ideas. So I’m going to paste in an excerpt from a field report from Uganda, from charity: water.
This is when I met Helen Apio. While most women hung back politely, Helen jumped toward me and screamed two inches from my face. Technically, it was singing. But the high-pitched shrieking was so loud and reverberated with such energy and emotion, I knew I had to talk with her.
She told me about the new freshwater well in her village.
“I am happy now,” Helen beamed. “I have time to eat, my children can go to school. And I can even work in my garden, take a shower and then come back for more water if I want! I am bathing so well.”
A few of the men chuckled to hear a woman talk about bathing. But all I noticed was Helen’s glowing face, the fresh flowers in her hair, and the lovely green dress she wore for special occasions. Touching her forearm, I replied, “Well, you look great.”
“Yes,” she paused. Placing both hands on my shoulders and smiling, she said, “Now, I am beautiful.”
– Will the beautiful women of the world please stand up. (Uganda, August, 2009)
Two things I would like to point out. The first is one of the reasons that I really like supporting developing parts of the world by helping to provide clean water sources, versus other kinds of aid. This is because it is strategic. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and his daughters (and their children, one day) get an education.” (Another reason I like helping provide clean water is that it’s quite possibly the most cost-effective kind of aid I’ve heard of. An estimated $1 will provide a person with clean drinking water for a year. That’s a huge life change for $1)
The second thing I would like to point out is less about water aid, and more about humans – women, specifically. Now, I am by far not an expert on femininity (though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night [ha ha, that’s a TV commercial joke, sorry]), but I have listened to wise people who are women share on the subject, and one thing I’ve learned is that a woman’s perception of her pulchritide* (physical beauty) seems to be a lot more significant than guys think.
I think guys typically think of their looks as an attribute of who they are. It seems to me that girls feel that how they look defines, in part, who they are. So, if you make a guy feel ugly, he is insulted. If you make a girl feel ugly, I think innately she feels less valuable as a person (even though that is not true).
Hmmm, so maybe that’s why my vocational search can cause me such trepidation. As a guy, it taps into feelings of competency (or lack, thereof) and accomplishment. I think that men typically view performance or “power” (i.e. the ability to achieve desired outcomes) as giving self worth. (I will go out on a limb and venture that that’s how women feel about beauty)
And no, I don’t think those are what ultimately makes us valuable. But I’m not one to overspiritualize and deny that those aren’t a legitimate part of what makes us special, either. And specialness and valuable-ness are related, I do believe. (I really do hate overspiritualizing)
* I learned the word “pulchritude” from a Starbucks leaflet. It was part of an Akeelah and the Bee themed promotion, I think.