Rebecca Kamm
Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: The question every woman has asked

Every woman has wondered, 'am I pretty enough?'Photo / Thinkstock
Every woman has wondered, 'am I pretty enough?'Photo / Thinkstock

"Am I pretty enough?"

It's a rare woman who hasn't pondered the question, silently and secretly. Overtly, or between the lines of other, apparently benign inner monologues: "I wish my hair was longer" "Do I look okay enough for this party?" "She has such a good figure" "Is his ex beautiful?" "Do I need to lose some weight?" And on and fruitlessly on. Mainstream media; the beauty and fashion industries; heterosexual male desire as the blueprint for all of society and culture - they all make sure of it.

Enter, a body acceptance blog looking at that very question. Run by Washingtonian woman Jennifer Tress, the 42-year-old started the site when she was cheated on by her then-husband, who - when asked why he did it - replied with: "You're just not pretty enough".

The name was "a sort of a joke between me and the people who knew that story", says Tress.

Except then "something interesting happened. I noticed I got a startling amount of web traffic from people who were Googling phrases like 'How to be pretty when you're not' or 'Am I pretty enough for anyone to love me?'"

Tress then set about working with universities to collect hundreds of surveys and video responses, asking people "When was the last time you felt not pretty enough?", "What was driving that feeling?" and "What do you do to get out of it?'".

"Most came back saying, 'Literally 30 seconds ago, or at least today'", she tells Marie Clare.

To cut a long story short, her blog became hugely popular, Tress got a book deal, and her resultant memoir is called You're Not Pretty Enough. Disclaimer: I have not read it, and for all I know it's terrible. (Although "Jennifer Tress is ebullient and hilarious and fearless. Read this book," says deputy editor of xoJane, Mandy Stadtmiller.)

But that's not really the point. And her adulterous husband's cruelty isn't really the point, either. (After all, it's only a tiny minority of idiots who'd say something so hideous to their wives.)

The real takeaway is the vast and latent power held in women's capacity to share their experiences and doubts. The thousands of women asking the internet "Am I pretty enough?" will now be met by a project aimed at subverting their question, so it reads: "Why on earth am I asking this?"

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