When I was in High School, I stood for elections at School, for the post of a Captain of one of the houses. Just before kids went into cast their vote, I saw a girl telling the girls of my house not to vote for me. She didn’t realize I was around, so I used the advantage of being hidden from view and leaned in closer to listen.

"Don’t vote for her, she is ugly. Vote for the other girl. Do you want someone pretty to hold the flag of your house, or not?" she told the kids. It felt like a punch had landed on my stomach. I felt winded. I don’t remember how I got through the rest of the hour, but I did. The results were announced. I didn’t win.

When I was at Law School, someone told me that I was too fat to hope to stand up before a crowd and even try to convince them of my points. Someone else told me that I was too ugly, and couldn’t be pretty even if I took ‘pretty pills’. Girls would snicker at my lack of fashionableness. Guys would talk to me and tell me that they were nervous around pretty women, and couldn’t talk to pretty women. (Yep, this wasn’t just a line Jackie Chan said to Jennifer Love-Hewitt in The Tuxedo). They wouldn’t take me seriously when I put forth my arguments at presentations. If I got through with anything, they’d say it was pure luck, because according to them, with a face like mine, I couldn’t get anywhere. By then, I was thick skinned. I realized, at this point, that the book is always judged by its cover.

It never mattered to them that I worked hard. It never mattered to them that I walked the extra mile to add to my aptitude, and if they listened, sometimes, I actually did just make sense. It didn’t matter to them that I had no reason to be subject to this shoddy and hasty assessment.

It never mattered to them that I had feelings, too.

And this isn’t just me – I don’t go through this alone. Girls and Women world over are the subject of scrutiny for how much eye-candy they are, and by that yardstick, are allowed the luxury of attention and the boon of being taken seriously.

If Hillary Clinton makes a speech, people have only her short hair, sprightly features and outfit to comment on. When Michelle Obama visits school children in India, the world is too busy commenting on what she wore and how she danced. If Hina Rabbani Khar comes in to meet with the External Affairs minister of India, the media is too concerned about how she wears her headscarf with élan and how she redefines style. If Julia Gillard has something to say, people are too busy noting that her shoe slipped off. No one cares that these women have credentials that most people can only hope to achieve. No one cares that these women have achievements to their credit. No one cares that there is so much more to these women than their parochial understanding of them.

Does anyone check out what Barack Obama is wearing? Or which colour would best bring out David Cameroon’s eyes? Or do they wonder why Ban Ki Moon couldn’t dye his hair auburn? So why target the women, then? Why is the world ignoring women and their achievements? Why is this world so quick to decide that it is her appearance that matters and not her accomplishments?

It isn’t only just a male thing to do – women increasingly assess other women only on their appearances. It doesn’t help one bit that there is an increasingly thriving market for fairness creams and bleaching agents, anti-ageing creams and cosmetic surgery. A disturbing manifestation of this is the “criminalizing-the-victim” phenomenon, where women are claimed to be deserving of sexual violence because ‘what they wore meant that they deserved it.’ Why? Because that is the world.

Actually, come to think of it, it does not surprise me that this happens.

This is the world that had its origins from a time when Helen of Troy was the reason for a war. She was, as the men said, a face that could launch a thousand ships.

But the fact that it continues, when the world has travelled with education, development and technology in tow, is so disheartening. Call it what you might, but this harsh judgment IS violence against women.

As for me? I’m happy about how I look. I don’t need an adjective to qualify my appearance.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Ending Gender-Based Violence 2012.

Comment on this Post


Others would've buckled down and hidden in their shells. But you, you fought back and proved them wrong. You have achieved so much more than others your age have and that's a great reason to hold your head up high and believe you are so much better than they are. And...you ARE BEAUTIFUL inside and out. So stay just the way you are.:)


Dear friend,

my hearty appreciations for holding a beautiful yet strong heart.

we spend so much time focusing on a woman's flaws that we forget about getting to know her behind the flaws. Today's society has become obsessed with looks so much that getting to know someone means nothing. It should be the national anthem to value and appreciate themselves since every woman comes in all shapes and sizes.There has to be a point where it's just plain time to accept women for who they are.

Good that you shared.

Much Love

Merlin James

We just must get to that point where we need not wait for a man's validation to believe in ourselves. Real men have a deeper/decent sense of judgement and always see beyond the physical attributes of the female gender. You did what was right under the circumstances you found yourself, by believing in yourself.




A beautifully written piece which echoes the thoughts and feelings of many.Keep it up lady!

You just proved all those naysayers wrong by coming out that much more stronger and confident.

Never lose this spirit.

Much love,

Mukut Ray


So aptly you have chosen law as your profession - you have a bright mind, well thought argument, and passion for justice!

I do agree that there is way too much attention on what women look like and it's surprising that this has not subsided more throughout these years. I admire you so much for developing what you say is a thick skin. Clearly you will not let anyone's comments stop you from pursuing your passions. I SO admire that.

I however do not think that people disregard Hilary Clinton's and Michelle Obama's mind, credentials, and skills and simply focus on their looks. Yes, the focus on their looks is trivial, but these two women reign in many people's hearts here in the states because of who they each are as a person.

Keep speaking up!

In admiration, Laura

Hi Laura! That is such a breath of Fresh Air! Thank you for putting that in perspective. Let me just explain why I put Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton down, specifically. When both women came to India at different times, not one Indian tabloid respected and appreciated the two women for their policies alone - it was all about their clothes, about what they wore, about how they dance, and about how stylish they look! It made me ANGRY!

But what you said puts it in perspective for me - it is certainly much better abroad, for these two women :)

That saying is so true in my opinion simply because some of the most attractive and beautiful women or handsome men have the worse qualities as human beings. Sadly, when we hear hurtful words we were not meant to, like those uttered by that girl all those years ago as she dissuaded your house sisters from voting for you, it stings so badly and yes, it scars us too sometimes for life. The reaction of you growing a "thick skin" is natural. Yet, deep down you are obviously still pained by the betrayal and ugliness of what that one girl said. There is a saying that what does not kill you makes you stronger. You are the embodiment of that Kirthijay. I wonder what those naysayers are thinking today about the "ugly" girl who is an accomplished lawyer? I bet they want to know you now, hang around you and count themselves as part of your circle of learned friends, right? Excelling academically is the best revenge a woman can exert no matter what she is told she looks like on the outside. The reason for this is that an educated woman cannot be held down-she can be brought down temporarily by harsh, evil, nasty words but, she shall rise again as the eagle and soar high above the clouds. As you rightly said, women are judged every day and in many situations by their outward appearance. Unfortunately, some women who can afford it do perpetuate that stereotype by spending thousands of dollars on plastic surgery and all kinds of creams and potions to "beautify" themselves. It is a good thing to look well put together and lovely when we get dressed but, it should not be an obsession for us as women. A popular television court show personality here in the States, Judge Judith Sheindlin, whom I love so much for her wisdom and wise sayings, regularly tells conniving beautiful ladies on her show: "Beauty fades but, dumb lasts forever". Sure does!


Barbara! Thank you so much for your kind, kind words! You really made my day with your selfless words. I completely agree with you on the quote - Thank you for reading my article and offering me such wonderful, profound thoughts on it <3 Thank you!

Peace, Kirthi


I completely agree with everything you have written. It is quite a shame in fact and I believe that many people still utilize appearance and other nonesense to put people down out of insecurity. When women were uneducated people could use that against them to put them down and now many women are educated or have accomplished much people have to find other ways to put them down. I beleive it is all insecurities. We see in magazines that some women are too thin, too fat, too this, too that. It is unfortunate that this garbage sells and that people have any interest in this crap. My favorite part of this is when you said, " I’m happy about how I look. I don’t need an adjective to qualify my appearance". Amen! I know what I have to offer and frankly I don't give a crap (sorry lol) if there is someone there to say something negative. I will continue to fight and learn and do what I feel is right. I am trying to get motivated to study for law school and I was very insecure that I would not be able to do it, but I know that I can and I know I could be as good as I let myself so I just need to go for it.

Thanks so much for sharing! Please keep in touch.


Thank you, Sally! It is so heartening to know that I have your support and encouragement - it feels great! I am SURE you CAN cruise through Law School with elan, and trust me, you will be BRILLIANT there :)