By Rosanna Emenusiobi
I would like us to celebrate women's beauty in all its ramifications. What prompted me to do this was listening to a “bus preacher” as I was travelling from Nnewi to Awka last month. The self-acclaimed “man of God” from all indications had total disregard for women's physical beauty; he presented beautiful women as “seducers and temptresses” - insinuating that women use their physical beauty to weaken men's sexual resolve. His preaching was rather focused on women's inner virtues or spirit, while clandestinely condemning their physical beautiful appearance. This preacher was and still not alone. I have heard many people, including some women themselves, making the same insinuations. Think of some Pentecostal churches that ask their women to deny their natural beauty – no earrings, no cosmetics, always covering their head - but to concentrate on their inner qualities. These women are almost always shabbily dressed and uncheerful (as if sadness is a sign of holiness). But their male counterparts, especially their husbands, are in suits and ties, wearing well-polished shoes and well-kept hair. They have poise and gaiety – total opposite of their wives and/or female friends whose prerogative it is to incarnate beauty as God designed it. I would like to stress that inasmuch as inner beauty is noble and admirable, we must first of all acknowledge the beautiful body that encloses this inner dimension. Yes, both external and internal beauty go hand in hand and I make bold to say that beauty seen this way is the very essence (nature) of a woman. Remember: God formed man but He fashioned woman! He intended for her to reflect His beauty and intrigue. In the present article and the subsequent series, our eyes and thoughts will be drawn to woman and her beauty – this unique attribute only God who fashioned her can satisfactorily explain. A woman is an epitome of both physical and inner beauty. Let us begin an attempt on this journey, starting with an inexhaustive look at a woman's physical beauty.
1. THE BEAUTY OF FEMININE BODY: A WOMANLY NATURE
Beautiful, comely, graceful, good looking, attractive, pleasing, bearing, charming, poise, elegance, radiance, fair, dazzling, stunning, gorgeous. Name it. That is woman! Nothing on earth compares to the beauty of woman. Such a statement may seem an exaggeration to some, but it is easy enough to prove as we shall see in the following pages. By her very nature, she possesses great beauty and has a deep element of mystery about her.
EVE: Ethereal Beauty and Lofty Dignity
The story of the creation of Eve provides an insight into women's inestimable physical beauty. After God observed that “it was not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18), He fashioned woman, not from dust, but from already made and tested material – the human side of Adam.
The great reality is not that she came from the side of Adam but that God created her and brought her womanly nature into being. Adam acknowledged this radiant beauty and could only exclaim in admiration of the dazzling creature in front of him: “Now, this at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Note that what he saw first was her body – finely formed and shapely body! What followed next was attraction and the desire for intimacy with her. Consequently John Paul II explains, “These words [of Adam] express wonder and admiration, or even better, the sense of fascination.” The Pope goes further to say that Adam's declaration seems to say, “look, a body that expresses the 'person'!” … “look, the body that completes me by revealing to me my beauty.” A Jewish source even suggests that Eve is more “evolved” than Adam because she was created from human material rather than from the earth. She is the culmination of creation. God used human material because he wanted to refine it and make it more beautiful. Compare a man's body with woman's body: a man's body appears rough and unsmooth; while a woman's body looks soft and finely. The difference is clear. Consequently, one could imagine that Eve appears to have “superior” quality in terms of the body. In other words, in this Genesis account, Eve is elevated to ethereal beauty and lofty dignity. Just as a sculptor might strike a beautiful figure out of marble or wood, Eve arises from the rib of Adam more beautiful of form and figure and with Paradise as her birthplace. In his Paradise Lost, Milton has called Eve “Queen of the Universe and Fairest of the Fair”. Both poets and artists have pictured Eve with gleaming golden hair, with a face celestial in loveliness and a form strong and immortal. Although Eve disobeyed God, her punishment did not include removal of her beauty unlike Lucifer. Thus, every part of a woman's body is beautiful and attractive. The word, ugliness, is foreign to women.
God himself extols women's beauty because He created it. I could imagine that God was also referring to Eve (women in general) in Ezekiel 28:12-13 as He describes the stuff by which they were made:
You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone: red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone, blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper, blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald – all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold. They were given to you on the day you were created.
In this text, despite being “exquisite in beauty”, God provides her with extra adornments. It is, therefore, in a woman's nature to exhibit her beauty by putting on some adornments and ornaments. So, if she does something to make her beauty more glowing, she should not be flogged for it. Only that she should do this with modesty and gracefulness. Beauty is built into her nature at creation. Period!
Pope John Paul II, who gave the world the correct understanding of the body continues to describe Adam's original fascination with woman as the biblical prototype of the Songs of Songs. What “was barely expressed in the Second Chapter of Genesis … in just a few simple and essential words is developed here in a full dialogue”. A wonder, admiration, and fascination similar to Adam's run “in a peaceful and even wave from the beginning to the end of the Song of Songs”. And just like Genesis, the words are concentrated on the body.” For instance, “Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?” (Song of Songs 6:10) – is an admiration by a man of his woman's glowing beauty. Catholics attribute this to Our Blessed Mother Mary, too. But know that this text celebrates women's beauty.
The woman is, without doubts, the final work of God. She is crescendo of creation. One perceptive woman reechoes Genesis 2:
God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both. Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is.
Like God, it is her essence…. Eve just does not look right in a scene of brutal combat, or chopping a tree down. From time immemorial, when artists have tried to capture the essence of Eve, they have painted her at rest. There is no agenda here, no social stigmatising or cultural pressure. This is true across all cultures and down through time. What have the artists seen that we have not. Eve speaks something different to the world than Adam does. Through her beauty. Beauty is powerful.
It may be the most powerful thing on earth. It is dangerous. Because it matters.
Even advertisers are well aware of these facts. Researchers say that when a woman is pictured in advertisement, viewers both male and female will look at the advert about 14% to 30% longer. She is captivating. Men simply do not have the same appeal. If advertisers want you to be allured by a product, they place it in the hands of the most alluring creatures on earth: women! However, I am not congratulating advertisers, because most often they misuse this attribute and present women as sex objects. This is dehumanising at worst.
(to be continued)