It seems like the default for fat-acceptance, for body-image issues, is to fall back on the idea that everyone is beautiful in their own special way.
I am starting to think that I have a problem with this.
The problem that I have is not that it's a blatant lie that relies on redefining the word "beauty" into something vaguely spiritual and pretty much altogether hippy-dippy, but that it still allows "beauty" to be a value judgement.
This is not just a women's issue, but to be honest, it is more of an issue for women than for men. If we don't like a woman's ideas, we may make fun of her appearance. If we love a woman's ideas but not her appearance, we may say that she's "beautiful on the inside" or that we "don't notice her looks" once we get to know her. People who are physically unattractive are pressured to compensate; men, by being smart or funny or wealthy, and women, by being nice. By being "pretty on the inside". Fat women are encouraged to feel "beautiful at any size". We all know that "she's got a great personality" is code for "ugly".
Here's the thing. Idealistic redefinitions aside, we aren't all beautiful, and those of us who do happen to be beautiful aren't going to stay that way. So what's the point of pretending that we are, in order to continue to attach value, actual human value, to something that is not actually all that important in the first place? It just reinforces our inner belief that our worth is connected to our appearance, and therefore our inner despair in the parts of us that recognize the lie. It's like telling a child he's smart when he knows damn well that he's not... it does nothing but rip down the self-esteem that he should be building up in other ways, building his sense of human worth by focusing on strengths he actually DOES have. So he may not be the sharpest hoe in the garden... but he sticks with things, works hard at problems, and isn't afraid to fail. So praise him for those strengths, so he can develop and take pride in them. And suppose a little girl isn't pretty... but she's analytical and spots details other people miss. Praise her for that. Praise her for being generous, kind, tough, persistent, clever, a good writer, for having a diversity of interests, for being athletic or good at research, but don't do her the disservice of both lying to her face and minimizing her true human value by telling her that she's "beautiful".