The Ugly Duckling as Gender-Neutral Beauty Ideal

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.


  1. @Tom: “Think of how a parent feels about a child. It absolutely doesn’t matter what that kid looks like to the rest of the world”

    Wrong. Beauty influences everybody, parents included.
    Not only good looking people are (even unconsciously) preferred by figures such bosses and teachers…
    some researches proved that even parents would favour their better-looking children.
    I know, it’s hard to believe, but it doesn’t make it less true.
    It’s written into our DNA, our istincts and our brain. Beauty matters to us all, and denying it it’s just naive.

    Sure, we’re not helpless and we can balance this istinct, just as we (should) do with aggressivity and egoism.
    But denying the importance of physical beauty and pretending only the inside should matter (as you do in your article), is – ironically – similar to the opposite position, where only the external beauty matters.
    It’s an AGAINST stance, this OR that.

    While the wisest position – IMHO – would be acknowledging the wholeness of the human experience, that includes BOTH inner radiance and external beauty.
    And seeing them not against each other, but complementary. Holistically.
    Remember: fear divides, love unites. ;)

  2. I agree with Crescendo63…as Chekhov said: People should be beautiful in every way—in their faces, in the way they dress, in their thoughts and in their innermost selves

  3. “The bird in the story has to go through hell and back because he doesn’t fit in. And superficially he is damn ugly. Just when he is about to throw in the towel, he saddles up to the most beautiful creatures he has ever seen on the theory that dying at their hands is better than continuing to live.

    To his amazement they embrace him with open arms. Even more amazing, he realizes he is one of them: a swan.”

    It’s ironic that this rings true with how I felt as a trans woman. I was pretty ‘ugly’ for a guy, didn’t fit in, didn’t feel like I belonged there, and testosterone was sheer poison to my body, more or less literally. Then I figured I wasn’t a guy…and there was light.


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