Beauty Redefined Blog

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History. Let’s Misbehave!


“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

well behaved women beauty redefined fbMany big industries want us to behave. They want us to be live “stylishly ever after,” they want our “girl power” to come from marketing that phrase on our push-up bras, they want our health to be defined by how good we can look from behind, they want to empower us by telling us how to become more beautiful, and comfort us by saying “beauty hurts” and it’s up to us to push through the pain and work forever trying to obtain it. But if any of our work resonates with you, you know it’s time we stop being so “well-behaved.” It’s high time we stop behaving – looking, acting, speaking, buying, thinking – how the ever-so-powerful beauty, diet, cosmetic surgery, fashion, and media industries would have us behave. 

That’s why we work to constantly remind females how powerful, valuable, and beautiful they are in a media-saturated world that profits from them forgetting that truth. Because when you begin to grasp your potential for good, your power in this world, where real happiness is found, and the beauty you’ve already got going on, you stop “behaving” as these big industries would have you behave.

One of the ways we at BR misbehave regularly is by speaking out against all kinds of normalized pressures women face regarding their appearance: the cultural phenomenon that is the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Victoria’s Secret’s inescapable images, trendy new beauty ideals like those magic body wraps, the normalization of breast implants, the ways we teach “modesty,” and female objectification at every turn. What started as a gut feeling that much of what appears so normal to us is actually so dangerous sparked our doctoral research to teach people how and why to recognize and reject this level of normalized objectification of women.

Click the image to seef all of our sticky notes

Click the image to see our sticky notes

What’s most interesting to us about our work is that many, many people see our speaking out as wildly misbehaving. Saying publicly celebrated displays of female objectification and sexualization is degrading or harmful in any way is apparently censorship, prudishness, neo-Nazi conservativism, jealousy, disgusting and just plain evil. What this backlash against our work tells us is that seeing and treating women as objects to be consumed, judged and ogled above all else is absolutely the status quo. It is the norm. It is invisible. When we call it out for what it is, for what effects it has, with years of research to back it up, we see ourselves as behaving very nicely. Others who are perfectly comfortable inside the oppressive status quo (both men and women) are often extremely hesitant to have their worldview shaken. Those are the people who perceive our work as misbehavior (to put it lightly).

The awesome Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

The woman who coined that crazy popular phrase, had no idea SHE would be making the history books when she wrote that.  In fact, this conservative woman was writing a history book in the 1970s about 19th century women who were by all accounts just regular women, going about their lives. She was writing about the ways well-behaved women were overlooked in our knowledge of history because they weren’t doing anything historians considered “extraordinary.” But this author went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, among many other honors, and her work has been made into documentaries and television series.  Her name is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and we happen to feel a special connection to this Pultizer-Prize-winning, Distinguished Harvard Professor because she grew up in small-town Idaho (just like us!), graduated from the University of Utah (just like us!), and has gone on to be a powerful, feminist voice for good in a world that needs her and her catchy statement: “Well-behaved women seldom make history!” By all accounts, she had no idea how much her work would change history. And neither do you.

We (Lindsay and Lexie Kite) started our version of “misbehaving” when we were 18 years old. We sat in a college classroom and learned for the first time how powerful media is in shaping our view of ourselves and distorting our perceptions of reality, beauty, and health. We both decided we were no longer going to “behave” for industries that profited off us hating our bodies and spending our time, money and energy finding ways to fix our flaws. And so then, in 2003, we decided we wanted to be the kind of women that made history. We’ve done nothing too exceptional, but we earned Ph.D.s in the study of media and body image in 2013 and have remained committed to helping women understand their worth as more than objects to be looked at.

Capable of Much More bR Sticky NoteToday, we are thrilled to use Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s truthful phrase a little differently than she may have intended it (but check out the comment below from her niece Rachel!). Today, we stand alongside every other person willing to misbehave in the face of powerful industries that profit from our losses. They win when we lose our self-worth and try to find it where it cannot be found – beauty products, cosmetic procedures, sexual objectification, disordered eating, diet pills, etc. The truth is all around you: You are capable of much more than looking hot. Your reflection does not define your worth. Women are more than just bodies. See more. Be more. If any of those statements resonate with you, you can misbehave by choosing to turn away from media that hurts you, spending your money on things that reflect what you value, speaking out against the status quo that maintains a view of women as bodies and nothing more, spending your time progressing in ways that matter – school, service, hobbies, health, and relationships. THAT is how we will make history. THAT is real empowerment. Are you ready to make history? Let’s misbehave!


  1. Prathama

    Hi Lexie and Lindsay,
    Another excellent article… I love Beauty Redefined.
    This woman have to be “proper” thing is an everyday reality for girls and women in India to the extent that tolerating physical and sexual violence is part of being “proper”. We have a long way to go in Indian society before we can talk about gender equality being a reality and yet there are so many women who are doing excellent work to bring attention to all this. We seem to live in different eras all at once.

    Finally I got around to putting up images of your billboards on my blog. I also put excerpts of your articles of strategies for men and women to take back beauty and linked it to your articles.

    What you are doing is great and I am glad to share it on the Indian Blogosphere.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined09-22-2011

      Thank you so much, Prathama! Your post about our work is fantastic: Thank you so much for helping us to spread rue, positive, uplifting messages about women’s capabilities! You are doing amazing things for people in India and beyond. We love your support so much and will do whatever we can to support you as well!

      • Prathama

        I love your work, and women all over the world need it. It has to be shared, to give women everywhere the inspiration that change will come but we all have to contribute in our own ways.

        Putting images of your billboards and talking about your amazing work on my blog was my drop in the ocean.

        You are awesome! Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog :-)

  2. Jennifer Shewmaker
    Jennifer Shewmaker09-20-2011

    Love this call to action! I’m with you 100%. Let’s get out there and cause some trouble for those who are selling girls and women short.

  3. Rachel

    Just found your website, and what really drew me in was that you not only quoted my Aunt Laurel, but you understood the meaning behind her quote! If she wasn’t my aunt, I don’t know that I could say that. Can’t wait to look around some more and tell my women’s history professor about your site. Keep up the good work! :)

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined09-27-2011

      Rachel! What an amazing comment! There’s a good chance we bragged about it on our Facebook fan page :) Thank you so much for commenting, and for letting us know we got her intended meaning right. Your aunt is one of our heroes and knowing you are reading our posts is an honor. Thank you so much!

      • Rachel

        I’m not exactly the “perfect” expert on her meaning, lol, but I love your site. Passed it along to my friends. Looking forward to hearing you speak at BYU tomorrow! Keep up the good work. I wish there were as many people involved in overcoming the negative effects of the media on us as there are creating it. The more I find gives me hope. :)

  4. Grackle

    I had no idea that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was responsible for the saying! It’s a great one but I’ve seen it on millions of bumper stickers, buttons, books, t-shirts, etcetera for soooo many years that it pretty much seems like a cliche. Now that I know the history of the phrase and who came up with it, I can appreciate it again. :D

    • Grackle

      ALSO ARGH why did I start reading the comments on your article in the Salt Lake City Tribune? People are so stupid and awful!!!

  5. PeacefulP

    OMG ladies, I’m loving this article and what you’re all about! Do you need any help with anything? How can I support you and our vision?

  6. Heather

    Hi! I love this post, this whole site, and all the work you do. I’m almost done with my master’s in counseling, and I’m specializing in eating disorders, so all of this is extra-close to my heart. I would like to reference this article in a project I’m doing. Could you post or email me the author’s name? I want to give precise credit, if I can.

  7. Maria

    I love this article, so happy I found it today, This subject is close to my heart from my time working with teenage girls and continued study of counselling. This site represents a lot of my feelings and beliefs. Witnessing the harmful effects to individuals sense of self in today’s society (including my own) deeply hurts me. The constant images, messages and conditioning that our children are being exposed to needs to change. I want to support change and make a difference in any way I am able to. Love and respect for the work you do and everyone involved in this amazing site. 🙏💜

  8. Kat

    Hello, I`m Kat and I really love your blog. Have you seen the Nicole Arbour scandal with her ridiculous and cruel video?

  9. loveitmom

    Hey there! I got the sticky notes in the mail and I’m so excited!!! I actually am trying to research how the provo victorias secret had enough feedback from the community and had to scale back the in-your-face soft porn… I can’t find anything though- do you have any ideas for me? I’m trying to work with our mall to get them to tone down the scale of their images.

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