I run into an article where I find one sentence really confusing. It is an excerpt from the paragraph below.

The reduction of young women to an increasingly narrow range of conformist standards around “beauty” is part of this backlash. It makes girls deeply unhappy and obsessively self-policing. Teenage girls compare and contrast like no one else. They see every imperfection and measure it against someone who is paid to look perfect. They feel lacking, worthless and angry. So they punish themselves. The all-purpose rubric of self-esteem comes into play, but to have self-esteem in a culture that only values certain “looks” requires rebellion.

I'm not sure what "rubric" means here. Some kind of instruction or guide? And the use of “all-purpose” seems really bizarre. I'm also not quite sure what "requires rebellion" means here. Rebellion against what? I'm guessing... rebel against the culture that only values certain looks?

Could someone help me understand this sentence?

Here is the link to the article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/commentisfree/2017/aug/30/feminism-gave-women-a-glimpse-of-a-happy-world-but-for-young-girls-that-promise-is-being-dashed

  • The term actually comes originally from Christian liturgies or religious service books, see this link. Before the invention of printing manuscript liturgies had the 'stage directions' such as "all kneel", "all stand" or "the priest lifts the cup" written in red as opposed to the spoken parts of the liturgy which were written in black. The 'stage directions' became known as rubrics from the Latin for 'red'. This convention was also used in the printed Book of Common Prayer.
    – BoldBen
    Nov 14, 2017 at 12:19
  • Over time the term 'rubric' has come to mean different things but all the meanings relate to instructions or rules.
    – BoldBen
    Nov 14, 2017 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


all-purpose rubric

Rubric generally refers to a scoring scheme (for example the number of points assigned to questions on an exam in school). Here, "rubric" refers to the scoring scheme that girls might use to score their own looks and personalities. In particular, the author suggests that a person's self-esteem determines how they "score" themselves in their mind.

All-purpose here means that self-esteem is a "scoring" system that people apply to all parts of their lives, even when it might be irrelevant.

requires rebellion

Yes, rebel against a culture that values certain looks. Specifically, the author is saying that girls are discouraged from having enough self-esteem to mentally "score" themselves highly, so gaining that self-esteem requires them to rebel against societal expectations.


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