I've recently been thinking about the human body and how many different societies - Western, for instance - view beauty and associate "what is beautiful with what is good" (a quote from my social psychology text). It's so disheartening to think that many social institutions, like the media, are so quick to jump on any "different" physical attribute and label it according to their own socially-constructed ideals of "beauty" or "attractive." I sometimes feel that the society in which some of us live in (like North America, but I know that my experiences and thoughts are not universal and there are many exceptions) are so quick to label a physical trait or difference (I mean "difference" here in an objective context, not a negative one) as "not attractive" or "not the norm," and it truly hurts me. I think that everyone has beauty in them, and they all have something to offer.
Speaking as someone who is different from the "norm"(I'm barely five feet tall, and have had eye surgeries and though they are fine, I'm self-conscious and just feel different), I truly struggle with the harshness of the world, if I can say it like that. Physical traits shouldn't separate us - we're all still human and have something great to offer others and the world.
So, my rant aside, I'd like to ask anyone and everyone what they consider to be beautiful, or what beauty means to them. I personally love smiles and hearing people laugh. I think beauty is also found in a hug and in just a glance between people. I also think that there are many, many different definitions of beauty, so much so that everyone is included.
Hey, Copper. I've been thinking about this since you posted it. It's quite complex to get to my "real" answer!
I think that to me, "beauty" means two different things. One is the (westernised/global North/dominant) societal version of "beauty", where a set of features are valued over all other features. I'm very much not immune from that, so I would have to say that part of what "beauty" means to me Is those societal norms.
I do very much notice, though, that although I might notice some people and features as "beautiful" according to those values, it's often not how I feel about it. For example, I remember seeing one of those Hollywood-style makeover programmes, and I found the women to be much less appealing to me aesthetically and attraction-wise After the makeover. They were all made to look the same. The same kind of styling. They looked like any Hollywood actress n a red carpet, and I often can't recognise one from another. Their personality was wiped out of their appearance and their presentation choices. So, I recognised they were "beautiful" according to a certain set of values, but I didn't like their appearance all that much myself.
I would still struggle to define "beauty" for myself, but I might say that it's someone or something that pleases or interests one of my senses. I might find someone's voice or the feel of their skin beautiful. Perhaps the feeling of the sun on my skin or the scent and feel of a fresh sea breeze.
But then, "beauty" can definitely go outside the sensory, and that's where I get lost again. Sometimes we find something beautiful because of what it means to us, or because it indicates a person we love: for example, there have been times when I've just listened and absorbed the sound of my partner's walk (it's very distinctive) and got lost in it and loved the sound, Because it was my partner. I don't think I would be quite so taken with the sound just by itself. Also, sometimes one person's care for another can be beautiful. I have no idea how to define or summarise all of that.
Going a little broader, I very much agree with you about the huge problems of beauty norms. So many people are arbitrarily excluded - like you say, anyone with any kind of visible difference, including disability, disfigurement or even a scar; fat people (I use that in a neutral/positive sense, from the Fat Acceptance movement, and I hope I don't upset anyone - it's hard to find an expression that is overall positive and embracing), often very thin people... There are also huge race problems with beauty norms, with White beauty centred, and lighter skin of all colours being preferred. I have no idea how non-binary people are "supposed" to be normatively beautiful, probably because norms don't include them in the first place.
Women can't win with "beauty". There's just no way any woman can adequately meet beauty standards, and the same woman can be criticised in contradictory ways at the same time. "Beauty" also involves time, effort, expense, know-how, discomfort and restriction.
So I guess to me "beauty", in the societal meaning, also means oppression, stereotypes, prejudice and unhappiness.
Copper, are you familiar with any of the attitudes or literature about beauty norms from feminists, from some parts of the disability community and/or people with disfigurements, from the Fat Acceptance movement or the Health At Any Size movement? If you're thinking about this kind of thing, you might find it interesting. Each of these groups has a different angle and a different area of challenging beauty norms; what they have in common is a hearty rejection and debunking of beauty norms. It's given me more strength and ease to reject the norms in the way I think about and rate myself and other people, and made me a lot happier and more comfortable in knowing it's not just me who felt there was something up with all this.
(Oopsie, edited for a small but entirely meaning-reversing brain blurgh.)
-------------------- The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not. Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011
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Beauty to me, is that warm feel I get in my chest when I hear a breath taking song or when I finally reach that note in the song I'm singing. It is the feeling of taking a photograph that I love and the awe of watching the silver salts dissapear and the image appear. Beauty is so much more to me than that, but it is all I can think of right now.
I am ME and that is the only label I need. Posts: 864 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Oct 2009
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Well, I think that beauty is one of those words that can have a lot of different definitions.
My personal favorite, though, it those moments when all the good things about a person you care about shine through, and just seeing them and knowing those good things and thinking that in that moment, they couldn’t be any more beautiful.
It can be anyone, a parent, a sibling, a partner or a friend, ect.
Posts: 444 | From: United States | Registered: Apr 2009
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