The Beautiful People

“Beauty is the enemy. We try to conquer not feeling beautiful all our lives. It’s a battle that can’t be won. There’s no definition of beauty. The only way to achieve beauty is to feel it from inside without breaking down into individual physical attributes.”
-Miley Cyrus

When you imagine a beautiful woman, what do you see? According to magazines like Men’s Fitness, beautiful looks thin, usually Caucasian and wears makeup, dresses and heels.

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Melissa McCarthy released an all-size clothing line at Lane Bryant. (Original Source)

I don’t know about you, but when I look around there are a lot more faces of beauty than that description – and they aren’t all thin or white or even feminine.

America is aware of this discrepancy in its definition of beauty, it seems, and a lot is being done to redefine the idea of what beautiful is. Even Barbie is making a change to her appearance, albeit to turn body-image advocates into consumers.

But it’s just not enough. Redefining it is a great start. It will include more people – but still others will be excluded from this definition. It’s time for the media and for America to admit that everyone is beautiful.

I’m sure there will be people who hate that I just said that, even though it is absolutely the truth, and you have the right to know and feel that you are beautiful without fitting the mold.

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Let’s look at the mathematical definition of beauty. The Golden Ratio determines the symmetry and proportionality of the face. The more symmetrical, the more beautiful.

If we conform to ideas of beauty in the US, this is flawed as well. Notice the Golden Ratio fits over my face quite well, denoting mathematical beauty. However, I am overweight and have been called quite the opposite on numerous occasions.

There is also value in looking at beauty across cultures. Some things considered beautiful elsewhere may seem outlandish – ugly even – to American viewers. Down to foot size, beauty is being measured differently across the world.

Many cultures experience unrealistic expectations about beauty just like US. For a very long time in China, women were expected to bind their feet. The smallest feet were the most beautiful. I don’t think feet are a big indicator of beauty in the US, but it is more likely to be made fun of for big feet.

Women in Mauritania are taught to fatten up at a young age, as a big body is a status symbol and makes them more desirable for marriage.

Other cultures value women’s imperfections without trying to make them change. In the Karo tribe of Ethiopia, women’s stretch marks and scars are considered beautiful. In the US, corporations are marketing lotions and home remedies to get rid of “ugly scars.”

In Brazil, beauty is more about having a fun-loving spirit than about how wide your ass is.

Can you imagine seeing someone with extra weight lounging on a public beach in a bikini without getting looked at like they were doing something wrong by being comfortable in their own skin?

I can’t. It’s sad, and everyday Americans shouldn’t have to travel to South America to experience this.

But it’s no wonder, I mean, with articles like this one in Cosmopolitan, which explains how to contour your face with makeup to achieve the illusion of “ideal” bone structure. It even compares women to Kate Moss, culturally positioning their natural cheekbones as less than Moss’s.

Bone structure is a traditional characteristic in describing beauty. Women are told by magazines like this one that they need to have striking brows and high cheekbones. These are traits you have to be born with (unless you participate in the demeaning world of plastic surgery) and women shouldn’t be comparing themselves, especially based on a trait they have no control over.


If your face isn’t within the Golden Ratio or you don’t have cheekbones like Kate Moss, not to worry. To be human is to be flawed; we are all perfect humans.

Further Reading:

‘Beauty in Different Cultures,’ by Paul Ford (2009)

‘Anthropological Perspectives on Physical Appearance and Body Image’ (2012)

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3 thoughts on “The Beautiful People

  1. Great write!

    As a man who supports the Body Positivity Revolution, we have to redefine how we see beauty in our culture, as the current way leads to deleterious effects on not only people’s self-esteem, but also their physical health as well.

    I often say that beauty is like the different types of flowers. Some women are roses, some are violets, and some are daffodils and other flowers. The rose is not more beautiful than the violet, or vice versa. Same goes for the daffodil. The flowers are beautiful because they’re unique and to try to change them would destroy their visual poetry.
    \

    Like

  2. Pingback: (Very) Basic Social Constructionism for Dummies | The Telltale Bones

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