Beauty is relative. When a person says that someone or something is beautiful, then it is subjective based on how they feel, think and the qualities they look for under the term. For example, in various parts of the world having small feet, thin lips, a small forehead, long straight hair is considered beautiful. Other features such as slim built, a tall stature or big hips and big butt are looked upon as attractive in the eyes of the masses. In keeping with social acceptance, which makes it that much easier for individuals to become susceptible to media influences, they will stop at nothing to ensure that they ‘belong’, be it in their group or society.
Humans have long attempted to alter their bodies in order to align with their desired ideal body image or what society deems ideal. They constantly try to modify their body’s physical appearance to meet cultural standards of beauty. One’s size, built, stature and other features usually depict one’s fertility and health and has been seen as evolutionary adaptations for survival for generations. Dating as far back as the Greek times and which has still been seen as ideally ‘beautiful’ for a woman was delicate jaws, small nose and chin, large and widely space eyes, high cheek bones and a waist-to-hip ration of 0.7. On the other hand, males were handsome when they had a heavy brow, deep-set eyes, rectangular face and other rugged dominant features which indicated that they had a strong supply of testosterone.
The media portrays icons of beauty to have big breasts and butts, a light complexion, long straight hair, small waist and big hips. Ideals of beauty change with visual appeal, culture, genetic response, religion and social norms. Usually those who do not fall in the perceived norm are known as outliers or outsiders, and sometimes called ‘ugly’ or ‘unattractive’.
As a result, persons resort to body modifications in order to fit these guidelines and checklists created by their society regarding their appearance. Men and women, especially women, thus apply cosmetics, corseting, exercise, diet and undergo expensive and sometimes life-threatening procedures to accomplish the ideal. This sometimes results in permanent side effects and discomfort or permanent adversities.
Physical appearance has also been linked to moral worth. Those considered good-looking are more likely to get married, be hired, get paid more, and be promoted sooner. Height is associated with income and leadership positions. Strangers are more likely to assist good-looking people in distress. The pretty/handsome are less likely to be reported, caught, accused, or punished for minor and major crimes. On the other hand, attractiveness is recognized as a special gift, and its misuse is not easily tolerated.” – The Democratization of Beauty by Christine Rosen.
Some studies support the claim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and personality plays a big part in perceived potential mates or social relationships. Children are more likely to seek out similar qualities in suitors or friendships which match those of their parents. Additionally, physically appealing persons can lose their attractiveness due to their distasteful personality, while unattractive individuals with ‘perfect’ personalities can be given a second chance.
The mindset of society needs the modification, as physical appearance and beauty is not the only thing that determines success in life. If society is more readily accepting of individual’s bodies, then more persons would not feel the need to alter it to fit the ideal. Also, the media needs to accept all body types and stop praising one type and discriminating against another, after all if the world only had one body type, then there will be no uniqueness. While one may argue that the border between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ ensures that there is balance like ying and yang, when does the comparison stop? How many persons have to suffer the adverse physical, mental and emotional effects of body modification in trying to accomplish the ‘perfect’ body?
By Alexandra Daley