Beauty

stupid

Before I start off, let me just say that for every dumb behavior that’s stereotypically female, there are probably two stupid practices that are stereotypically male. Also, I fully realize that I’m not the one who stops the buck about what’s smart and what’s not. Furthermore, there’s plenty of room for discussion about who is to blame for initiating this little pet peeve of mine. So, feel free to comment with all the vim and vigor that you desire.

That being said, there’s an idiotic phrase that I’ve overheard at one time or another from probably over half of the women and girls I know. Normally, I’d pass it off as simply an unimaginative insult. The trouble is that it’s almost invariably placed solemnly at the end of a long list of grievances against another person — as if it were a statement that carried some sort kind of courtroom-level gravity.

“Besides, he/she isn’t even cute/pretty!”

This, my friends, is some nonsense1)For those of you who don’t know me very well, that’s one of the strongest negative words in my day-to-day vocabulary..

From here on out, you’re probably expecting the standard “beauty isn’t skin deep” sermon that you’ve all heard before. While an ugly spirit is way more of a turn-off to me than physical form ever could be, that’s for another post to talk about. Whatever lies beneath it, the skin’s what you see first, and that’s all that I’m going to be talking about here, when I’m addressing the stupidity of the afore-mentioned insult.

Maybe it’s just that I’m an outlier myself, and so I’m one of a small number of people who genuinely doesn’t find the “Hollywood” facial features or body type all that attractive. Maybe it’s just me and a few other folks who don’t have some monolithic idea of the “ideal man/woman” in mind, when we think of physical beauty. Maybe there aren’t that many people other than myself who find their heart totally skipping a beat at some weird little hand gesture, an odd crinkle of the nose, or a smile that wasn’t constructed in an operating room. Like I said, maybe. However, I like to think that the typical mental activity behind what’s drop-dead-gorgeous and what’s not-so-much is a complicated enough process that it’s literally impossible for there to be a standard definition of beauty — even on a per-person basis, much less in general!

That’s why it’s so dumb to insult the way a person looks, as if there’s any kind of standard to compare it to. You may be the only person in the world who has that opinion. If you’re not, it’s still likely that there’s a large segment of the population that would disagree. Sure, there can be statistical means — but who are you to say that’s the right metric to compare someone to? In fact, I’d reckon that the celebrities are all considered attractive, not because they’re anyone’s actual paragon of pretty, but simply because they’re considered “not bad” by such a large number of people. No one is pretty to everyone, but I’d guess that almost everyone is absolutely stunning to someone. And, before you think I’m being sappy, remember that I mean this in a strictly physical sense — not even considering the profound effects of personality, etc.

So, all that to say, I’m formally asking womankind (or at least the subset of it that needs to) to stop banging the word beauty around like some kind of gavel. It’s a too-individually-varying concept to carry any real weight of judgment. I don’t mind if you really feel the need to bad-talk someone every once in a while. However, please please please end your diatribe with something stronger and smarter than whether or not you fancy the way that person looks.

Notes   [ + ]

4 thoughts on “Beauty

  1. What do you know about facial symmetry and its effect on attractiveness? There’s been some studies that suggest that the more symmetric a face, the more attractive it is to a wide swath of people. There always will be outliers with statistics about subjective things, and maybe it’s the wrong metric to use, but it’s interesting that there may be at least a discernible trend based on the mathematical properties of the body. There are some good references at the bottom of the wikipedia article, if you’re interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facial_symmetry

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  3. Dangit Beccah. 🙂 I was hoping no one would notice my complete and utter disregard for the scientific method in this post. Believe it or not, I actually did do a little research into statistically-quantifiable beauty before writing this. From what I could tell, the variances on various desirable features are not ridiculously high, and you can definitely find good (though depressing) support for the argument that there *is* an ideal way to look. Interestingly enough, the data shows that women (from a male perspective) tend to follow about a normal distribution in attractiveness, while men (from a female perspective) tend to follow an distribution that’s skewed by quite a bit toward the ugly side.

    That being said, it’s the one-dimensional nature of the studies involved that makes me feel the freedom to spout my unsubstantiated claims. Maybe it’s too hidden between the lines, but the validity of my rant hangs on the assumption that the beauty evaluation function of most people isn’t convex. There are tons of little hidden peaks where our brains can get “stuck” on some particular combination of physical features. But, who knows. I haven’t really looked into whether data on such a claim exists.

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