May 29, 2024
This article explores the debate surrounding the subjectivity of beauty, how media and culture shape perceptions of beauty, and highlights the importance of embracing diversity and inclusivity in defining and recognizing beauty. It also touches upon how societies' perceptions of beauty have evolved over time, the impact of unconventional beauty, and individualistic experiences of beauty.

I. Introduction

For decades, the notion of beauty has been a hotly contested topic, with different cultures and individuals holding diverse perceptions about what constitutes beauty. Some believe it to be objective and rooted in biological and evolutionary factors, while others argue that beauty is entirely subjective and dependent on individual experiences. In this article, we will delve into the debate of whether beauty is subjective or objective, examine the role of media, culture, and societal norms in shaping perceptions of beauty, and celebrate the power of unconventional beauty.

II. Exploring the Debate: Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

The argument that beauty is subjective posits that there is no universal definition of beauty and that it is dependent on individual perspectives and experiences. Different cultures and societies have varied understandings of beauty, which challenge perceptions of beauty that may be considered mainstream or conventional. When one examines the historical or contemporary cultural attitudes towards beauty, it becomes clear that it varies considerably from culture to culture. For example, in some cultures, dry and dark skin is considered beautiful, whereas, in others, fair and porcelain-like skin is highly prized. This variance across cultures illustrates why beauty is subjective.

Moreover, when examining the beauty standards perpetuated by media, it is apparent that these norms have a significant impact on shaping how individuals perceive beauty. Advertisements, fashion spreads, movies, music videos, and other forms of media often perpetuate narrow definitions of beauty that are predominantly Eurocentric and thin-centric. The pressure to conform to these restrictive beauty standards often leaves individuals feeling inadequate or uncomfortable in their skin. Media perpetuation of these standards reinforces the notion that beauty is objective and predetermined, ignoring the inherent subjectivity of individual perspectives and experiences.

To fully understand the subjectivity of beauty, it’s essential to consider different examples that challenge conventional beauty standards. For instance, many people consider traditional tattoo artists and their intricate and elaborate body art to be beautiful. Hence, beauty is not limited to physical appearances, but it also incorporates various art forms.

III. Why We Should Embrace Subjectivity When It Comes to Beauty

The importance of subjective perceptions of beauty should not be ignored. Inclusivity and diversity in beauty standards can have a significant impact on individuals’ mental health, well-being, and self-esteem. Beauty standards are ever-changing, and sometimes impossible to meet, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. It’s essential to celebrate individual experiences of beauty to recognize the diversity of the human race and how everyone’s unique experiences shape their understanding of beauty.

For example, the beauty industry can be more inclusive of diverse definitions of beauty. Representative advertising campaigns utilizing a diverse body of models will ensure that individuals receive messages that are both personally relevant and inclusive. This approach has sparked incremental policy change within the beauty industry, including the development of makeup and haircare ranges purposely constructed to cater to the diverse skin tones, hair types, and textures previously neglected by the industry.

The celebration of unconventional beauty, too, can have a powerful effect on individuals’ self-perception. For instance, in India, longstanding prejudices discriminated against those with tribal tattoos that were often associated with criminal activities. In recent years, however, there is a growing appreciation for these same tattoos, with proponents celebrating their beauty, intricacy, and history. Embracing these unconventional forms of beauty can be transformative, combatting the narrow beauty standards perpetuated by mainstream media and culture and ensuring people can personalize beauty standards in ways that fulfil their sense of identity.

IV. The Science Behind Why We Find Some Things Beautiful

While subjectivity is central to the understanding of beauty, it’s also vital to explore some of the biological and evolutionary factors that influence our perceptions of beauty. For example, many of the physiological responses that people have to beauty are rooted in underlying biological factors. For instance, people tend to find symmetrical faces more attractive because it suggests a certain degree of genetic fitness which has evolutionary implications.

However, these biological factors are often not enough to entirely account for how we perceive beauty. People’s perceptions of beauty are still highly variable across cultures and individuals and cannot be fully accounted for by evolutionary or biological arguments.

Moreover, the biological factors that influence how people perceive beauty are not finite; they often interact with other factors such as environmental, social, and cultural experiences. Therefore, they cannot entirely explain subjective perceptions of beauty.

V. Challenging the Notion of ‘Ugly’: Beauty’s Sister Concept

Ugly, like beauty, is subject to varying cultural perceptions and experiences. Ugly is a negative word and often used pejoratively to describe things that are considered unattractive, undesired, or less than beautiful. However, the concept of ugly is closely tied to beauty and is often subjective. Ugly and beauty coexist in the same cultural context and are often sited as opposites, representing different manifestations of the same aesthetic sensory experience.

Individuals must challenge their biases and assumptions about what is considered ugly to broaden their views and see beauty in things that they would typically view as unattractive or ugly. Aesthetically pleasing art forms and design have drawn heavily on this notion to create subversive and boundary-pushing pieces.

Some movements have been created to embrace ‘ugliness’ as a beauty standard, encouraging individuals to reject traditional aesthetics of beauty in favour of celebrating their uniqueness. The inclusiveness and diversity generated by these movements are revolutionary, giving individuals ownership over their own beauty standards.

VI. The Role of Media and Culture in Shaping Perceptions of Beauty

Media and cultural institutions play a significant role in shaping individual perceptions of beauty. For instance, most mainstream media figures, from models to actors, tend to have similar looks, perpetuating narrow definitions of beauty. This can affect an individual’s self-image, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Hence, it’s essential for individuals to resist harmful or limiting definitions of beauty and broaden their understanding of what constitutes as beautiful.

Media and cultural institutions are changing, and so is the manner in which individuals perceive beauty. For instance, campaigns aimed at promoting positive body image and diverse representation are becoming increasingly common and promote inclusivity in defining beauty standards. Social media, too, is playing a role in shaping beauty standards, with influencers and bloggers challenging stereotypical beauty standards at a global scale.

VII. What Beauty Means to Different Generations

Perceptions of beauty have evolved considerably over time, and different age groups have different ideas about what constitutes beauty. For example, older generations may hold different beliefs and perceptions of beauty than younger generations. These differences may arise due to individual experiences, cultural beliefs, or possibly the impact of evolving social norms over time.

As social norms have changed over the years, perceptions of beauty have evolved with them. For instance, in the 1960s, embracing ‘natural beauty’ was a trend, where minimal makeup was utilized, and a more natural look was promoted as the new norm. However, in the 2000s, embracing more ‘feminine beauty’ was trending, where more attention to makeup and hair was given. Currently, the trend of embracing natural beauty is making its way back into the beauty industry.

VIII. The Power of Unconventional Beauty

Celebrating unconventional beauty standards and movements is crucial in promoting inclusivity and diversity in defining and recognizing beauty. For instance, in recent years, the fashion industry has become more inclusive by featuring models with disabilities or unconventional body shapes. Other movements worldwide, such as #feminineboys and #bodypositivity, seek to promote and celebrate unconventional beauty standards, seeking, in turn, to empower individuals who struggle with limitations of traditional beauty standards.

Moreover, unconventional beauty is not limited to human physical appearances. Some artists and architects see beauty in abandoned buildings or industrial structures. These unconventional aesthetics offer a fresh perspective on beauty, one which derives from individual experiences and a personal connection to the object or art in question.

IX. Conclusion

The subjectivity of beauty is a contentious topic, with arguments weighing both on factual scientific evidence and individual experience. This article has aimed to debunk some of the myths surrounding beauty and highlight the importance of embracing subjectivity when it comes to defining beauty. Moreover, addressing the harmful impacts of societal norms and media, celebrating the power of unconventional beauty, and the evolution of beauty standards over time can lead individuals to personalize beauty standards in ways that fulfil their sense of identity.

Beauty, as a whole, cannot be, and has never been, defined by a fixed set of standards. It is an individual experience that is uniquely diverse and inclusive, catering to the unique perspectives and experiences that define us as humans.

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