DISCLAIMER: I am speaking primarily of women here. Not becaues I don’t think these issues affect men, but because not being a man myself I can only theorize based on a few comments and brief discussions Ive had with men about these issues. I wish more men would discuss these things honestly. I suspect the reason my empathy is so shallow for men is because they really feel uncomfortable being open about body and image and self-esteem issues. That’s the main message I get from them. For every man who runs to up to point out “men have these problems too!” there’s twenty men who change the subject. And sadly, the ones who run up to inject themselves into the female-based discussion only do so to derail, not to add to an overall conversation. I think the primary problem for men and image has to do with shame and secrecy. Society pressures men to strut and act like they don’t care about their image. I find it hard to believe men are really so different from women in that regard. So ultimately, I leave the male version of the issue alone – its not my story to tell and thus far I don’t have enough input to incorporate their story into ours. But I do believe the discomfort and anxiety that goes along with image issues affects men just as often and just as clearly as women.
Here’s the thing, I actually don’t believe everyone is “beautiful”. To be frank, I haven’t yet met anyone I didn’t find attractive, but I can’t get behind the “everyone is beautiful” campaign. I also don’t think that campaign is ever going to really take root. Because really, not everyone is “beautiful”. Perhaps that’s a semantics game because I’m going by a definition of beauty that I am pretty sure is the most common one. I am also pretty sure the “everyone is beautiful” campaign is going by a different definition. The common understanding of beauty is “the arrangement of symmetrical features and lack of aberrations that society deems to be most attractive”
The fact is that not everyone can possibly measure up that way.
I think the real issue is how people merit themselves. I am not talking about potential, either. We can potential people all over the place and it doesn’t mean squat. That starts venturing into “you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it!” territory which I *know* is bullshit. If you disagree, fine but answer this question: can I ski through a revolving door if I put my mind to it?
I say that not to ruin a very nice uplifting sentiment but to place the parameters of the discussion. We can’t truly discuss human traits if we don’t have roughly the same vocabulary.
The beauty we usually talk about when we talk about strangers is the outside appearance – their attractiveness. The beauty we talk about when we talk about people we know is the inside – their persona. But we can’t conflate the two. The outside beauty, while nice, isn’t something we can do anything with. It may enhance the landscape when its around but it doesn’t really affect us just by existing. Beauty from the inside is so called precisely because it *does* affect us. It is some quality (or a group of qualities) that enhances our actual existence even if only for a moment. Someone’s beautiful persona can lift us up, give us solace, urge us on or calm us down. How incredibly versatile for a quality that is so incredibly undefined!
This is why I don’t like calling someone “beautiful” unless I am speaking strictly of their outward appearance. Attractive – maybe because sometimes what’s attractive isn’t in the looks at all, but beauty is something I *see*.
Beauty is skin-deep. Beauty is as beauty does. Beauty glows in love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is truth. Beauty is pain.
Beauty is subjective.
Well, if beauty is subjective, why is it that so many people have decided on some particular traits and made them “the standards”?
Is excitement a subjective thing? Can I label anyone I like with that word and say “well I just think everyone is exciting?” I could but how believable is that really? What about joy? Is everyone joyful? Smart? Helpful? Generous? Thoughtful? Spontaneous?
I want us to talk more about the inner awesomeness that each person carries within. I want to cheer on the people who need it most. I want to say encouraging things to the ones who sit at home, feeling scared and sad because society has told them again and again that they don’t measure up. I want *that* campaign to happen and be successful. I just dont’ think its going to work if we keep using the word “beautiful”
Because those people know better. They know that society isn’t lying to them. Society dictates what is “beautiful” and they didnt’ make the grade. We can talk all day about overcoming the pressures of society and feeling good about yourself and empowerment and reclaiming terms but ultimately we ARE society. Society is people. Its the people around us too. And when the majority of the people around you are telling you that your looks don’t make them happy, there’s no arguing it. We can argue facts until one of us discovers the valid truth but arguing opinions is ridiculous. I’m not going to continue to argue against the opinions of MILLIONS either. I can disagree all I want but trying to change those people’s opinions is ludicrous. And who am I to arbitrarily decide when the majority of society is wrong in their personal preferences?
I’ve known an awful lot of people in my near-half-decade of life. Like I said, I’ve yet to meet someone I didn’t think was attractive on some level. But I’m odd like that. I didn’t, however, think everyone I’ve ever met was “beautiful”
And I am totally okay with that. What I’d like to see, rather than a minority of society working so hard to change the majority’s opinion, is an acceptance of the differences. What I’d like to see is us embracing the other qualities of people instead of “beauty” and making it a point to exalt those qualities just as much. Every time we push this “everyone is beautiful” campaign, we reinforce the notion that beauty is the most important thing of all.
Why can’t we try just as hard to tear down the notion that beauty trumps all?
Why can’t we try just as hard to exalt other forms of attractiveness?
That’s what I want to see.