Beauty and Discrimination

you_think_im_pretty__by_dastorm_photography-d2yg69j

You Think Im Pretty by Dastorm-Photography on deviantART

I recently read an article on allowing oneself to feel pretty in defiance of societal norms, which, even while admiring the kick-ass attitude of the writer, I found very poignant, because although I’m human and as such still subject to bias towards the aesthetically pleasing, I’m a conscious sort of person and therefore I absolutely question the belief that anyone attractive has more inherent value. Not that that is what the writer was conveying; quite the opposite. But the very fact that a kick-ass article has to be written by a woman with attitude to give girls permission to feel pretty is a response to a mindset which shouldn’t exist.

On one hand, humans have decorated themselves and their environments since prehistory, which is only one piece of evidence indicating a biological urge towards the beautiful, by which I don’t mean only sexual attraction. But on the other hand, anyone who thinks on a regular basis must see that there’s something deeply wrong with the lengths to which our society has taken this bias. Decorating oneself is one thing; vilifying people according to imposed standards is a another.

I watched Dead Man Down the other night. Central to that story is the scarring of the female lead’s face in a car accident. But I found it very hard to buy into it as motivation for her desire for revenge, given that the damage was relatively superficial. The depiction of the youth of the area hounding the poor woman with medieval intensity for minor disfigurement was disturbing, but more disturbing was the premise of the film itself that the scarring would be enough to drive a normally kind-hearted character to murder by proxy. The fact that for the film to be successful, the character would need to be depicted as still attractive enough to garner the sympathy of the audience is only another facet of the same infection and doesn’t account for an attractive young woman being portrayed as a ‘monster’ for the purposes of the story. How much belief are we required to suspend, in an era when computer graphics realistically supply proper monsters?

I once said to a (very ex) husband that wasn’t it funny how all my friends were attractive – upon which he gave me an incredulous look. (He was a very superficially driven human being.) Maybe I’m abnormal in seeing beauty in the people I like, but if that’s abnormal, it’s a shame it’s not contagious. I can’t even blame the media for bombarding us with artificial images for the past decades, since women have evidently been discriminatory bitches since at least Jane Austen’s time.

The difference today perhaps with marketing pressure is that with all the pressure to look pretty, even with all the access we in the west have to pretty things with which to adorn ourselves, very few are actually feeling pretty.

How does anyone challenge this tide? I guess if you use tidal analogies it seems futile, so maybe I should take that back, because I have two daughters, so I am very much invested in preventing my girls from getting that crap in their veins.

I feel like this has all been said before, and that it’s self-evident anyway, so what is the point of adding more words to the discussion. But I suppose more words still keep the conversation going, and keeping the conversation going is the only way to change a thing.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Beauty and Discrimination

  1. A deep piece. We have indeed come full circle in that I often hear ‘intelligent’ (book smarts) women extol the use of their brain and not their beauty which is ridiculous as they are all gifts.

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    • You are right – why must we go to extremes? Enjoy beauty where we find it without guilt, without shoving the criteria for what that should be up everyone’s noses.

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  2. This was a very thought provoking read and leaves something to ponder. I feel true beauty is within, as cliche as that may seem. I’ve met a person many found physically beautiful but couldn’t get pass their better than attitude. I only saw a very ugly individual. For me it’s a matter of what you show, in that, there’s beauty.

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    • Absolutely. Outer beauty is what it is – a physical condition. For me whether that translates to actual attractiveness depends on other factors, like as you said, the attitude that goes with it. Anything that comes with the better than thou vibe, I just can’t see past the ‘tude. As for feeling pretty, as the girl said, everyone has the right to feel that.

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  3. That was a very thought-provoking read indeed.
    I think discrimination against those deemed unattractive by the conveyed social image is so much more prevalent than many realise. The very fact that somebody who publicly acknowledges that she believes she is attractive, is seen as attention-seeking and/or up herself, speaks volumes. But in a way that kind of makes it more important for people to feel pretty. Stick it to a society that is so messed up in its thinking that you can only be seen as attractive if you are “beautiful”, but do not think you are “beautiful”.

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    • It’s also (vaguely) like height – I’m short, and I know I don’t get taken seriously because of it. How different life would be at 5’10”. Too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat – so very many creative ways for us to discriminate! The only cure can be to remain mindful, because it’s so easy to slip into judgement and automatic thinking.

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      • Definitely. I can’t relate with height, although I do get gentle ribbing by my friends occasionally since 5’4 does seem to be on the shorter side. My best friend is 6’3 though… so I think she’d know that feel.

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      • Well, height is a very different discrimination on one hand, but it does demonstrate how virtually impossible it is for us to be unbiased. I’m not far off 5’4, and I’m not overly concerned, but it makes me think how subtly discriminations of all sorts which have nothing to do with our actual abilities affect the course of our whole lives.

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  4. I wonder if part of the reason that people feel so connected through blogs is the fact that most blogs are driven more by the words (and soul) of a person than by their physical appearance. This allows us to connect to each other without the distractions of a face-to-face interaction. Or maybe I’m just easily distracted because I can’t really figure out where I’m trying to go with this. I just think that a person’s beauty should be defined more by their soul than their physical appearance and that (I guess) a blog allows us to focus more on a person’s soul than their physical appearance. Ummmm…are you following me? Or am I totally delusional over here?

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    • Not at all, I hear you! You’re so right. Actually textual communication works very well for me, I assumed it was the aspie part of me that gets anxious in f2f communication and therefore functions better via words, but maybe it’s us ‘sensitive types’ generally who are distracted in f2f interaction. I reckon though that not everyone bares their souls in their blogs. You know, I think part of what I find distracting in face to face interaction is the disconnect between what people present of themselves and what I sense at a subconscious level. Now does *that* sound weird?! Because I get the feeling you would be the same! I do get a sense of people through their words. I actually met my amazing husband through words on teh interwebz. (The fact that I subsequently found him dashing etc was purely co-incidental!)

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      • Doesn’t sound weird at all! I don’t know how to process or deal with people who don’t present themselves authentically. It makes me very uncomfortable.

        I’m sure not everybody bares their soul in their blog…maybe just the really cool people do it. 🙂

        Very cool that the interwebz brought you and your husband together and that he turned out to be dashing as well! Good things come to awesome people! 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Survival Storage II – Or, Make Like the Borg and Assimilate | Chaos Girl & the Real World

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