Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Beauty exists, and it’s unevenly distributed."

Last year I read an article in the Atlantic by Virginia Postrel about the current push of we are all beautiful, just as we are.  The author protested that beauty is actually a mathematical thing, measurable by science, recognizable even by infants.  
And yesterday I read about this "beauty machine," which morphs photographed facial features to closer approximate those mathematical ideals.

I often think about how nowadays we seem to describe all woman as beautiful, almost by default.  How do I look?  Beautiful.  May I set you up with my friend?  She's beautiful!  
Yes, there is a lot of image-related pressure around, and no I don't want anyone to feel bad about themselves, but honestly I think we're going in the wrong direction.  In my vintage-beauty library, true beauty was seen as a rare gift until recently.  Words like attractive and nice-looking were as good as it was going to get for most.  Pretty was doled out economically in fact.  It was common knowledge that most people were more gifted in areas other than looks.  

Feathers often ruffle at the thought of beauty not as a shift in attitude but as cold fact.  But maybe it could relieve pressure.  Because right now it seems like if a woman does not find herself and all other women physically beautiful, something must be wrong with her self-image.  
I was just talking to an anonymous friend about her struggle to accept a certain aspect of her appearance.  She said she wanted to get to a place where she could walk around thinking, "I'm_______ and that's great!" I asked her if there is not something beyond that.  What if the goal was not to see ourselves as beautiful, but to stop constantly describing ourselves?