Friday, January 12, 2007
Beauty is discipline, artistry, effort
I just read a really great article about what 'beauty' means.

I know if I wanted to be politically correct I should advocate being confident in your body and your looks. However, I think self-assurance isn't justified unless you put a little effort into the way you look. What I mean is that you can't just tell me that looking like a slob is all about being comfortable with yourself. You obviously shouldn't go to the extent of starving yourself (anyway that doesn't count as Effort the way I see it) but you have to put some time and thought into your appearance before you can honestly say that you're happy with the way you look.

"Yes, we are given forms by nature, but how we choose to present them is a matter of our own discretion. Few people are blessed by nature and circumstance with the Golden Mean proportions that seem to be universally appreciated. Thus, in the end, it is more democratic to think of beauty or attractiveness as an attribute that one can acquire, like speaking a foreign language or cooking well. To see beauty as a capacity like any other--the product of educated taste and daily discipline--is to see it as something chosen: to be possessed or left aside, according to one's preference."

The essence of the article is that beauty is a discipline that a woman can choose to pursue. And like any pursuit, it takes dedication and hard work. "A life of artifice is not for everyone. Once we see the effort and hours that go into making a body more appealing, we may decide not to attempt a labor-intensive presentation of the self. We may decide that other things are more important."

The same goes for the clothes and accessories that you choose to put on your body - some people may believe that fashion is slavery to rules that are made up by people who have far more time and money to invest in clothes and shoes and bags and make-up. However, I believe that at a very basic level, an interest in fashion is a decision to be attractive on a consistent basis. And with attractiveness go confidence, self-esteem and success :)

"In contemporary America, becoming thin is a choice that for most people requires rigorous and sometimes painful self-discipline. But so does becoming a lawyer, or a concert pianist. The celebrity press is wrongly decried for giving women false ideals. In fact, it has demystified the relationship between effort and beauty, between discipline and weight. It opens up a path for non-celebrities."

I think this is extremely chewy food for thought, especially for college girls - most of whom are particularly susceptible to being swayed by the thousands of images of gorgeous, slim celebrities that we're assaulted by. While anorexia and other eating disorders are certainly not the way to go, being healthy and keeping yourself attractive are undeniably worthy goals.

Ultimately, beauty is "something created, a condition to which anyone can have access with the right education and effort. This is a meritocratic ideal, not an insistent, elitist one."


post a comment
from Blogger Jazzy:
"In contemporary America, becoming thin is a choice that for most people requires rigorous and sometimes painful self-discipline. But so does becoming a lawyer, or a concert pianist."

While I agree with your assertion that "being healthy" is a "worthy goal," do you really believe that keeping yourself attractive (to the point where it requires 'painful self-discipline') is as worthy a goal as becoming a lawyer or a concert pianist? While I admire women who have the self-discipline to proactively enhance and maintain practically flawless physiques, I won't have the same awe and respect for them that I have for someone who's spent years perfecting a craft.

Perhaps it's because hearing a pianist is more enjoyable to me than seeing a beautiful woman.
from Blogger aparna:
Hey Jazzy, I definitely agree with you that I'd probably have more respect for someone who's spent years perfecting a craft - I think the article's trying to say that if you think maintaining your looks is a worthy goal then you should try to put the same effort into it as you would put into any other pursuit, you know what I mean? And of course appreciating a beautiful woman vs appreciating good music is all a matter of taste and priority.

Personally, I think being healthy should definitely be an important goal for everyone. Putting time and effort into being beautiful and well-dressed, though, shouldn't come at the expense of academic/career success. Which is why, on the odd days when I really don't have time to put together a great outfit before class, I don't beat myself up about it because there's nothing with having priorities :)