More to beauty

Facebook has a video beginning to make it way through the ethereal world.  Admittedly, this video is not that new as it is a part of a larger campaign that started a few years ago.  Before reading any further, I would recommend that you see the video first and then come back to this post.  (Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you).

Welcome back.  Here’s my two cents. The video, prior to the concluding commentary, does reveal a systemic problem within modern culture, which is: beauty is superficial and can be easily manufactured (i.e. it’s not real, or it’s simply faked). This type of cultural promotion is indeed damaging to people’s (namely women’s) sense of self-worth and should not be condoned. However, the concluding commentary does not address this problem at the systemic level, which is what I was hoping it would do.

The final tag line of, “Every girl deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is” is basically true but not necessary helpful because feelings are in themselves perceptions (i.e. not reality) and perceptions (not to mention preconceptions), in this regard, are what people use to determine beauty. As long as perceptions and/or feelings are that which define reality, then what is real will never be properly defined–let alone have true, lasting significance.

The website “Campaign for Real Beauty” is well-intentioned but equally unhelpful in the long run. Nearly every page simply talks about “widening the perception [or definition] of what is beautiful” so that people (namely women) can feel better about themselves; however, all this does is simply include other superficial variables into what defines beauty.  In other words: wrinkles, grey hair, fat bodies, stubby legs, pasty-whiteness, etc were once excluded from definitions of beauty but are now included because the new perception regarding these things has widened enough to include them.

The problem for me, however, is that this new and wider definition simply exchanges one superficial perception for another, which ultimately does not constitute a real change in definition.  There is a much larger issue that is being overlooked in this process, and that is: what is beauty, and what constitutes a beautiful person?  If beauty is defined as that which is aesthetically pleasing, then a person’s perception of beauty is at the mercy of that which determines aesthetic appeal–whether that be the narrow definition of Hollywood or the wider definition of Campaign for Real Beauty; however, either determination is ultimately superficial in how it understands and defines beauty.

True beauty needs to be understood and defined in accordance with what it is and not how it is perceived.  A person is beautiful because they are beautiful, not because they appear to be (or feel); thus, definitions of true beauty take into account the whole person, which means including more than superficial features that may or may not be aesthetically pleasing.  While a person may be grouped into the newer and wider definition of beauty advocated by the Campaign, who they truly are might in fact be contrary to what is truly beautiful.  In other words, a person may be considered “beautiful” because they are fat, wrinkly, grey-headed, stubby-legged, and/or pasty-white; however, that same person could be vile, crude, vengeful, deceptive, self-absorbed, and/or downright evil–i.e. features that hardly represent that which is truly beautiful.

As they say, “Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes right to the bone.”

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