13 ways to observe beauty

  13 ways to observe beauty

13 ways to observe beauty

Over the years, I began to develop discomfort with my physical appearance comments. I don't like to listen to criticisms of my own and others' bodies, but I just as badly bear witnessing compliments and admiration. I stiffen as the descriptions and gradations of the body and their parts last. I think I am becoming chronically exhausted with beauty speech. At the same time, I have always been obsessed with beauty and am actively seeking it. The problem is that it is increasingly difficult for me to reconcile the category of human beauty with all other beauty. The problem, perhaps, is that I no longer know how to innocently enjoy it


These are some thoughts on beauty.


I do not know if the purpose of human beauty is to enjoy it. In the book Survival of the Prettiest (2000), Nancy Etcoff develops an evolutionary argument about beauty as a biological adaptation - our beauty instinct is innate and uses us to reproduce, or rather to survive. The feminine ideal of beauty, she argues, is the same across cultures, and is represented by a young woman with a slender hourglass figure with curves, light complexions and thick (blond) hair. Such a woman has the best chance of giving birth to healthy children and continuing the species.


Even if I agree with Etcoff's (racist) claims and similar theories of evolutionary psychologists, which I lay down, the idea of objective and universal beauty, which we all recognize by our genetic "beauty detectors", fills me with claustrophobic horror, as does the answer Etcoff gives to my question is can we escape from beauty:


"The look is the most public part of us. It is our sacrament, the visible self that the world presumes to mirror the invisible, inner self. This assumption may not be fair and is not how the best of all moral worlds should function. But that doesn't mean it's any less true. Beauty has consequences that cannot be erased by its negation. Beauty will continue to act - beyond its powers, in the iniquity of the world of human attraction. "


Fortunately, we know from experience that human attraction is not really subject to laws, and so are the ideals of beauty. Even if we have internalized them by birth, the infinite spectrum of our tastes and choices shows that they do not manage our cravings; our non-ideal lives. This scientific study of beauty is disturbing, among other things, because it insists on defining what is most beautiful, or evolutionarily best. Regardless of the scientific, impersonal intentions, these descriptive descriptions of the most desirable beauty will inevitably be read as prescriptive. We know this because we know that for centuries, women have been working hard to adapt to prescribed ideals.




"All women know that beauty, not genius, is what all generations of men worship in our gender. Is it any wonder, then, that so much of our attention is being paid to the means of developing and sustaining our charms? When men talk about the intellect of women, they speak critically, restrainedly, coldly; but when they talk about the charms of a beautiful woman, their tongue and eyes blaze with enthusiastic fervor (…). (…) You may disagree as much as you want, but the eternal fact remains that the world has not yet given a woman a more important 'mission' than one to be beautiful. "


"Women need to be beautiful. All repositories of cultural wisdom from King Solomon to King Hefner agree: women should be beautiful. Beauty is transformed into that golden ideal, Beauty - captivating and abstract. Women need to be beautiful and Women are Beauty. "


The first is a quote from Lola Mendez from the introduction of her advisory book The Arts of Beauty, or Secrets of a Lady's Toilet, published way back in 1858. Another in 1974, in her first book, Woman Hating, was written by radical feminist Andrea Dworkin.


The idea of beauty as the focus of a woman's life is still alive and well. We still read about "raunchy actresses", "pretty writers" and "well-dressed politicians" - we still rarely talk about women without judging their looks, because it comes so naturally to us. Of course, valorisation of one's beauty / exterior is automatic and reflexive, but we are taught about whose beauty and how to talk (remember how hetero men are usually reluctant and "unable" to judge the beauty of other men).


As this is the beauty that is being talked about, we seem to accept that women's beauty is not an intimate, private thing, but something that belongs to everyone, and this is especially true when it comes to celebrity women. Their beauty, in fact, seems to exist for our sake, and it is ours to claim various rights on it. To highlight it, praise it, question it and criticize it whenever we want. Celebrity women / beauty regularly have to talk about their beauty rituals, body care and the clothes they wear. Below marketing remains the tacit agreement that they owe us something because of their beauty - that we must own them in as many ways as possible.


Take this moment in the conversation between the journalist and Anna Karina in 1962; his question and her reaction.


Such feminine beauty - the fascinating beauty that we want to own or embody - is, as a rule, described in terms of a work of art or a gift of nature. However, I would not compare my aesthetic experience of human beauty with the one I have with art or natural beauty. Art is not alive, and nature is too inhuman, not cultural enough. If I had to compare human beauty with anything, it would be taxidermy. I know it sounds weird, but I like quality, ethical taxidermy. Like beauty, taxidermy is a combination of human and nonhuman; produces an emotional excess that I find difficult to define.


As dead and raised animals, bears are completely cultural objects; however, as fragments of nature, bears are completely out of the culture. An animal or object? An animal and an object? It is an unsolvable tension that defines taxidermy. "


This is how Rachel Poliquin writes in the introduction to her book The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing (2012), divided into seven chapters by seven "narratives of longing" that she sees as drivers of taxidermy creation: wonder, beauty, spectacle, order, narrative , allegory and memory.


Is not human / female beauty itself always a narrative of longing, and is it not constructed in various ways around ideas of wonder, spectacle, order, narrative, allegory and memory?




Just over a year ago, a woman came up with my favorite advisory column in the world, Ask Polly (by Heather Havrilesky). The problem she was writing about was the panic that she would have to watch her negligible physical beauty after the age of thirty.


"I do not believe that beauty translates into tangible social power, but I do receive positive attention from people, which I enjoy. I love when they look at me. I don't mean harassment on the street or anything like that, but the way people (of all genders) get those dreamy, rapturous facial expressions when they see me. I think there is something magical about beauty, and that makes me feel alive. When I look at myself, sometimes I feel the same sensation as when I look at a work of art that arouses my emotions - glittering, glittering, breathtaking. There really is nothing like a pretty face. "


The gift of this beauty is so great that he will have to pay it fat. Her beauty will slowly wear off until one day she disappears completely. New young women whose faces are breathing fireworks, as is the order, will pass along the street. The woman in the letter will have the only memory of her own beauty, but it will only haunt her.


The terrifying fear he feels in a scenario like this, which he believes will happen, is another example of how deeply invested we are in this narrative, this fairy tale; the myth of beauty.


For those of us whose faces do not melt in the street, beauty is something more practical.


Both Mendez and Dworkin know full well that beauty is a "mission"; something we do. Beauty, not the discourse on it, actually exists except as a practice - the practice of experiencing beauty, that is, the aesthetic experience, and the practice of making beautiful. (The third thing is an indirect experience of one's own beauty through someone else's reaction, as described by the woman in Polly's letter.)


I continue to regularly participate in the diverse work of personal beautification, which is often both fun and fun. Beauty is beautiful, its promise is magnetic. On the other hand, what we see as our distance from beauty awakens feelings of defeat, invisibility, worthlessness, despair. Many of us do the work of beauty - makeup, hairstyling, lacquering - on the good side of dealing with it.


My imagination for exiting the glittering dungeon of beauty is expectedly tied to feminist ideas (or utopias). Dworkin, again, writes:


Beauty standards accurately describe the relationship an individual will have with their body. They determine her mobility, spontaneity, posture, gait, ways she can use her body. It is precisely the dimensions of her physical freedom that define her. (…)


The first step in the process of liberation (women from oppression, men from the disenfranchisement of their fetishism) is to radically redefine women's attitudes toward their bodies. The body has to be liberated, literally: from colors and corsets and all kinds of crap. Women need to stop massacring their bodies and start living in them. "


Beauty as monstrosity or what drives us to monstrosity, the work of beauty as massacre, but also as literal taxidermy, the feminine jalousy of the beauty of other women, and the feminine competitiveness; these topics (unsurpassed?) have been elaborately addressed in the cult comedy of the early 1990s, Death Fits It Well (Death Becomes Her, 1992).


Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are charming and horrible people and longtime frenemies who drink the magic potion that gives them eternal life, ie. eternal youth and beauty. Revenge and fighting over a man (Bruce Willis), which is actually a classic woman-to-woman-wolf fight, leads to their deaths, and because of the potion they continue to live as high-functioning zombies or living specimens of taxidermy. Willis runs away from both, and by the end of eternity, they have to take care of each other and their dead, decaying bodies.


Although I adore him for Hawn and Streep and their hysterical (un) friendship, which makes me see them as a bit of a witch heroine, the movie certainly has a didactic note about the dangers of vanity. Along with beauty talk, there is always a discourse of punishment for women who enjoy their beauty too much, and the patronizing mockery of women's concern for appearance. In art history, for example, we see a critique of vanity in the (ob) image of Venus viewed in the mirror - it is no coincidence that from Titian (1555) to Velázquez (1649-1651), it is precisely the naked and ideal Venus that depicts human self-love and preoccupation with their own appearance.




I may sound too harsh on beauty, but I'm not. The problem is the poverty of our vision of beauty, which is indirectly responsible for most of the conversations I have had in my life.


Because of the visibility of the ideals we have imbibed, many of us spend years and years living in parts - parts of the body that need to be hidden and revealed, parts of which we are horrified and proud to show. In evaluating others, we are equally guided by this learned disgust and reverence.


The ideal of beauty says a lot about the way the human world works. He is racist, ableist, ageist and transphobic. Huge groups of people are already excluded from the race, and their bodies are not only absent in mainstream beauty discourse but also dehumanized.


Black is beautiful was the motto of the social movement in the '60s, but bell hooks 1992 (Black Looks: Race and Representation) writes that, nevertheless, "the masses of black people continue to be socialized through the mass media and non-progressive educational systems and internalize white suprematist thoughts and values. Without constant resistance, the struggle for self-determination, and progressive black liberation movements, masses of black people (and everyone else) have no alternative view of a world that affirms and celebrates blackness. "


The mechanisms that hooks describe are the same ones that make other minority groups invisible - both politically and physically; for beauty.


Poor vision of beauty, Naomi Wolf writes in Beauty Myth (1991) inevitably, is directly linked to economics.


"Although the myth of beauty, of course, has existed in some form since patriarchy, beauty in its modern form is a relatively recent invention. Myth flourishes when material restraint is dangerously loose. "


The success of the women's movement, the entry of women into the labor market and exit from the sphere of home, and the increasing freedoms required a "ideology that made women feel" less valuable "(…)" in order to maintain the patriarchal status quo. The primary social value of women could no longer be the creation and running of a model household, so the myth of beauty transformed her into achieving model beauty. "He did this to create a new consumer imperative and a new justification for economic injustice in the workplace, as the old lost their influence on freshly liberated women." The fixation on beauty in the 1980s is a direct consequence of the increasing number of women in positions of power and the fear of what might happen if women freely break through the system.


The modern economy, with its range of beauty industries, depends on the underpayment of women and their representation within the beauty myth, Wolf claims. What is the myth based on? "It claims to be about intimacy and sex and life, a celebration of women. It actually consists of emotional distance, politics, finances and sexual repression. The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about male institutions and institutional power. "




Our bodies, which are areas of struggle, are at the same time the scene of consumer-production pleasure. The thick texture of roses, the wet touch of an eye shower, the way we are at once a more pronounced version of ourselves - the work of beauty has undeniable charms. The same goes for buying beauty products, packets full of the potential for magical transformation, but also for trying out products in stores (I'm the kind of person who puts all the saws directly on my face).


It is time to dismiss beauty in one way.


Laurie Penny (Meat Market: Female Flesh under Capitalism, 2011) writes:


"The capitalist vision of feminine physical perfection is a shallow grave of frigid signs and brutal rules, signifying only sterility and death. If we want to live, we must remember the language of resistance.


Only if we remember how to say no, will 21st century women regain their voice and remember their power. "No" is the most powerful word in the dialectical arsenal of women, and one word that our bosses, our leaders and, often, the men in our lives, do not want us to say at all costs. No, we won't serve. No, we will not consent to dirty work, poorly paid work, unpaid work. No, we won't stay in the office late, take care of the kids, take care of the shopping. We refuse to squeeze the enormity of our passion, our creativity and our potential into the rigid corporal prison that has been intended for us since we were young children. No. We refuse. We will not buy your clothes and shoes and surgical solutions. No, we won’t be pretty; we will not be good. Above all, we refuse to be beautiful and good.


If we want to be free, 21st century women have to stop playing the game. We must end our tired attempts to believe that our bodies are acceptable and begin to know, with clear and radiant certainty, that our persons are powerful. "




Plus, it's time to embrace beauty.


At the beginning of her response to a beautiful woman, Polly writes, “[t] hey says that there is nothing like a pretty face. Because of that statement, I imagine a huge plate of delicious nachos, a good book and a cold beer. I think of dogs with strange personalities and funny children. I'm thinking about the sound of rain on the roof as you rest in the afternoon. Pretty faces can be fucked, compared to peanut butter cakes. "


In last month's caption, "We have to risk the rapture after a summer full of monsters," Molly Crabapple ends by writing about the world's beauty - "[l] love is survival, not distraction. Beauty is a way of fighting. Beauty is a reason to fight. "


We often call people beautiful because they have survived challenges, fought, been strong - it is part of our story of beauty that comes from within, which springs from human faces because of their virtues and personalities. The beauty we encounter in the world inspires us - to act, create, enjoy or simply continue to live. Inspiration seems to me to be the main idea that emerges at the intersection of human and other beauties.


Unlike admiration, longing, enchantment - the usual reactions to meeting human beauty - inspiration is powerful. No greater power of our beauty comes to my mind. I don't mean boring painters and their muses, I mean inspirational and empowering.




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