What of Beauty?

The first day of class our professor assigned us a semester long project. We’re supposed to look into the following prompt:

What does beauty mean in the world of Botox? What is it worth? Is anyone a natural beauty?

These are a couple of thoughts I have initially, like a brain dump. If you have any thoughts on the prompt, please leave a comment or send me an email. My teammates and I would appreciate it. Since I have trouble rolling big thoughts into one elegant chunk of verbiage, I’ll address each question separately.

The answer to the first question is that because of Botox (and other quick, minimally invasive procedures), beauty is more accessible to those in the middle to upper class. And as time goes by, it may be appropriate to consider that advances in techniques and materials will lead to lower prices. The industry, as I understand it, is a cash cow and because of that we can expect that there will be huge R&D investments going into it.

However, before these procedures, the occurrence of a beautiful woman (I’m assuming this relates to women, and I’ll explain later) was kind of like a lottery pick and it just happened. I think there is casual evidence supporting this when ancient writings attribute beauty of beautiful characteristics to saintliness or godliness. Beauty was celebrated and admired specifically because of its unattainable stature.

Now that everyone can hypothetically become beautiful at will, it doesn’t necessarily devalue to the idea. Beauty is related to biology because part of the criteria we use to choose our significant others is based on looks. Looks somehow give us biological signals that forecast how they will be as a partner and a caregiver. There was a study I referenced a year ago that mentioned how women prefer different types of men for different reasons that speaks to this point.

Botox and the rest of these procedures are minimally evasive and the affects seem subtle and natural, so it’s not as easy to tell to begin with. While there seems to be some stigma about have cosmetic surgery, it’s rapidly become mainstream. In fact, high school girls are getting boob jobs and collagen treatments for graduation gifts. Celebrities have publicly admitted having work done (Patricia Heaton, etc.) to no ill affects on their career. No man will turn down a beautiful woman – either real or natural. I don’t think we’re pretentious enough to start labeling women organic/non organic.

And is anyone a natural beauty? Of course. However, I think the idea of natural beauty will (or already is) starting to veer towards exoticism and ethnic fetishes from those of the 3rd world – African, Asian, Latina, central European and parts of the Middle East. They are natural because the places they come from can’t afford cosmetic surgery – it’s not practical. They are beautiful through the West’s fascination with “the Other”. Europe (and America) uses the idea of the Manifest Destiny to colonize other countries with armies and propaganda, but also with their dicks. This analysis also implies that natural also means “without culture” or that they are not acculturated through American or western norms and values.

Earlier I mentioned I’m looking at beauty from a woman’s perspective rather than a man’s. That’s because I think men set the standards for beauty based on how the socio-political ladder is arranged. I think it’s a very feminist argument, but it’s supported by concepts like the glass ceiling, unequal pay, sex crimes against women, women’s rights issues, the Suffrage movement and other historical struggles.

In the end, what the accessibility of beauty will mean is (if it’s not already happening) rampant homogenization- everyone will look similar, but everyone will be happy with it. It’s like seeing and an increase in the supply of attractive women for men. For women it’s their ability to reach their (or the) ideal of physical perfection.

Also, I think beauty may become a more obvious class issue. There are already studies showing that people in the lower income brackets tend to be more likely to be overweight – an affront to the typical standard of beauty. Also, because of their financial situation, they won’t be able to afford the procedures, so just like Digital Divide and the Income Gap, we can expect to see the Chasm of Hotness (or something more elegant).

I’ve thought of things like Ugly Betty, Suicide Girls and Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, but they feel more like anomalies to me. America’s Top Model and fashion mags are still featuring those types of women. But I want to think about this route because it could be richer territory to explore.

Any thoughts?


3 responses to “What of Beauty?”

  1. Gao Jin Ye says :

    beauty is an abstraction of reality…

  2. wu says :

    First of all, I don’t object to definitions of beauty. It is what it is, and we like it. We can’t play police the flow of products and services on the free market for artificial-beauty-enhances, but an effective way to discourage these activities is to mock them in popular culture (beyond late night TV). Mock them to the point of taking the value away from their artificiality, and place the value back on natural beauty. If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert didn’t have to think about politics so much, they’d do a fine job with celebrities. 🙂

  3. Nien says :

    Thanks for the thoughts guys.

    Mocking them? I dunno, don’t they get work done because they felt their beauty was devalued to begin with? And we’re doing it some more?

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