It was not even the first week at university, I did not really know what I was studying in the upcoming semester, nor had I really met anyone beyond the boundaries of text messages, yet I still found myself angry at someone.
A student had written a piece for BAISmag, proclaiming that not everyone is beautiful, that they specifically are not beautiful, and – most importantly – that this “fact’’ does not change the inherent value of someone.
Initially, I could not put my finger on why this piece angered me. I cannot control – nor did I particularly care – if a stranger thinks that they were not beautiful. I, frankly, did not agree with anything Rosalie wrote.
However, reading Rosalie’s piece again with more mature eyes, I find that I agree a lot with it. It is true that beauty is a tool, asset, and/or currency that has provided a competitive advantage to several in the social landscape. It is true that the proclamation “everyone is beautiful” will not end the plethora of physical insecurities that breed into much scarier disorders. But what is not true, is that beauty is a fact.
Rosalie and many others in our society define beauty as something measurable, something scientific, and objective. Some people are faster than others, and we determine this by measuring how many seconds it takes to get from point a to point b. Some people are taller than others, and we determine this by measuring the distance between the sole of someone’s feet, to the top of their head.
But to make an argument – based on facts – that someone is more beautiful, requires an agreement on what is beautiful. Such a standard is not universally agreed upon. Every time, region, and culture has its own beauty standard. And even then, to conform to standards set by society, to not even question it, is to give in to the notion that society is always correct in its assessments.
Furthermore, the notion of beauty and aesthetics is highly political. For example, the unfortunate hegemonic culture of antisemitism in Europe produced an idea that the Jewish nose was ugly, a physical symbol of the “ugliness” of the Jewish people. The origins of the nose job comes from procedures performed on European Jews to hide their ethnicity in face of discrimination, an attempt to be part of the appropriate aesthetic, to be part of the beautiful. This act of coercion, forcing not just one group but all, to fit into a box we call beautiful, has expanded and grown into uncontrollable measures, as we see the rise of insecurities, disorders and cosmetic surgeries.
“So what if beauty is political, it can still be a fact” one might argue. Would you say that being “good” can be a fact? Could you concretely say that “good” has always been agreed upon, no matter time, region, and culture? More importantly – before you argue that we have social and universal consensus on what is good – do you agree with what we have considered good in other times, regions and cultures? And, can you confidently say we are “good” now?
Everyone will have a different answer. It is impossible to universally define what is good, just like it is impossible to universally define beautiful. What is deemed beautiful is complex and, I would argue, somewhat unexplainable. Beauty is not a fact, and while my opinion is not above Rosalie’s…
I disagree, I think you are beautiful.