What is Beauty, Anyway?

The Enigma of Beauty - National Geographic Magazine

If you’re a fan of fashion magazines, purveyor of Pinterest, or even a mind-your-own-business grocery shopper who happens to glance at the magazine rack in line, it’s fairly clear what passes as beautiful these days… and it’s a microscopic mold {referring both to how few actually fit into that elite group and the size of its groupies}.

The constant bombardment of beauty ~ as defined by society and rained down on women from billboards, glossy magazines and ads ~ is enough to send most women running for the hills… or at least under the covers with a pint of Rocky Road.  If you aren’t at least 5’9″, fit into a size 0 or 2 and can proudly wear white skinny jeans without sheltering under a cover-your-derriere top, then have you missed the beauty boat entirely?   Is there any hope this summer for those who see “swim suit” as a couple of the nastiest four-letter-words around?

Does society win when it comes to defining beauty, and if so, what happens to the VAST majority of women who find themselves on the short end of the beauty stick?  Sometimes I’d like to take that stick and knock some sense into society.


Society's Beautiful

I LOVE the illustration above and knew I wanted to write about it the second I laid eyes on it.  Clearly one blog post won’t eradicate a widespread, skewed vision of beauty, but at least some retailers are putting on their big-girl panties {pun intended} and taking a stand.  Just this week, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson admitted that models in the company’s ad campaigns have sent the wrong message.  He said, “Some of our models have been too skinny.  That’s not okay.  We have a huge responsibility here.  We’re a large company, many people see us, and we advertise a lot… I believe that the models in our advertising should look sound and healthy.”  Bravo to that.

And the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty launched after Dove performed a global study on beauty.  Their study, “The Real Truth About Beauty: A World Report” confirmed society’s very narrow definition of beauty.  They found:

  • Just 12 percent of women noted they were very satisfied with their physical attractiveness
  • Only 2 percent of women described themselves as beautiful
  • 68 percent strongly agree that the media sets an unrealistic standard of beauty
  • 75 percent wish the media would do a better job of portraying the diversity of women’s physical attractiveness, including size and shape, across all ages.

That’s pretty tragic to me.

These companies’ public stances are especially refreshing in the shadow of Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’ ridiculous comments earlier this year.  When asked to comment about why the retailer doesn’t carry women’s clothes above a size 10, he said, “In every school, there are the cool and popular kids and there are the not-so-cool kids.  Candidly, we go after the cool kids.  We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and lots of friends.  A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.  Are we exclusionary?  Absolutely.”

Apparently that can work both ways.  U.S. sales for A&E fell 17 percent in the first quarter of this year, with future profit forecasts cut, as well.  I also saw a national news story about a mom and her kids who boxed up all their A&E clothes in the wake of this scandal and mailed them back to the company with a note to the CEO.  Bravo to her.

In light of all this, I was especially delighted to read about a new magazine {its first issue is this month!} called Verily ~ that is by women, for women.  Its website states, “When we started Verily, we knew that women needed something different: a magazine that spoke to their hearts as women and celebrated who they are, not just what they’re told they should be.”  The editors note that the many competing messages {noise} in the world lead to a narrative, particularly in women’s magazines, that often winds up leaving women feeling “not enough.”  We’ve all been there.  I read this letter from the editor, and promptly subscribed to the pub.  Bravo to them!

Sara Kerens, Verily Magazine, First Date shoot, March 2013

I’m reminded of a great verse that says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The LORD does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'”  {1 Samuel 16:7}

Just some encouraging words to stick in the back pocket {of your white skinny jeans you need to be proudly rocking this summer!}  Let’s try to separate society’s false reality from the TRUTH that surrounds us.

You are Beautiful Just the Way You Are

“A thing of beauty {you!} is a joy forever.” | John Keats

Claire Signature

One comment on “What is Beauty, Anyway?

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