The Role of Beauty in Our Society / by Sam Abelow

 One of my favorite expressions of feminine beauty: Paul_Gauguin's "Two Tahitian Women"

One of my favorite expressions of feminine beauty: Paul_Gauguin's "Two Tahitian Women"

My dog is extremely well formed, and good looking. He can just sit and look “cool” or appealing. It takes very little to look beautiful, if someone is natural gifted in that area. External beauty alone, particularly when it is unnatural, is an entirely vacuous thing to worship. While being stimulated by aesthetics is natural and valuable, but our society has emphasized and distorted it so much, it is almost like we are reverting to a primitive state of being.

There must be a compensation from absurdly idealized bodies, seen in commercials, to a more inwardly directed perspective which values the intellect and morals. These characteristics should be equally as appealing as the outer shell of our being. With this perspective, people feel less expectation and therefore less shame about their body.  We should determine what our own ideals are, instead of allowing media to dominate our opinions and perspectives on the body. Then, we can aspire to what is healthy and balanced for ourselves.

"New" Trends, Old Ways

At first glance, trends like the Dad Bod-- a new trend revealing women attracted to men with a less then perfect six pack-- may hint at a more “balanced” vision of attractiveness. But we can plainly see that this only reinforces long-standing gender discrepancies.

Brian Moylan of Time Magazine writes:

“A man is perfectly fine if he’s sweet, cuddly, and a good provider. Meanwhile, the female equivalent of the Dad Bod is an acronym not fit for publication on a family website, starting with 'mother I’d like…' (You know the rest.) While a man is valued for his warm and fuzzy demeanor, a woman is valued as a sexual object. And the women in question don’t look like they’ve ever entered an all-you-can-eat Buffalo Wing contest like their Dad Bod brethren.

The takeaway from this new phenomenon is that we all need to be happy in our bodies and make good, healthy choices to please ourselves and live the lives that we want, not ones dictated by fashion magazines, the athletic-wear industrial complex”

Our society, over many centuries has created unequal standard for women to be objects; a possession valued only for their exterior appearance. Look at any magazine marketed towards women and you’ll find lists of beauty products techniques, weight loss and management methods and so forth.

Most of us, in our present society, have lost any sense of our inner values; differentiations of what is truly important to our fulfillment of life. This means the influence of secular media— television, magazines and so forth— determines our judgements of self. A quick glance at the American vision shows a strong emphasis on material possessions and prosperity, traditionally provided by the man and a dominated female, who is subservient and dolled-up for appearances.

Objects of Prey, or Objects of Worship

Most women experience some degree of objectification and heckling. Men may be ignorant to the predatory culture they are perpetuating. It is common for women to carry some kind of protection and often have had to use it.  There are more subtle experiences of being "eyed," and it may be true that promiscuous dress invites this behavior. Men believe its okay and can’t help themselves— women have become used to it.

It’s clear that although the recent media has exaggerated the patriarchal cultural trends over many years, we are indeed sexual beings, who cannot help our lustful tendencies. The problem is we are embracing our animalistic tendencies rather than evolving, by learning to harness and express them in a civilized way.

The way men prey on women, and the way they speak about the opposite sex when they are not present is revolting. In many cases there is no religion, or value systems, presented to the youth of today. Instead we are indoctrinated and conditioned by sexualized women-objects in Hollywood films and even pornography at a young age.

Modern Problems, Modern Solutions

Parents need to take the responsibility for their own being, and begin to teach children how to connect with a deeper sense of self. Learning to revere life, nature and women will humble our ego and its attachments to desires (read more about this here), lust and so forth. We must develop a new modern religion which combines our scientific understanding and ritualistic needs, in order to align ourselves to higher morals.

If both men and women are able to direct their attention inwards, in order to discover their own deeper truths and perspectives on life and each other, then the unfortunate dynamics seen today can sort themselves out. This could potentially lead to a society of deeper, more substantial culture. Rather than the boob jobs of the early 2000's and giant butt, of late gaining attention women and men's ideas, artistically, spiritually, ecologically could take more of a front-page, or rather internet-crashing status.

We should take a discerning look at our present social environment and decide how to navigate it. Allowing external conditioning to determine our choices morally is weakness. We must have courage to look beyond what is temporary and fleeting, what is merely sensual and limited, to discover what is eternal and infinite; that is a beauty worth sharing.