According to definition, it's the qualities that give pleasure to the senses. So in fact, all of these examples, and many more, could be true. Because beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Modern society, media in particular, has an obsession with telling the public (especially women) what is and isn't beautiful: Angelina Jolie is thin and has big lips, therefore she is beautiful. Jennifer Love Hewitt wore a too-small bathing suit (we've all been there), and Jessica Simpson is famous for fluctuating weight, therefore they deserve to be the subjects of ridicule. It's crazy how far we, as a society, have come in terms of the Obsession With Beauty (an obsession which I, myself, have succumbed to on more than one occasion I'll admit). But no matter how intense this Obsession becomes, it's crucial to acknowledge that we are living in a world filled with more than 6 billion inhabitants, and notions of beauty vary greatly not only from person to person, but from culture to culture, also.
I'd like to draw your attention to a post written by little blogger by the name of Drea Morsby a few weeks ago on this same subject. Drea says her interest on this subject was piqued while at TAFE one unassuming day...
A Tongan employee stopped me during my lunch break to tell me that I have a wonderful figure that would be highly revered back in her country. She specifically noted my 'big legs and pretty face' and indicated at my shapely hips with a hand gesture. It really made my day to hear that somewhere, in some other country I would be considered perfect given that my shapely legs and short stature have been subject to the odd comment of ridicule in their time here in the western world.Drea then goes on to highlight the differences in the notions of beauty within different cultures and eras, such as...
- In traditional African tribes, pendulous breasts were considered the most attractive and the women would bind their breasts down flat to promote this look.
- Even back here in the West, in the 1920's the fashion for women was to bind their breasts flat against their chest.
- Small wide set breasts were, also, considered perfection in the middle ages.
- Nowadays large, rounded, close set (cleavage, baby) breasts are considered the most attractive.
- In countries where HIV is a problem, the men find curvier women more attractive, as being skinny is associated with having HIV.
- Until about a hundred years ago, women in china had to bind their feet in order to be considered eligible for marriage. Bound feet were considered as 'dainty' and attractive because they rendered the woman vulnerable.
- Womanly curves were considered most desirable in the 1950's. Then Twiggy came along in the 60's with her up and down figure thus sparking the 'new look', and became the first international super model. Twiggy had said that she 'desperately wanted curves' and didn't like the way she looked. She thought everyone had 'gone stark raving mad!'
- Asian cultures consider a creased eyelid to be very attractive and many undergo plastic surgery to alter their eyelids with an epicanthic fold (skin fold of the upper eyelid, from the nasal bone to the inferior side of the eyebrow, covering the inner corner of the eye).
- In Ye Olde times, it was more attractive to be curvy and pale as that indicated you were rich enough to eat well and spend your days leisurely inside. Their superficial veins appeared blue through their pale skin and thus explains the term 'blue blood' for nobility. Some women even went so far as to draw blue veins on their skin to attain this exclusive, noble look. Poor people weren't as well fed and had to work in the fields all day thus they were slender and tanned.
- The industrial revolution brought all the 'poor' workers inside into factories and thus it became fashionable to be tanned because that indicated you had enough time and money to partake in leisurely activities outside in the sun.
Wow! Talk about variety. And so we come to the confirmation that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder (or at least, the culture of the beholder). And we realise, as demonstrated by the desirable flat breasts of the 1920s in comparison to the glorification of large breasts nowadays, what is popularly considered to be 'beautiful' changes over time, anyway. Ah, it's a fickle society we live. But this is good, because it means everybody gets their turn to be acknowledged for their beauty.
And so I'll leave you with a little poem by Sam Levenson that happened to be one of Audrey Hepburn's favourites...
For attractive lips,
speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes,
seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure,
share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair,
let a child run his or her fingers through it once day.
walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed;
Never throw out anybody.
if you ever need a helping hand,
you'll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older,
you will discover,
that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself,
the other for helping others,
The beauty of a woman,
is not in the clothes she wears,
The figure that she carries,
or the way she combs her hair,
The beauty of a woman
must be seen from in her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart,
the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman
is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman,
is reflected in her soul.
It is the caring that she lovingly gives,
the passion that she shows,
And the beauty of a woman,
with passing years only grows.
Enlighten me, readers. What do you find beautiful?
[photos courtesy of pixdaus.com, wmagazine.com, cinematicpassions.wordpress.com and thomkerr.com]