Right after I posted the start of this project, a friend on Facebook linked to this great nugget of an article. I found it intriguing, and decided that this next step on my journey will be to respond to the ideas on beauty it discusses. If you have the time to read it, you should. If not, I'll summarize here: not everyone is beautiful. That title was what got me to read it. The author makes a very important distinction between beauty that means someone who is "pretty" or aesthetically pleasing, and someone who has worth. He talks about how because society demands beauty and sets a standard for it, they have to reassure the masses that "everyone is (can be) beautiful". It's a nice, but untrue statement. It's sneaky. Society demands conventional beauty, but comforts with a phrase that refers to a person's inner worth and value. And a lot of us are too naive to spot the difference.
Everyone is absolutely worthy and valuable. But not everyone can be conventionally pretty. They (whoever they are) have gotten us to jump on board with throwing this meaningless crap around because we know deep down that there are people that are ugly on the exterior, but if we say that, we become the bad guys. You are encouraged to say "everyone is beautiful." See the hole? Everyone is beautiful = no one is ugly. You have to level the playing field. Either it means everyone is worthy = no one is unworthy, or it means everyone is pretty = no one is ugly. But I think a lot of people want to read it everyone is pretty = no one is unworthy. It comforts a lot more people that way. You can tell someone they're beautiful, and leave them to guess whether you are referring to their inside or their outside. They will take comfort in whichever they need most at the moment.
The article concluded with saying something along the lines of "don't worry what society thinks, use beauty by it's real definition!" aka worth/value. Because that is something everyone possesses. But see, I'm very interested in both definitions of beauty. The designer in me knows that I can create something of worth, but that doesn't mean people will find it acceptable to look at, or find it pleasing to the eye. I also know that I can make something aesthetically great, but it has no function and therefore no value (and it would get absolutely trashed in a critique). People respond to aesthetically beautiful things. Why?
It doesn't seem fair. Why should some people get to be pretty, and some not? Why should sunsets and mountains get all the glory, and the dirt we walk on never get featured in an Instagram? It even makes me realize that there are more attractive colors than others. I'm pretty sure if I took a survey and made everyone pick between sunset orange and poop brown, I know which color would be the crowd favorite. Oh yes, brown has so much value. Where would we be without the color of bark on trees, the hair on my brunette head, the leather shoes I just bought? I don't think anyone would appreciate it if all the brunettes in the world suddenly had flaming sunset colored hair. But without realizing it, they would pick which color that brings them delight every evening and wrinkle their noses at such a boring, even gross color like poop brown.
Value and beauty are closely tied together, but they are not the same thing. And I think I've learned that the words "beauty" and "beautiful" can mean a host of different things. This leaves me with a ton of questions, and I see many different paths for exploration in this project. I'm initially frustrated by the seeming unfairness of it all. But I also see the truth that in order for something to be distinguished as beautiful, something not-beautiful also has to exist for comparison. It's like in The Incredibles when the mom says "everyone is special, Dash" and he mumbles back "which is another way of saying no one is". Yes, I can quote that whole movie by heart, and no, I did not need to look that up.
If you've decided to join me on this adventure, I'd love to hear how you've been defining "beauty" for yourself. If you're so bold, you can share your findings on any social media your heart desires... I'm using #thewonderlustproject .