The role of beauty in society

Beauty affects so many things in our society. I sometimes read articles about the perfectly-proportioned face or the scientifically-determined most beautiful person in the world. I don’t pay much attention to these articles and the photos of the most beautiful people (as determined by science) don’t do much for me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes, and when I come across it, the impact is undeniable.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, beauty changes my behavior. An example is dating. I have seen how I become more tolerant of red flags if the person I’m dating is attractive. I know I shouldn’t do this. Even on dating apps, red flags on profiles are glossed over if the person is beautiful. I try to stop myself from doing this, telling myself that beauty isn’t everything, but why then do I keep doing it? Beauty has a hold over me, as it does over society.

If beauty has this hold over me, what else could beauty be doing? Maybe a recruiter will overlook a qualified candidate for a job in favor of another attractive candidate. Perhaps a parking penalty won’t be given to someone because they look beautiful, whereas for other people the penalty will be given without hesitation. It could also be the other way round. Maybe someone will be disrespected because they are attractive, having a look, height or size that other people want.

Beauty has another impact on me and to so many other people in society. Sometimes we don’t realize it but we might have something that other people envy. This could be in the form of material beauty. I see someone driving an expensive car and I often think about my own turbulent career path that hasn’t given me the earnings I thought I’d have by this age. I’m not a tall guy. Sometimes I see other tall people and get jealous at the opportunities they get such as admiration and better success in the dating game. I ask myself why anyone would want to be with me when there are so many other taller, more handsome guys out there. I had a conversation with a friend the other evening. She’s light-skinned in a country where the general skin color is brown. She has recently been having anxiety attacks. In our conversation I told her that it’s very likely that when she walks down the street, people will see her and consider how lucky she is. This is a country where skin lightening creams are a big seller. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, beauty affects so much in our society. Is it any wonder cosmetics, filters, gym memberships are so prevalent? Are we teaching children unrealistic expectations when we tell them beauty is only skin deep? Is our obsession with beauty only going to get larger?

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Alban Duro
July 29, 2022 1:47 pm

I relate to your experience a lot. Beauty impacts all of us to one degree or another. It’s weird, sometimes I see a rich dude and I don’t feel any bad feeling toward him or myself. I’m happy for the guy. I don’t know, I kinda like seeing the luxury of it all even though I don’t get to experience it. If you’ve made a stack of money, good for you. I have mixed emotions when beauty is involved. 

I’m not the tallest guy in the world either. And I’d be lying to say it doesn’t affect me. I’ve written about my experiences on dating apps, how such a big deal is made about height. I don’t mind people having preferences, but why do I have to be dehumanised because of it? 

I get pretty jealous when I see a tall guy when I’m out. I can’t help but think of all the advantages he has in our society. I hold no ill will toward him but there’s an inferiority complex that’s been ingrained in me because of society’s height obsession.

It does get me thinking, just like you mentioned. Who knows what impact we have on other people when we’re minding our own business? The tall guy who walks past me would have no idea that I feel a tinge of sadness when I see him. Sometimes when I see a couple, I look at the guy to see if he’s tall. It’s almost always the case, and reinforces my inferiority complex, that girls only want to go out with tall guys. 

But what about me, as a white guy? I know I have advantages because of my skin color. How many times have people looked at me and thought of the advantages given to me and denied to them? Sometimes when I travel I get the distinct sense that locals see a white foreigner and assume I’m rich. What could they be thinking? Maybe wondering why they weren’t born in a developed country where we get opportunities that could only be dreamed of for them.

How many times has a girl walked past another girl, one oblivious to the thoughts of the other. One of them could be self-conscious after observing beautiful hair, a slim figure or glowing skin. We really don’t know how we impact other people. It helps put things in perspective. The grass is always greener.

Somewhat contradictorily, when I see a good looking dude in a movie, I don’t feel the same feelings as I do in person. I’m straight, but I know a good looking guy when I see one. I watched The Hating Game last week and every time they showed the main guy in it, all I could keep thinking was.. damn!! That guy is good looking! 🤣

The Hating Game.png
Tyler Mendoza
July 30, 2022 11:12 am

Image is a big deal. No doubt about it. I watch YouTube fitness a lot. While it’s not always a direct correlation, there is a correlation between someone’s look and their following. If you look ripped and jacked, you have an easier chance of building a following. I want to point out that it’s not just the image or beauty of someone that determines their success. That reasoning serves to trivialize the work people put in to be successful. But image most certainly plays a role.

Layne Norton is one of the OG fitness guys who used to post in the forums while he was getting his PhD in Nutritional Sciences. He’s built a reputation as a fitness mythbuster and even he clarified that his ability to make money depended on being ripped: “It’s easier to make a living in the fitness industry when you have a six pack.” He was powerlifting for a while, a sport where appearance takes second place to the numbers. As a consequence he put on more weight, at the expense of being perceived as less knowledgeable. You’re not lean, how can you give advice on fat loss? That’s the general rule in YouTube fitness. If you look the part, that’s a major hurdle you’ve jumped over. 

To show how our obsession with image isn’t a new thing, consider what Lyle McDonald, another OG fitness author, said during an interview about rapid fat loss. A Barbie doll sold in the 1960s came with a weight scale and a diet book titled “How to lose weight”. On the back of the book the answer was revealed: DON’T EAT. To me this shows how image has always been a big part of our society and also the lengths that people will go to achieve their desired look.

Barbie Don
Jason Ng
July 30, 2022 9:34 pm

The most beautiful face according to science! How many times I’ve read that article headline. Just like you, what science says I should prefer is at odds with what I do prefer. The stick-thin supermodels you’ll see walking on the catwalks of Milan and Paris don’t do much for me. Just like many women prefer the ‘dad bod’ and don’t like overly muscular guys. Some physical features can be attractive, however when taken to their extremes, lose their appeal… in my opinion!

I emphasise that it’s my opinion because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is subjective! In the 90s I remember reading a story about a guy who obviously thought highly of himself. He wrote to Guinness World Records, telling them he was the most beautiful person in the world. Once it became widely known that this eccentric guy had been writing letters to be given the title of most beautiful person in the world, GWR published a statement saying beauty couldn’t be objectively measured. No title for that guy, unfortunately!

Although widely agreed that beauty is subjective, you would be surprised to find out how much research has gone into finding who and why we find certain people beautiful. There are lots of theories out there but the one I identify with most is the idea of having a “type”. While we may have some clear-cut features that we want from our partner, such as hair colour, height and body type, there is a lot of unconscious processing going on too. It turns out other traits that we examine include breadth of nose, length of middle finger and distance between eyes. As Jared Diamond hilariously points out in The Third Chimpanzee, “At least unconsciously, people care more about their spouse’s middle-finger length than about his or her hair color and intelligence!”

Taabia Ahmed
July 28, 2022 6:11 pm

Fat and dark? You’re doomed. Well not exactly, but yes to some extent. Beauty products and bleaching creams are very common in Pakistan. Every other morning TV show presents “home remedies” to make your skin lighter or shed pounds within weeks. The worst thing I saw was a dermatologist injecting vitamin E through needles onto the face of a random audience member – live on TV. So yes, beauty and appearance matter a lot. I see so many teenagers posting on Instagram about their workout routines and reviewing beauty products.. Cosmetic surgery is common for people working in showbiz.

In terms of beauty contests, they aren’t really a thing here. For those that do exist, the girls are usually under or in their early 20s, pretty, slim, tall, you name it. I guess that’s fair because this is exactly what these pageants are all about. People generally do not follow these shows nor do they encourage them. We’re a Muslim majority country and here presenting women in swimsuits as objects of beauty is highly disregarded. It’s against the honor of a family if a girl walks in revealing clothes in front of thousands of strangers. Our media industry is an exception though.

Skin color complexion has always been considered important especially when you’re looking to marry. An inferiority complex of being “dark” is so strong that young girls are worried of being rejected for a marriage proposal if she’s not a white fair lady or even wheatish. It may sound absurd but it’s true in my country. Qualifications, family background, capabilities and other admirable qualities are not even considered first. Many teenage girls tend to apply multiple expensive beauty fairness creams to lighten up skin tones which can cause many harmful effects.