Welcome to round one of my inquiry! Looking at how we define beauty has been an interesting inquiry in that there is so many resources to review. Everyone has some experience with beauty and therefor an opinion of what beauty is. There appears to be some kind of emotional attachment even if you are trying to look at it more objectively.
Let’s start with an shared understanding that a beautiful person is someone that holds some combination of both inner beauty and outer beauty. Inner beauty including but not limited to qualities such as personality, intelligence, grace, charisma, integrity and elegance. Outer beauty that includes physical attributes such as harmony, balance, signs of health, youth and fertility.
Somewhere along the line, inner beauty takes a back seat to outer beauty. Some may argue that outer beauty is simply given more attention initially allowing another person get to know the inner beauty. I would argue in the pursuit of beauty, we can get lost in exaggerated value of outer beauty. Others may also argue that there are political and economical reasons for promoting a certain outer beauty with certain characteristics that open opportunities for a certain segment of the population.
Beauty is a perceptual experience. This experience has both a subjective and objective element. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The beholder’s perception is influenced by their own personal experience, the culture they live in and the media they are exposed to. There is studies that argue that attraction to certain qualities are tied to the evolutionary drive to survive. Physical attributes of health and fertility that would improve the odds of procreation. The farther removed people are from the basic need to survive the less meaningful this attributes are and the more distorted the physical attractive attributes can become.
Yes cultural context makes a difference. History has shown us that perception of beauty changes over time with changes in cultural values within one culture. It is also true that not everyone around the world shares the same perception of beauty as Western cultures do. Some cultures value larger body types, other toned others slim. Some cultures value lighter skin others tanned others darker. With the internet and social media more people are exposed to western cultural values and vs versa. Our cultural values will continue to change and what is considered beautiful will change with it. Will our perception of beauty opening or narrowing with the exchange of ideas and values?. What is interesting is the value placed on outer beauty.
Gender and beauty? As a Canadian female teenager I am not alone in experiencing pressure to look a certain way , a certain standard of " beauty." Studies have shown that more teenage girls are experiencing anxiety and pressure to look beautiful. Girls tend to be more social than boys and with the use of social media, sharing of selfies amplifies the drive to “look” beautiful. However studies also show that there is a sharp rise in teenage males experiencing pressure to look good, with a slim build, stylish hair and defined abs. The emphasis on outer beauty is not limited to females and has similar effect on males as it does females. There is an increase in eating disorders, anxiety, depression and lowering of self esteem.
What role does social media play defining beauty? Social media amplifies the current cultural value of outer beauty, allows for and encourages false images or self edited images. Social media also exposes us to alternate definition of beauty and other cultural values. Social media is this constant assessment and projection of oneself based on a shared images of each other. Media has played a key role in the distortion of our perception of beauty, promotion of outer beauty as well as a distraction from experiencing beauty. The more time spent with social media and the less time spent interacting with people the greater influence social media has in defining beauty for you. The less time you experience the combo of both inner beauty and outer beauty the greater dependency on outer beauty.