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Is There a Universal Concept of Beauty

Essay by   •  October 30, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  950 Words (4 Pages)  •  2,969 Views

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Topic: Is there a universal concept of beauty

When we pass through billboards, we often see advertisements promoting cosmetics products, cosmetics services and fashion. They seem to inculcate us that facial and body symmetry is attractive. However, beauty should never be standardised. Different people may have different definitions on it. For example, thin and skinny are synonymous to beauty in Hong Kong and some western developed countries, while in some African countries, being fat is considered as attractive. The ideals of beauty are dynamic and it is hard to come up with a generally accepted definition. This essay will argue that there is no universal concept of beauty. This will be asserted by showing that how the ideals of beauty vary in different places and time horizons, and demonstrating that there is no linkage between bilateral symmetry and attractiveness.

From country to country, the ideals of female beauty change vastly. Due to cultural differences, the way how people from one region evaluate attractiveness can be different from another region. A British company, for example, sent a snap of a female body to people from 18 regions and request them to edit the image to be perfect for their country in 2015. It turned out that there are dramatically differences in these edited photos ranged from skin colour to legs (Thislethwaite, 2015). Another Photoshop campaign held by an American journalist called Esther Honig, she sent an unedited photo of herself to graphic designers from over 25 countries and ask them to make her beautiful. Unsurprisingly, there are huge differences of these edited photos (Global standards of beauty, 2014). These edited photos vary from place to place and they can reflect the designers’ own cultural concepts of beauty. Apparently, the beauty ideal is dictated by the cultural values. What is considered as attractive in one region is possibly not be deemed as appealing by other regions and this makes beauty hard to define.

The standard of beauty not only vary in geographical locations but also in different time horizons. During the year end, some beauty pageants, organised by television stations and magazines, are going to select the woman of the year. A woman might be considered as the most beautiful by them this year, just because she matches the explicit attractive feature of a popular culture. Take fashion style in the U.S. as an example, the Gibson girl style became the standard of female style after some photographs were posted on magazines in the 1910s, with the flapper came next in the 1920s, followed by the soft siren style in the 1930s and the star-spangled girl style in the 1940s and so on. In the 2010s, the booty babe style has become the mainstream. The changes of concepts of beauty can largely due to the shift in pop culture (Hart, 2015). This finding suggests that the standard of female beauty is not static and it will be changed year over year, some physical attributes we consider beautiful today are often at odds with the people in the past. Therefore, it is hard to say there is a universal definition of beauty.

Opponents of this point of view argue that the concept of female beauty should be universal as beauty can be judged by a set of criteria. Some researchers have found that balanced facial features and body features are more appealing as they could be a sign of some physical fitness (Than, 2008). These findings suggest that an individual with more evenly balanced features on faces and bodies are deemed more appealing as they are relatively healthy. However, these arguments are weak due to a fairly small sample sizes, with only 77 samples. A research, gathering more than 4700 adolescents’ health data, have found that there is no direct relationship between symmetrical features and physical fitness (Pound et al., 2014). Another research was done by two psychologists from the University of California. Participants are requested to rate the attractiveness of a set of hemifaces and full faces. It turned out that there is a strong relationship between the ratings of hemifaces and full faces, and they concluded that balanced facial features are not considered as a principal factor on beauty judgement (Zaidei & Hessamian, 2010). Apparently, these two types of research demonstrate balanced facial features and body features are not necessary to make people more beautiful.



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