Social Question

Oxymoron's avatar

Why does society put such an emphasis on beauty?

Asked by Oxymoron (1239points) February 9th, 2010

Why does the media encourage the picture perfect image of both males and females? Do you ever wish it was less pressure to be perfect?

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33 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

People tend to forget sometimes that we are animals. Animals mate, and essentially we want good offspring and to pass on good genes, it’s ‘superficial’ but that’s how it goes. A lot of species do it, you know the whole colorful feather thing…..

Your_Majesty's avatar

Usually only the perfect image of male/female will attract public attention. I think I have no problem with that except for propaganda which is far from truth. Although some people seems jealous about this perfect image.

eLenaLicious's avatar

While it pressures many out there, I don’t find the need to look “picture perfect.”
I am actually quite happy with the way I look, and do not see it as necessary to change my image just because it isn’t “society approved.”

DrasticDreamer's avatar

The media pushes what they think the majority of people already want to see. The media isn’t just to blame, it’s people in general. I only used to feel pressure to be “perfect” when I was a young girl. At that age, I kinda got fucked up pretty bad because I didn’t feel good enough. After I got older, I realized I didn’t have to buy into anyone else’s idea of beauty but my own.

Oxymoron's avatar

@Blackberry – I agree with you. The thing is though, that society tells girls to weight 120 pounds and always strive for perfection. Male instincts are suposed to be towards women with a little meat on their bones and large hip to waist ratios. None of the people I see on the tv shows have this.

@eLenaLicious – Good for you! =)

SeventhSense's avatar

It sells stuff.

Facade's avatar

To make money.
Some people just like to look the best they can.

Oxymoron's avatar

@SeventhSense – Have you ever been drawn towards a purchase for something you didn’t need because of someone selling the product?

Blackberry's avatar

@Oxymoron Yeah I don’t understand that part either, I think humans as a whole populace give ourselves too much credit as far as thinking we are extremely intelligent. You can find examples all over the world of stupidity, cruelty, superficial vacuousness in personalities…..the more enlightned people are the minority unfortunately.

Sarcasm's avatar

It’s a bit tougher to measure intelligence. Beauty is pretty simple, and you can get it all within 5 seconds of looking at someone.
I’m not one who places such a high emphasis on beauty.

Oxymoron's avatar

@Blackberry – I totally agree. I think a lot of people dumb themselves down on purpose these days to fit in. I see it all the time in school, all of the people that are mind blowingly stupid. It’s crazy.

filmfann's avatar

In the book “The Right Stuff”, and in Chuck Yeager’s autobiography, Pancho Barnes was described as either the Ugliest Woman Alive, or one of the ugliest women alive. Yeager said grown men fought over this.
When they finally made a movie of her life, who did they get to play her? Valerie Bertinelli
If they had gotten Edith Massey to play her, it would have been more accurate, and more fun.

SeventhSense's avatar

I’m sure. I imagine we all have in an either direct or subliminal way. It’s human nature to have certain attractions and drives. It’s been shown in experiments that even babies will look longer at a pretty face over a less attractive one. Beauty and attractiveness appear to have an actual science to our minds as per some of the latest studies. Of course much is subjective but there’s apparently an underlying order that has to do with symmetry.

MrsDufresne's avatar

Because human aesthetics are the most obvious criteria for the basis of natural selection. In other words, good looks equal good genes which equal survival.

SeventhSense's avatar

Hardly the only criterion and a bit of an oversimplification. Societal standards, environment and adaptation all play a role as well.
There’s still quite a few dumb and ugly people thriving out there. :)

Berserker's avatar

I think it’s mostly because it sells. As in, we’re fed the idea that true beauty can only be achieved through material possession like clothing and makeup and so forth.

lilikoi's avatar

I am not the most beautiful person in the world, but I still can’t help appreciating it, probably for the reasons @MrsDufresne lists and also because I am a pretty sensory person.

I do wonder whether my ideal of beauty would be so perfected if I wasn’t constantly inundated with certain types of images.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think we’re wired in a basic way to look for good genes, so clear skin, shiny hair, good teeth are all markers of genetic fitness. But like anything other human trait or adaptation that was meant for survival, the media has taken it far beyond what’s necessary in order to get us to buy their products.

Before the advent of mass advertising in the 1920’s, people were much less concerned with looking like Angelina Jolie and Jude Law and more on surviving and having enough kids to help on the farm.

SeventhSense's avatar

We need to be very careful with this type of thinking as well. Lest we forget it was used as an excuse to slaughter millions of people when it was called Eugenics in Nazi Germany.

wundayatta's avatar

I dunno which way causality goes here. From the research I’ve seen, beauty is associated with higher intelligence and, presumably, higher survivability. Everything else follows from that. Why would anyone think that beauty shouldn’t be emphasized?

SeventhSense's avatar

I raised some issues but to form conclusions like you just implied is very questionable and I daresay almost irresponsible.
Are you actually trying to make an argument that beautiful people are smarter and live longer? I’d love to see that extensive research in both longitudinal, cross cultural studies and experiments to show causal relationships.
I’m a handsome man and I love an attractive woman but to say that beauty has any causal relationship is purely speculative and I can’t imagine it will ever have validity. Women choose mates and there is plenty of evidence to support that women are motivated by many things and attractiveness is only one among many considerations. As per aging where to even begin. This is very unethical.

talljasperman's avatar

Natural selection goes overboard with beauty….maybe beauty is an lasy way to indicate health…

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. I could nit pick as some do here about the wording of the question but there is too much of that going about. So, how I would handle it is beauty is different depending on where you happen to call home. In the islands of the Pacific I am sure their ideal is different than the idea of beauty in Sub Saharan Africa, which is different from the Amazon which in turn is different from nations we call “The West”.

We in the industrialized nations have a form of beauty based on vestige, balance, symmetry, etc. From a very young age we are told get the newest bike, the shiniest metal cup, the softest pillows, the more ornate plate etc. If you were on a business trip and had to chose from 2 vehicles to drive to the meeting in, one was dusty and unwashed and older but ran like a champ and had goo air and heat and the other was brand new, washed and waxed, but the electric windows did not work and the air had an odor even if told that fact many would still chose it. Why? Because, it was newer and shinier. We have instinctual wiring that says certain features are just better than others. More people like the way a Chihuahua looks than an English Bull dog. One is cite and goes good in the purse and the other………well he dose have massive arms.

Those boys up on Madison Avenue know this, they figure they take a gal who is suppose to be universally in the Western world considered to be attractive and they have her selling body wash or something subliminally it says “you by OUR body wash you will look like here, or feel like it”. For the guy it says “buy OUR body wash and your girl will look like this!” We all buy into it in passive unsuspecting ways. No one ever demanded Sleeping Beauty be a 240ln woman with a rather sizable nose. People never thought to boycott Aladdin because the leading girl was not a short portly gal with ears that stuck out. People with out much thought expected the Disney heroines to be thin an attractive. But then, that is only “Western Beauty”. I am sure in Sub Saharn Africa they could have cared less.

ucme's avatar

It’s the nature of the beast.

mattbrowne's avatar

- spiritual voids while trying to find meaning and purpose
– preferring instant gratification over delayed gratification
– ignorance when it comes to choosing meaningful goals in life
– lack of self-esteem and self-confidence
– media-hypes fueling a profitable industry sector

Natural selection is more complex. Male instincts seek out healthy women capable of giving birth to healthy babies. Female instincts seek out supportive men. From an evolutionary point of view there’s only an indirect relation to beauty.

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy yearning for beauty. But it becomes very wrong, even dangerous, when this turns into an obsession.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@filmfann I’m confused, how exactly was Pancho Barnes possibly the ugliest woman alive? I agree she is no stunner but I see uglier women every day!!! Am I missing something?

wundayatta's avatar

Damn! I need to keep a file of these things. How many times have I trotted out this evidence? @SeventhSense look up some of the past discussions on this, or google it yourself, or take my word for it.

Also, I don’t know where you got the idea I said there was a causal relationship. If you will look at my comment—just one comment above yours, so you should have been able to see it while you wrote, I said it is _associated with it.

Do you think that, as a fat and ugly man, I like this evidence? Hell no! But evidence is evidence. I can’t do anything about it. Remember, too, that this is on average. Individuals will vary quite widely.

It’s politically incorrect to judge people on how they look, or to believe anything as important as intelligence is associated with beauty, but science doesn’t give a shit what politics or sociologists or feminists say. Evidence is evidence. Deal with it.

SeventhSense's avatar

I can also say there’s no proven genetic basis for homosexuality as well but to do so is unethical. It’s true science doesn’t give a shit and that’s why ethics must supersede science where the collective implications are grave.

Berserker's avatar

I don’t disagree that a certain emphasis on beauty is acceptable, but then I just have to wonder if there’s any actual absolute definition of beauty as a whole?
I doubt that what the media glamorizes or glorifies really is beauty itself, rather than superficiality and monetary issues, but on the other hand, if beauty isn’t the essence of prosperity and power, money itself most certainly is. (No matter how “ugly” one may be.)

filmfann's avatar

@Leanne1986 Not my view. That’s the opinion of those who knew her

OpryLeigh's avatar

@filmfann Sorry, I did’t think it was your opinion, I just find it strange that she was considered that ugly. I would say at worse she is plain. The other women that these people knew (the ones that knew her and considered her to be ugly) must have been amazingly beautiful!

Pandora's avatar

Is there really an idea of perfection? I think what one person considers perfect another may not. I agree with @Blackberry, it is all primal. However we do as a society confuse skinny with being healthy or dark tans with healthy, when neither are. Even features or a curvy body can lead to healther off springs and pass down good genetics. Its not a gaurantee but without a blood test the eyes are all we have for making that determination. As for advertising, sex sells.
Do I wish there was less focus on it, yes. Do I wish woman were advertised at a heavier weight instead of looking like a head on a coat hanger? Yes. But mostly because it fools our young people into trying to achieve a weight that isn’t healthy for everyone. Some girls are naturally thin no matter what they eat but it isn’t healthy for everyone. Luckily for me, I’m beyond caring what hollywood of advertisers think is healthy or beautiful. I look to please myself and in the looks department and watch my weight for my own health. I really think the coat hanger look, looks best on a coat hanger.

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