Friday, February 09, 2007

"The Truth About Beauty"

Criticizing Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign, Virginia Postrel tells us that some women are just prettier than others. Considering the difference that can be made by replacing running shoes with heels, fleece jackets with... just about anything else, not to mention the miracle product that is eyeliner, I'm going to have to agree with Postrel, but only up to a point. Here, though, is where she loses me:

"Whether you prefer Nicole Kidman to Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez to Halle Berry, or Queen Latifah to Kate Moss may be a matter of taste, but rare is the beholder who would declare Holly Hunter or Whoopi Goldberg—neither of whom is homely—more beautiful than any of these women."

A more PC list there couldn't be (but wait, where is Lucy Liu?). Postrel will go as far as to say that some women are just born better-looking than others, but doesn't dare associate this "natural" beauty with either race or weight. No matter how much symmetry and hip-waist ratio matter, in Western society and a good part of Eastern, the more "Aryan" a person looks, the more attractive she is considered. While there are certainly, for example, black and Jewish women society deems acceptable, they tend to be straight-haired and small-nosed, respectively. Such individuals are celebrated as examples of how open today's beauty standards have become, when they better reveal that racially-based beauty standards outlive systematic and legal racial discrimination.

While there may be as many beautiful women of each race in the world, and while individual preferences thankfully need not correspond to this particular racial scheme, the distribution of just whom society would deem attractive is far from evenly distributed. Once you're discussing "truth," it is worth mentioning.


Blundering American said...

Totally not related to your post, but I saw this article and thought you'd find it interesting...

Anniegetyour said...

This was the best line in the article: " Beauty is not just a social construct, and not every girl is beautiful just the way she is."

Yep, some girls are ug-o's.

Anonymous said...

Semi-relevant: I myself have a special fondness for Jewish women who "look Jewish": bold nose, wavy hair and all.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that people think that Kirsten Dunst is more attractive than, say, Tyra Banks or Halle Berry?

Does Sharon Stone beat out Eva Longoria?

I ain't feelin' it.

Virginia Postrel's pretty Aryan-looking but Selma Hayek is more my style.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Anonymous: No, of course it doesn't. My point is that, of the non-white women considered conventionally attractive, such as the ones you mention, look awfully, well, white.