I have a pair of pants made of an athletic, greyish-green material, with ankle cuffs. If they sound unseemly, it’s because they are, so I call these my “ugly pants” and I usually wear them over leggings when I’m cold. I could call them a less insulting name, but I delight in the idea that I can wear ugliness, in the same way as I can wear maroon or leather. It’s a way to own beauty.

Society is weird about beauty

One of my most hated marketing initiatives is Dove’s campaign for fake beauty. This is the series of ads where a corporation declares that EVERYONE MUST BE BEAUTIFUL and then preys on women’s insecurities about feeling sub-beautiful, just like every other corporation. The problem is that people of average looks are not beautiful (in the model sense), in the same way that people of average intelligence are not geniuses.

And who cares? Being average in appearance, intelligence, or any other single trait does not doom us to uselessness or unhappy lives.

Beauty is particularly weird because society assumes it’s a fixed trait and then does a lot of judging. Being non-beautiful becomes hard because it’s easy to feel worthless, while being beautiful becomes hard because it becomes all people notice. The only answer is to sneer at beauty as a trait and own it like clothing.

In reality, human beauty is not some transcendent, immutable quality; rather, it’s mundane and adjustable. Anyone can significantly alter their level of attractiveness with clothing, makeup, hair, or posture. And those are just instantaneous changes – long-term, we can also change our diets, adopt exercise regimes, or visit plastic surgeons.

The realization that I could adjust my attractiveness freed me from beauty. That’s why I love my ugly pants!

2 Thoughts on “Beauty Dismissed

  1. I think the everyone is beautiful campaign is about appreciating each and every individuals’ strengths. Everyone has something good or beautiful inside them and that is worth celebrating. Also, beauty is hard to pinpoint. I don’t think there is a particular definition of what beauty means. It’s in the eye of the beholder–as cheesy as it sounds. Not sure what point I’m trying to make with this long winded comment haha

    • Yeah, it’s true that everyone is valuable, and it’s possible to appreciate the ‘beauty’ of everyone’s forms and lines. I feel this way about drawing people – it brings out the beautiful aspects of everything. Maybe that’s what you mean? But I feel like there should be a different word for this feeling rather than the word that’s about the concept of aesthetic, physical beauty, i.e. what’s a sort-of-objective ideal.

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