The Beauty Equation

 | October 04,2010 05:52 pm IST

Human Beauty defies human expression, yet we never give up trying to define it and seek it's essence. Ancient Greek beauty was represented by the young man and the model Greek, both male and female had a muscular body type personifying health and vitality.


The classical Indian beauty was well-endowed to the extent of being obese by today's standards and embodied cosmic power and fertility. These cultures used the external beauty of the human form to represent exalted intangible ideals such as wisdom and motherhood. Beauty was more than sexual ornament and formed an integral part of academic discourse.


Beauty standards are as fanciful, unkind, and inconstant as they are inspiring. In terms of human history, wealthy eras have worshipped the slender look as it is rare in prosperous society. In times of scarcity, the plump, well-fed glow as seen in medieval European paintings find more takers as it represents an affluent lifestyle afforded by few.


Physical beauty is more prized and technology-intensive today than ever. Plastic surgery which was earlier restricted to alleviating trauma and disabling defects now serves human vanity by the thousands. Women have breast and gluteal implants and liposuction, and body-conscious men opt for calf, pectoral and abdominal implants to look well-sculpted. Bulimia and anorexia are eating disorders trickling down from celebrities to the average teenager.


The increased dumbing down of beauty defines it along the lines of manipulated media visuals where flaws disappear and proportions are unnatural. Some researchers hold that advertisers deliberately standardize unrealistic ideals to create an unquenchable thirst for their products.


'Foot binding' designed to achieve debilitatingly small feet which was the epitome of 19th century Chinese female beauty and Victorian women using bone-crushing corsets seem barbaric and outrageous to the 21st century woman, and yet, she is ready to wheel her perfectly normal body in to surgery for increased sex-appeal. Contestants in beauty pageants starve themselves to weigh 20% less than their ideal medical body weight to 'look good' on camera. What is the 'inner beauty' they apparently look for and how is it attained over a few days of training and obsessive dieting? Beauty pageants are empowering for the contestants in terms of exposure and gainful employment in fashion and entertainment. However, elevating them to an aspiration value for womanhood as a whole is a dangerous proposition.

To what extent is one willing to go to be perceived as nice-looking? How does one's perception of beauty affect one's social and professional interactions and judgments? As we are increasingly pressurized to follow democratically elected versions of beauty in order to obey a shallow political consensus, there are thankfully some countercurrents whereby a formula-based approach to beauty is being recognized as harmful to humanity.


Even cosmetic companies and designers are feeling the need to cater to a wide variety of people across the world instead of trying to homogenize humankind in to a single beauty paradigm. A wider frame is being sought within which to assess beauty in terms of improving and maintaining health and well-being instead of limiting it to a sexual qualification on the matrimonial resume.


Research shows that even the purportedly most beautiful people in the world are insecure about their appearance, meaning that the search for the holy grail of personal beauty which is ultimately related to the individual's quest for happiness eventually becomes a sadistic joke. No amount of plastic surgery can cure a restless soul from feeling inadequate unless the weightage for appearance as part of a quality life is reduced to reasonable limits, both for the beholder and the beholden.



Contributed by: -
Remya Mohan
Alumnus of SCMHRD, Pune