What Is Beauty?


New TYCI contributor Aya Prita Belia writes an opinion piece on the idea of ‘beauty’ in the modern day.


What is “beauty”?

Whenever I have asked my female friends, they have almost unanimously answered, “long black raven straight hair that falls naturally on your shoulder”, “tall”, “fair skin”, “slim legs”. This seems to be the recurring theme where I come form, like it has been a universal standard of physical beauty. My best friend, meanwhile, is trying to follow a diet program because she is tired of people calling her fat. Surely something is wrong here?

Hands up if you agree that this idea of beauty probably hasn’t come from us. The concept of beauty as we know it is universal because it is forced on us by popular mass media but even what is perceived as ‘beautiful’ varies from place to place. In Indonesia, you are pretty if you have wide waist. In Korea, you are pretty if you have eyebags. In Nigeria, beauty is in the weight. Culturally, opinions differ.

According to Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth beauty is a currency system, like the gold standard. Admit it, whenever you see the mirror, you will criticise your curly hair, your big legs, your flat chest (or your too-big boobs), right? Very few people seem to ever be really happy, and that, it seems, is what media and advertisers want.

Media is trying to make women view themselves as objects within the male gaze that advertising tends to operate under. They are trying to construct self-consciousness to women and discreetly planting the seed of a belief system to keep male dominance in society.

So, let’s go back to our main question: what is beauty?

Beauty is you. You with your own body, your supposed ‘flaws’. It is our alleged ‘imperfections’ that us unique – we just need the media, advertising and our own brains to catch up. Let’s prove them that we are not an object or a doll. Let’s prove to them that we will no longer perpetuate the beauty myth and keep ourselves down.

[Aya Prita Belia]

One Response to What Is Beauty?

  1. I liked this but it would have been good if you had expanded on the specifics of what’s attractive in certain cultures compared to others.
    I’ve often wondered why we find certain people beautiful.
    Obviously, we all have certain tastes, but there tends to be men and women who the majority of people agree are physically attractive.
    I don’t agree it’s created by mass media.
    Personally, I think what we find beautiful is based more on our genes and upbringing than what the media portray as beautiful.
    There’s as much pressure on men to look ‘good’ too but that’s a long story.

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