In the spirit of transparency I am completing every blog exercise that I set my Grade 9 and 10 Design classes. Today we are looking at beauty and the definition of beauty that we are being “sold”
Let me be clear I believe that beauty has always been “sold” to us. From the moment when we could capture an image we have made decisions on what is beautiful. At first these were painted images, mostly of the wealthy in society. Judgements were made based on the images that were displayed such as:
- How wealthy they were (based on clothes and symbols)?
- How beautiful they were (based on the conventions of the time)?
- How intelligent they were (based on the symbols and imagery)?
These images were powerful. They told of your wealth and your status. They were aspirational. However they were also controlling. You had to conform. You had to follow a certain dress code and look a certain why to be allowed into certain aspects of society. You needed to carefully follow the constraints of the day to ensure you caused no offence.
Sound very familiar. In a recent class we looked at images from the front covers of magazines, followed by adverts for perfumes and aftershave. The class just listed what they saw, we discussed it afterwards. It seems, just by looking at what we saw you are “sold” that to be beautiful you need to be: white skinned, toned/slim body for the females, muscled bodies for the men, long hair for the females, short hair for the males and no signs of “imperfection” – no freckles, no blemishes, no amputations, no…..
So what is the difference, society was always sold an idea of beauty and it still is. For me the big difference is mass media and available money. In today’s society these images are sold over and over again on a multitude on platforms. You are constantly bombarded through, magazines, billboards, internet adverts, social media sites…..it never stops. You are constantly told what you should be and given very little instruction on how to read the images, how to identify obvious image manipulations, how to just be.
In today’s society we also have more available income. More people have extra money that can be used on luxuries. This is only a recent phenomenon as pre the 1960’s the vast majority of people earned just enough to pay the bills and keep food on the table. Now many more people can do that and have extra money spare. With this you can buy the aspirational clothes, alter the body and make the changes needed to meet the “sold” idea of beauty.
And here lies my issue. We are being sold an idea and now have the money to chase this idea – but who is doing the selling? Who is telling us how we should look? As far as I can see they are the same group that is making money from enabling us to get there. It is a circle that keeps feeding itself.
I guess what we really need to do is understand ourselves and others and allow people to just be. But that is not commercial so will it every succeed? Can we move beyond stereotyping beauty and look at the person beneath?