How many people are actually as beautiful as the media ideal? Not too many, I dare say. A very small percentage, I expect. I actually don’t know what that percentage might be, but I’m betting if we looked at the worldwide population (and especially if we do something daft like limit the “media ideal” to the North American/European ideal), it might be around 1%.
This of course makes me think about the Occupy movement and the idea of the 1% vs. the 99%. (I know this is an imperfect analogy, but bear with me.) The way I see it, the 99% of human beings who are not considered beautiful by the media aren’t therefore automatically ugly, even if that is what the beauty/dieting industries would like us to believe.
So I think the 99% of non-media-beauties need to Occupy Beauty.
Own your own beauty. Recognize it. Embrace it. Celebrate it.
Better yet, learn to own the beauty in others as well. Recognize the beauty in other human beings. Embrace it. Celebrate it.
Because all human beings have beauty in them—and I’m not just talking about “inner beauty,” either, whatever that’s supposed to be. I’m talking about physical beauty. I truly believe that if we open up our eyes and really look at one another, we will see the beauty in every human being.
People of every age, every race, every ability, every size, every health level are beautiful. People with scars, people with skin conditions, people who are tall, people who are short, those who are fat, those who are thin, those who have four limbs, those who have less: we are all beautiful.
I’m not talking about some kind of philosophical aesthetics here. There are people who have spilled a lot of ink on the nature of Beauty. Psychologists will tell you about how babies prefer pictures of faces that are more symmetrical than others. I’m not trying to deny that there are people who are aesthetically more pleasing to look at than others.
What I’m trying to say is that human beings aren’t art objects. We shouldn’t be judged by the philosophies of aesthetics. A sculpture that lacks aesthetic qualities can be called ugly or deemed to be “not art.” But a human being should never have their worth demeaned simply because they didn’t have the genetic good fortune to be symmetrical and have, I don’t know, “great bone structure” or something.
As a follower of Jesus, I find human value in the fact that we are all made in the image of God. When you think about that, it’s pretty neat. Despite the absolutely mind-boggling amount of diversity in human appearances, each one of us is made in the image of God (which probably says something amazing about the nature of God). In my mind, that automatically makes us all beautiful.
Here’s the really neat part: in the Occupy Beauty movement, there is no “us” and “them.” In many cases, being a part of the 1% isn’t the great privilege that it’s supposed to be. Those who look like media beauties are often subject to more criticism about their appearances, and they especially suffer from the fear that that privilege of Being Beautiful might at any time be taken away from them (cue the Keats poetry).
But the 1% have the same right to Occupy Beauty as the 99%. They, too, are—of course—made in the image of God and therefore are beautiful according to that standard. When we recognize and celebrate the beauty in one another, we brush away the differences that are meant to keep us apart.
For I believe that it is not actually the 1% who are trying to maintain their position of privilege over and above the 99%. I believe it is the beauty/dieting industry that is trying to keep the 99% in a place where we are always striving after that illusive 1% ideal, for the simple reason that they want to profit by our pain.
So, I implore you to fight any message that tells you, “You aren’t beautiful.” Fight it with every fibre of your being. Because you are beautiful, just as you are. You don’t need anything—clothes, cosmetics, diets, anti-aging creams, muscle-building powders, hair dyes, whatever—to make you beautiful.
Today and every day, then, find a way to Occupy Beauty.