The story of Beauty and the Beast places two individuals on opposite sides of a continuum based on their inner and outer beauty, but the moral of the story couldn’t be more inspiring. Often times, you may have heard people argue that beauty, like love, creativity and other qualitative factors, cannot be quantitatively assuaged. That, however, is not true.
In order to understand the true value of something, people set benchmarks for comparison. And it is these benchmarks that act as a scale of measurement, even for beauty. In an ideal world, the ideal answer to this question would be, “No, beauty cannot be measured.” But our world is far from ideal and we are no closer to accepting all variants of beauty.
How, then, is beauty measured? Attributes like one’s attitude, complexion, height, fashion, body mass, personality are determinants of beauty. Whether you are selfish or selfless, fair or wheatish, tall or short, curvy or skinny, shy or bold, it is a given that you would be associated with a certain kind of beauty.
While all of those traits exist on a spectrum, they are not necessarily antonyms; atleast not in the way that allows an individual to appear superior to another. The concept of beauty is not alien to men either. Some may cringe at the thought of using the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘man’ in the same sentence. But it is a gender neutral term. Their self worth is defined by how muscular their body is or whether they are flaunting the latest hair trends. Makeup artists on YouTube sometimes get called out for trying to replicate a certain skin tone in their beauty videos, even if it’s not done in a mocking or demeaning manner.
Why? Nowadays, it takes very little to offend someone. And more often than not, we have people making allegations that are quite baseless. Consider this – if you did not think of a skin tone as being inferior, why would you find it offensive if a makeup artist used it to pull off a look? Especially when they are doing so in good stride? Please understand, using a darker (or lighter) shade of foundation for genuine, fashion purposes do not equal to being racist.
Pageant shows are one of the largest proponents of beauty standards. Have you noticed how you need to be of a particular body type to enrol? That is not to say that shorter and curvier people cannot become models, because there are other contests for petite women. But it unnecessarily creates a divide where there should be none. After filtering through thousands of hopeful women, they find the select few who fit the box. And then bring out their inner beauty to add to the competition between them. In doing so, they are actively measuring individuals’ beauty to unearth the one person who is better than everyone else.
Moving on to some ridiculously conjured up tools like ratios and tests that apply a blueprint of what qualifies as beauty to others. The internet would have you believe that by simply participating in an online quiz, you can determine if you are beautiful or not. Anaface is one such program that scrutinizes your face. It decodes the symmetry of your face by comparing it to standardized measurements.
You upload your photo, place markers on separate points of your face and viola “Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is the prettiest of them all?” The creator of Anaface, Bryan Cooley has gone on record to say that the program uses statistical information and neo-classic measures of beauty (Daily Mail Online, 2014). A little too outdated, isn’t it? I mean we are hundreds of years past the neo classic age. Is it just me or do you also think that such tools don’t help anyone? In fact, they create a sense of lacking in the people whose facial features don’t match that of the prototype.
We are not clones. We are not meant to look the same. The Golden or Divine Ratio judges one’s beauty based on the ratio of the length of their face and its width. If the ratio is 1.618 times then you are said to be beautiful. On paper these facts are just numbers, but they could make a world of difference to someone with low self esteem. The Real Truth About Beauty is a study commissioned by Dove, a Unilever company.
Women were given a list of positive or neutral words to describe themselves, for example, average, gorgeous, natural, cute etc. It is astounding to learn that only 2% of the women around the world identified themselves as being “beautiful”, with over 30% women choosing the term “natural”. Albeit there’s nothing wrong with being natural, but everyone deserves to feel beautiful in their own spectacular way.
According to this study, 42% women agreed that they were uncomfortable with describing themselves as beautiful. Such is the impact of beauty measures established by society. In conclusion, yes, beauty can be measured and has always been measured. But you have to decide what you want to make of it.