Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

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space_guy

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Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by space_guy » Tue Mar 7, 13:05 2017

In the last years, there are more and more events like photo sessions for overweight women with the goal of delivering the message that beauty comes in all shapes and that the idea that only certain characteristics are beautiful is the result of culture. What do you think about the subject? Are we born with a predisposition to find some phisical characteristics beautiful and others not or is it only culture? And aside from that, could these campaigns have the negative effect of promoting unhealthiness?

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rowan
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Re: Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by rowan » Tue Mar 7, 15:20 2017

1) we already know that what constitutes "beauty" is neither constant through time, and is driven by society
2) being "overweight" is not unhealthy. I'm not your google but there's plenty of literature out there.
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Re: Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by Sonic# » Tue Mar 7, 21:24 2017

What we find beautiful is primarily a function of culture and environment. Who's looking also matters a lot, which is why numerical scores for beauty are very imprecise - beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Image
*ahem*

But no, I don't think these campaigns are inspiring people to be overweight. I don't see any causal vector there. (And as rowan noted, that's not the same thing as "unhealthiness.")

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Re: Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by Aum » Wed Mar 8, 1:20 2017

It's hard to put words to my observation, but I would say that there's innate beauty and learned beauty. On the innate side, humans seem to find symmetry more attractive than asymmetry. There's also pheromonal response, which is highly subjective and varies person to person. These, among other things, form innate attraction patterns.

Learned beauty, or learned attraction, is when you initially may not be attracted to someone, but the longer you're around them and get to know them their other subjective qualities enhance their attraction level.

Beauty is truth and truth is beauty. Whatever is beautiful to you informs your aesthetic and can tell you a lot about yourself. It may be culturally informed but ultimately it's individually derived.
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

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Re: Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by space_guy » Wed Mar 8, 13:43 2017

rowan wrote:1) we already know that what constitutes "beauty" is neither constant through time, and is driven by society
2) being "overweight" is not unhealthy. I'm not your google but there's plenty of literature out there.
I think it is only driven by society to some extent. I doubt there is a single culture in which, for example, most people consider 80-year-olds more attractive than 20-year-olds. If something occurs in all cultures, it points to something genetic, innate.

Being overweight is not unhealthy by itself. But it increases the probability of having health problems. I'm refering particularly to obese people, not people who just have some extra pounds.
Sonic# wrote:But no, I don't think these campaigns are inspiring people to be overweight. I don't see any causal vector there.
They don't inspire people to be overweight, but inspire people to remain overweight by celebrating plus size beauty. Note that I'm not defending that the opposite is right (fat shaming), but promoting a healthy life style would be a better message.
Aum wrote:On the innate side, humans seem to find symmetry more attractive than asymmetry.
This is something which didn't occur to me when I opened the thread, but I remember reading or hearing it somewhere. It's also a good example of how the concept of beauty is in part innate.

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Re: Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by Sonic# » Wed Mar 8, 14:44 2017

They don't inspire people to be overweight, but inspire people to remain overweight by celebrating plus size beauty.
Do they? That implies that the present cultural shaming would inspire people to no longer be overweight if this messaging were absent, or that the only thing holding people back from reducing their weight is whether they feel satisfied with their current body. I don't think there's evidence to support that. What I've seen suggests that poor body image or self-esteem makes one more likely to be unhealthy. One article shows that higher self-compassion helps women with higher BMI resist falling into eating disorders. Another connects greater body appreciation among adolescent girls to avoiding smoking and alcohol use. Many people are unsatisfied with their bodily self-image; such dissatisfaction alone doesn't help them change their bodies.

These ads can promote a healthy life style. (Since no particular one has been brought up, I can't say the do.) Liking one's body seems a large part of that; if I feel good about myself, it's easier to build positive habits in my life that lead to happier, healthier living, as opposed to developing disorders that hurt my long-term health. That said, targeting ad campaigns feels like a red herring if your true target is health. I'd suggest that smoking, high levels of "bad" cholesterol, nutritional deficiencies, poverty, lack of access to nutrient-rich foods, sedentary work patterns, lack of access to affordable and/or preventative healthcare, and underfunded education for nutrition in schools are all more proximal causes of poor health than an ad campaign with a plus-size model.
It's also a good example of how the concept of beauty is in part innate.
My ability to write this post is also, in part, innate. However, it is primarily culturally influenced: a predilection towards dextrous behavior, hand-eye coordination, and guttural utterances doesn't help me type a message in English to an absent person. Similarly, scientists do find cross-cultural, basic preferences for finding averaged appearances beautiful. Yet these "innate" traits don't explain why in some cultures people find a higher height-to-waist ratio attractive, why the weight of Miss America pageant winners (a measure of conventional beauty) has declined since the 1920s even as her height has increased, or why various skin tones feature prominently in many people's impressions of physical beauty.

Also: it's disgusting that "healthy" is being turned into a code-word for "beautiful." The argument, as far as I can track it, is that beauty is natural => unhealthiness isn't beautiful, and overweight women aren't healthy => overweight women can't be beautiful. But the initial premise that beauty is natural or innate is flawed. Because beauty ends up being this culturally-determined thing, there are lots of beauty regimens that are unhealthy. Being too thin, only eating grapefruit. It'd be nice if we could think of being healthy without trying to connect it to being beautiful. /rant.

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Re: Is beauty a cultural fabrication?

Post by space_guy » Thu Mar 9, 14:10 2017

Sonic# wrote:Do they? That implies that the present cultural shaming would inspire people to no longer be overweight if this messaging were absent, or that the only thing holding people back from reducing their weight is whether they feel satisfied with their current body. I don't think there's evidence to support that. What I've seen suggests that poor body image or self-esteem makes one more likely to be unhealthy. One article shows that higher self-compassion helps women with higher BMI resist falling into eating disorders. Another connects greater body appreciation among adolescent girls to avoiding smoking and alcohol use. Many people are unsatisfied with their bodily self-image; such dissatisfaction alone doesn't help them change their bodies.

These ads can promote a healthy life style. (Since no particular one has been brought up, I can't say the do.) Liking one's body seems a large part of that; if I feel good about myself, it's easier to build positive habits in my life that lead to happier, healthier living, as opposed to developing disorders that hurt my long-term health. That said, targeting ad campaigns feels like a red herring if your true target is health. I'd suggest that smoking, high levels of "bad" cholesterol, nutritional deficiencies, poverty, lack of access to nutrient-rich foods, sedentary work patterns, lack of access to affordable and/or preventative healthcare, and underfunded education for nutrition in schools are all more proximal causes of poor health than an ad campaign with a plus-size model.


There are many people in the world and we are all differente from each other. So of course there are several reasons why people are overweight and several reasons why they are or aren't interested in reducing their weight. My point was about if those campaigns could be a factor (among others) to promote unhealthiness. If the study in your first article was well made and the campaigns I mencioned won't produce a negative effect, then it's ok.
Sonic# wrote:Similarly, scientists do find cross-cultural, basic preferences for finding averaged appearances beautiful. Yet these "innate" traits don't explain why in some cultures people find a higher height-to-waist ratio attractive, why the weight of Miss America pageant winners (a measure of conventional beauty) has declined since the 1920s even as her height has increased, or why various skin tones feature prominently in many people's impressions of physical beauty.
Because it's a mix between genetics and culture. I didn't say culture plays no role. It was about discussing if it is only culture or culture plus predisposition. The examples you gave here could be attributed to culture. In large populations (the world has a very large population) it's always possible to notice differente trends, no matter if the subject is this one or any other. There are cultures in which a higher height-to-waist ratio is attractive, for instance. But then, you have the similarities across cultures in overwhelming numbers: how attractive the great majority of people in the world find obese, old or very thin people, between others.
Sonic# wrote:Also: it's disgusting that "healthy" is being turned into a code-word for "beautiful." The argument, as far as I can track it, is that beauty is natural => unhealthiness isn't beautiful, and overweight women aren't healthy => overweight women can't be beautiful. But the initial premise that beauty is natural or innate is flawed. Because beauty ends up being this culturally-determined thing, there are lots of beauty regimens that are unhealthy. Being too thin, only eating grapefruit. It'd be nice if we could think of being healthy without trying to connect it to being beautiful. /rant.
http://www.medicaldaily.com/science-att ... ful-342688

This article tells about how our brain interprets health as beauty.

This is also true when you compare the same person in a healthy state and when the person is sick. When any person looks sick, does the person look more or less attractive than usual? And why would that be?

I have no idea why there are those beauty regimens for people to be too thin or, for that matter, why fashion insists in extra thin models. Being too thin also increases the probability of health problems and most people don't seem to find it attractive either.

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