Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

The Meaning of Beauty

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The Meaning of Beauty Man vs. Woman From the beginning we are taught that God created man, and from man he created woman. It’s funny how different a man’s thoughts can be compared to a woman’s, considering the woman was created from the man. Their views on beauty, amongst other things, prove to be a perfect example of this. Centuries ago the Greeks saw “[B]eauty as a virtue: A kind of excellence” (Sontag 117). While this is still a shared view between men and women today, they share different views on how this excellence is achieved.

Both men and women agree that beauty has two parts, inner and outer; yet men recognize beauty as success, leaning more towards inner beauty, while women recognize beauty as how one looks, leaning more towards outer beauty. It has been observed that “[w]e not only split off—with the greatest facility—the “inside” (character, intellect) from the “outside” (looks); but we are actually surprised when someone who is beautiful is also intelligent, talented, good” (Sontag 118).

Both men and women make this mistake, it never fails to amaze people that a person can be smart and good looking at the same time. Society has made it seem like the good looking get everything handed to them because of their physicality; however that is not always true. It is just the fact that it is human nature to immediately observe and judge by the outward appearance according to the worldly views instilled in people growing up, for example: magazines, TV, internet, etc.

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Both men and women would agree that for millennia “beauty has continued to lose prestige” (Sontag 118). Women not only have different expectations of beauty compared to men, but also seem to be confused by the definition of beauty itself. Sontag states that a whole society has identified being feminine with caring about how one looks (118). “Hollywood” has seriously messed up the views of women on the topic of beauty: For the ideal of beauty is administered as a form of self-oppression. Women are taught to see their bodies in parts, and to evaluate each part separately.

Breasts, feet, hips, waistline, neck, eyes, nose, complexion, hair, and so on—each in turn is submitted to an anxious, fretful, often despairing scrutiny. (Sontag 119) For women it is not just the thought of a bad appearance during the day, but also the question of how the millions of pieces are contributing to it. Unfortunately, their solutions are not always the wisest. Instead they do what they believe will cure their problems the fastest. Weather it is not eating for that day or coating their faces with make-up in order to cover up that one, little blemish.

Women mistake their appearance to be their only form of power. Most women believe “it is not the power to do but the power to attract” (Sontag 119). No matter how hard a woman works and how far she goes, she must always show that she works just as hard to be attractive, “[d]amned if they do—women are. And damned if they don’t… [N]othing less than perfection will do” (Sontag 119). A woman can be told thousands of times that there is no such thing as perfection, yet that is what she will always strive to achieve. Men, on the other hand, have very different views on beauty.

Men are not beautiful; they are handsome: “Handsome” is the masculine equivalent of—and refusal of—a complement which has accumulated certain demeaning overtones, by being reserved for women only…[T]heir essence is to be strong, or effective, or competent…[W]hich is to be identified with caring about what one is and does and only secondarily, if at all, about how one looks. (Sontag 118) Men do not focus on how they look physically, but on what and how much they accomplish. A man would rather be seen as strong and dependable in comparison to skinny and well liked.

Men have the view of, take it or leave it. They are more focused on their success, rather than their appearance: In men, good looks is a whole, something taken in at a glance. It does not need to be confirmed by giving measurements of different regions of the body, nobody encourages a man to dissect his appearance, feature by feature. As for perfection, that is considered trivial—almost unmanly. Indeed, in the ideally good-looking man a small imperfection or blemish is considered positively desirable. Sontag 119) Men know that there is no such thing as perfection; therefore they see no reason to shoot for something impossible to obtain. Women see the imperfections in themselves as unacceptable, yet find the blemishes of men attractive. The opposite opinions of men and women on the topic of beauty have continued for years and show no evidence of changing. While men spend their time climbing the career ladder all the way to the top, women focus more on how they will look climbing that ladder.

Men have sustained the belief that beauty is seen as success, while women continue to believe that beauty is all about how one looks. Men and women still hold to their original ideas of beauty, but have found certain ways to individualize themselves too. As time goes on it is becoming clearer that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Works Cited Sontag, Susan. “Women’s Beauty: Put Down or Power Source? ” 75 Readings Plus. Ed. Santi V. Buscemi and Charlotte Smith. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 117-119. Print.

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