Full Name:  Amy Martin
Username:  aemartin@brynmawr.edu
Title:  A Day's Worth of Beauty
Date:  2005-04-28 11:55:55
Message Id:  14932
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Recently, I was privileged to have one of those rare experiences of an entirely beautiful day. Within the day, the fundamentals of beauty existed. They were all there - wonder, simplicity, complexity, pain, interconnectedness, self determination, the necessary contrast with that which is ugly, and the narrative. In a final reflection of the months spent pondering beauty, this one day serves as evidence of lessons learned. It is proof that there is beauty everywhere if only you seek it, and that within all forms of beauty these fundamentals exist.

"The moment of seeing a solution for the first time is the quintessential intellectual experience of wonder."- Philip Fisher

My feeling when I go to check my mail is always the same. I've resigned myself to the fact that most of the time my mailbox will only contain the shadow of the light from the mail room behind it, leaving me letterless and disappointed. On that day, the little white envelope with my name in bold across the front contained a letter that would support me during my summer internship. My immediate reaction was one of wonder. Since I had yet to hear about the grant I had applied for, I thought that I had simply been passed over and resigned myself to the course my summer would subsequently take. I had already been rejected from another grant that I had applied for and so naturally assumed that I was not going to get this grant. The beauty inherent in receiving the letter was that it was unexpected, delightful news.

This beautiful day did have only major events, it was also composed of the small gratifying moments that lead to a half smile, a pleasing passing thought. As with any day, on my beautiful day I had numerous, simple encounters that brought splashes of beauty into my day. Getting caught in the cherry blossom rain walking the path that leads towards Goodhart, having my favorite Oldie play at the exact time I walked into work, eating lunch with a five year old I love – as joy defining each of this tiny moments was, everyday moments like those combine and create an arc of happiness, an appreciation of the bits of beauty out there. The sum of all those moments was something beautiful, the tide that pushes one along through life, birthing the optimist within and banishing bad moods, negativity, and stress. In a way all of these moments are mere happenstance, a product of the idea of wonder because we do not expect them, they come and go as they please. My beautiful day was so not only because it was full of simple small beauty, but because these beauties added up to something inherently more complex.

This idea of the simple as containing the most complex is essential to how we view beauty. To see beauty one must recognize this paradigm. My day was one of those "checking it off the list, errand running" days. By mere chance, I ended up running into my Spanish professor. In our simple conversation, I came to a complex beautiful revelation that I am sure will change the course of my life. He helped me make the decision to study abroad for a year rather than a semester. Although such a switch may seem incredibly simplistic and inconsequential to some, the decision represents the culmination of a period of difficult self growth, a choice and a chance that I have chosen for myself. In many ways, it is my first major decision as an adult. Without the simplistic mundane chance run-in with my professor, I would have never come to this complex realization that led to the exciting beauty of embarking on an entirely new adventure. The beauty is the simple and the complex, the smallness of deciding to spend the year away, and the complex personal significance such a choice has in shaping myself and my life.

"Beauty is built out of individual pleasure around an object or idea. It may be personal, but gains in strength when it is shared with others." - Ronald Hoffmann

My decision to leave Bryn Mawr, home, and my country was like skipping a stone on a pond. The repercussions and effects are felt by more than just the little stone jumping puddles. Sharing the news with my parents and my best friend only deepened my joy in the decision, their support and recognition of the beauty in such a decision caused me to be more confident in it. An essential question of the beauty debate remains that of the validity of beauty. If those whom you love and esteem do not share your view of what is beautiful, does it become inherently less beautiful to the original perception of beauty?

"Dissonant chords or even entire movements need to be understood in relation to the whole." – Susan S. Levine

The pain and emotional agony I caused my boyfriend in revealing my decision did threaten to diminish its beauty. As he suffered and struggled with something that I found so exciting, so shimmering and beautiful in all its promise for myself, his pain at what I found beautiful was disarming. In a perverse way, his pain served as the ugly, that is always needed to highlight the beauty. I made the decision to go abroad to seize my opportunities and independence – to prove to myself that if I leap the net will appear. In his pain, I saw a rejection of all those emotions that were this beautiful pearl of promise in front of me, and as he cried it only became brighter and brighter. Ultimately, everything one defines as beautiful is a judgment. Leaving for a year stands as a rejection of another path, as it symbolizes my own creation of independence, of myself – it also implies that I have judged the alternatives to be unworthy, ugly. Perhaps, this rejection only amplifies the dichotomy we see between our own determinations of what is beautiful and what is ugly.

"Beauty is created out of the labor of human hands and minds."- Ronald Hoffmann

Despite the negative connotation of the "judgment", we can never see everything we experience as beautiful. Therefore in finding the beauty we must judge, despite the ethical, moral, and political implications that may arise from such judgment. So in my own arbitrary, self determined decision - the day was beautiful. Beautiful in my gratitude for all the good that the day revealed- the grant for the summer, the cherry blossoms, the chance encounters, the clinching decisions, the support of those who loved me, the contrast to the alternative, the budding of spring, the owning of myself and my life. Ultimately, this idealization and beautification of one day, the singling out is the narrative. I wanted the day to symbolize the pure ideal of beauty, to be beautiful like we find nature beautiful, merely for being itself. In the creation of a narrative, I have set it apart in an almost sacred notion of the beautiful, to separate it from the political and social implications of beauty that have plagued us, from the questions of justice and ethics and judgment- to be beautiful in the gratitude I have for it, its unexpectedness, the hint of G-dliness I see in all the seconds and scenarios aligning to create a moment in time that I can designate as beautiful. Alone any of the moments may have been inconsequential like the Oldie on the radio, or meaningful but not necessarily beautiful like the study abroad decision, yet in their sum, the weight of it all created the beauty.

After close analysis and deep study, what emerges from the beauty discourse is beauty's omnipresence. Beauty does not exist merely in that which pleases aesthetically, nor in the realization of an ideal, the equation of a problem, the adversity against the struggle, the love between a mother and a son, nor in the stories we create to fulfill the voids of meaning in our lives. Although the word itself may wear thin, the idea of beauty is essential to the human condition. We each have to find something beautiful to have the will to persevere. Despite beauty's presence in all realms of life, the concept of beauty would not exist were it not for the notion that we believe it to be rare. In fact, we depend on "the basic fact that beauty visits, never stays." It is within the balance between being so vigilantly aware of the beautiful that we destroy the wonder, and being overly coarse, turned off to the splendor of living, that we must - in order to thrive – create our own worlds of beauty, etching out a space for the sublime in the muck of quotidian life.

Full Name:  Amy Martin
Username:  aemartin@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Footnotes for
Date:  2005-04-28 12:51:21
Message Id:  14934
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Philip Fisher, Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998) 75.
Ronald Hoffmann, "Thoughts on Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry." Preface. Issue of Aesthetics and Visualization. Hyle, 1.
Susan S. Levine, Beauty Treatment : The Aesthetics of the Psychoanalytic Process The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2003.
Hoffmann, 4.
Fisher, 34.

Full Name:  Alice Kaufman
Username:  ajkaufma@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Make Something Beautiful
Date:  2005-05-04 15:02:49
Message Id:  15034
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Beauty,Spring 2005 Fifth Web Papers On Serendip

Note: All references can be found in an in depth dictionary or are what I believe to be common knowledge, and are therefore not listed. If something needs to be referenced that has not been, I will hastily do so.

Do something beautiful. Pah. What can I do? I can't act out a scene—that would require memorizing complex words in a fluid way, or giving emotions that I don't have in me. I certainly can't sing. I tried to learn to dance once, and while I think I could one day, I have to admit I don't know how right now. I used to draw, but what to draw, with what supplies, what picture would I form? I used to write poems, but that was a long time ago. I feel so tired and hollow, I couldn't even tell you a story. I could read one, certainly; I could read hundreds of beautiful things, but they are all reflected from me, not created by me. I feel like a mirror with no substance of her own.

But mirrors can lie, can pretend they have something of their own to offer the world. If I am a mirror, I can take what I see and what I'm influenced by, and twist it and shape it into something that seems to be from me. Then it will be from me, you see, then I will have added to it, created a tiny new piece. I can do that. I can tell you a story. I can tell you all stories.

Once there was a garden, with a large, beautiful tree in the center, with all plants and all animals inside, and a man and woman. This did not last, and they had children who came to no good at all (one had to move east). A sled named 'Rosebud' was built. Eventually, there was a great flood of water all over the earth. Meanwhile, a god named Uranus ate his children, until one of his sons rose against him, beat him, and then the son began eating his children. The cycle ended with a great deal of incest, and the family settled down a bit. At least, they seemed to, but then they fought a great deal again and started wars that men became involved in as well. In a particularly long stretch of fighting, a warrior named Achilles avenged his lover Patroclus, and fought very bravely until he was shot in the ankle. That war ended with Odysseus, who had a terrible time getting home because of the squabbling god family again. (The losing side of the war was very sad and sorry, because they then had to deal with Aeneas, who was very dull and did everything Odysseus had done earlier.)

The sled named Rosebud was given to a little boy on a mountain. The ancestor of a third cousin of Odysseus was a man named Gilgamesh, who went on a very long quest and got into quibbles with his own gods. These gods were older than Uranus's brood, and were born before the tree was planted in the garden. A brother and sister once hid in a nutshell from a different, but equally gigantic tree when the floods came (remember, this was the same flood as before.) The brother became a dragon and the girl was cut into tiny pieces, in one of the earliest examples of misogyny, and these pieces populated all the world with people. This must have been a different people than the children east of the garden and the warrior-kings. Eventually, all of these peoples (and a good many more) came together to fight, which was a shame. But they shared their stories, and that was a pleasure.

When several of these peoples met each other for the first time, there was an empress of Rome named Livia, who was awfully clever and occasionally mean. Her nephew Claudius wrote about her adventures and their family. Their empire was truly vast, and they had flush toilets, so people like to talk about them now. But in the frigid north, there was a small tribe who resisted. The tribe's greatest fighters were Asterix and Obelix. On a small island that the empire had conquered, there was a man named Beowulf, who fought two particularly bad monsters. My friend says it was really a story of the love between mother and son. Much later on this same island lived a wizard and a king and several knights and a funny table, and they each had adventures of their own, and were all terribly interesting. But even more interesting was the fairies who meddled and mixed families with them, and a debate whether or not one of the knights slept with the queen. (It all ended sadly, as these things seem to do.) Before the Roman empire was fully established, there was a prince who killed his father and married his mother to become king, and even though this was an isolated occurrence, a pinched little man would one day take this story and base all his theories on it. The little boy with the sled was taken away from the mountain.

Families continue to be complicated. Much much later, there was a king named Charles V, who was very fond of fish and seemed to live forever. He saw more wars and alliances and children and marriages than anybody in the world. Eventually he became tired of being king, for he had to be the Holy Roman Emperor as well, which didn't mean much at the time but by golly, it still wasn't a job to sneeze at. He left both of these jobs and went to live in a monastery. All the kings and queens at this time were marrying each other and their cousins, and everyone's family trees became hopelessly muddled. A little south of the old empire, a young girl had to tell a new wonderful story every night for a thousand and one nights, and each one was more entertaining than the last. We should all be so talented. A little north, there was a bandit king who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and everyone wore green tights, because it was so cold and damp.

The poor to whom the bandit king gave money were a strange and varied bunch. There was a girl who wore ashy clothes, and a pair of lovers that could turn themselves into carnations and churches. The girl was an acquaintance of a soldier that made a bargain with the devil, and became rich, but he had to wear a smelly bear skin. The devil wasn't so bad in those days, it seems to me; he told everyone the truth, and his grandmother lived with him, and she occasionally gave some of the devil's chin hairs to travelers on quests. This seems awfully obliging. Evil sprites, on the other hand, tricked people out of their children and cursed toads to sit on wells and poison water. Luckily there were good sprites and fairies too, who made some girls cry tears of jewels. This sounds like it would hurt to no end, but no one mentioned if it did. Back then, you could tie a knot in you handkerchief and tap it on the ground three times and an army of gnomes would come to you and build a mountain castle for you. Just try getting them to help you now.

If they weren't mucking about in the supernatural, people were falling in love with the children of their enemies, and tragically committed suicide because they believed the other to be dead. Some cross-dressed and wooed their true loves while pretending to be someone else. When two husbands are falsely convinced that their wives are cheating on them, the wives play tricks on them, and eventually everyone plays tricks on their supposed suitor. Husbands and wives always distrust one another in these types of stories; even the comedies are kind of sad, if you think about it. But the little boy on the mountain grew up to be a very rich man.

After seeing the disasters that the group of people above made with romance, some have gone back and tried to find love with magical sorts. Sometimes selkies can come to the shores and shed their skins to stretch out in human form. If you steal their skin while the selkie isn't looking, you can make her your wife, but she'll always look for her skin. She won't be happy. The man who had used to have the sled wasn't very happy either, even after he made all his money. Men can be unhappy too, you see. Remember the prince who married his mother; he was so sad he gouged his eyes out, and he didn't even mean to do anything wrong. Another man had to drink blood from the necks of other people to stay alive, and he must have had a pretty sad existence too. Well, he enjoyed his murderous life while it lasted, but he was stabbed in the heart in the end, and he couldn't have been happy about that. His friend was a fairy who collected teeth of children while they slept.

Don't think me morbid; this story isn't done yet, anyway. One of the children whose teeth were taken by the fairy moved from India to England, and found a secret garden. She met a young boy who then became a man, and he was was hired as a detective, and he had to try to find his partner's killer, and it turns out the statue of the falcon he was looking for was fake and the killer was the girl all along. His brother was a doctor, and he dug up a dead body and brought it back to life, and the creature he brought to life was chased by the townsfolk. The man with the sled and a lot of money lost his friends and wife, and he was lonelier than ever. Take heart, though—a little deer became prince of the forest. A southern woman lost her man, but she kept her plantation, and it was okay, because tomorrow is another day. The deer and the woman didn't know each other, but they did each know a man who haunted a Paris opera house. On the other side of the world, a little spider saved a pig's life.

The man with money and no friends said "Rosebud" before he died. Even though he had many things, we don't want to become that man. That was told to a little girl who was born in the middle of a country. She cried sometimes, but laughed sometimes, too. It would have been nice if she had been able to go where the wild things are, but she never made it. I think it was antisocial of her. She had a little brother with whom she could play and fight, but no cat in the hat, just a dog. The girl grew up some, and went to school, and met some very nice people. Their tests made them tired and uncertain. But they all lived happily ever after.

Full Name:  Marissa Patterson
Username:  mpatters
Title:  Beauty Expanded
Date:  2005-05-05 16:21:59
Message Id:  15050
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Coming into a class on beauty I had high hopes that I exit the year with a whole new perspective on what I considered beautiful and I can gladly say that I was not disappointed. Through discussions, readings, presentations, and guest speakers my perspective has broadened and flowered into a new way to view the world. I think that the most thought provoking modes of presentation were the descriptions by different professors about what was considered beautiful in their field. Many of them, such as physics and psychoanalysis, were fields I had never before considered beautiful and hearing the ideas brought up by the presenters gave a whole new perspective to my ideas.

The discussion by Dr. B about light was one of the first that really made me think. The ideas regarding the dichotomy between the colors we see with our brains and the colors that can be made with light were perplexing. How is it possible to see magenta if it is not on the spectrum? Why is it that yellow and blue make green, but yellow light and blue light somehow make white light? These questions and others made me think harder about the link between what exists and what I see. I began to wonder about other objects in the world that are not as they seem. Are the sounds we hear not really the same as the sounds that are produced? If taste is made up of inputs from a limited number of taste buds, what does that say about a delicious meal? It made me ponder whether what I had always thought of as beautiful was simply my mind playing tricks on me, causing me to see beauty where perhaps there was none.

But the more that I thought about it, this disparity between what I think and what exists is somehow made more beautiful from the confusion it creates. The fact that I can see a beautiful magenta flower though the color magenta does not actually exist in the spectrum is an amazing feat of mental capability. My delicious dinner that was simply a combination of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter flavors somehow melted into a delicious array of tastes that did not particularly embody any specific taste-bud region. This ability of the brain to produce such diverse tastes and colors that do not truly exist in nature is mind-boggling in its beauty, a beauty I was not aware of until I learned of it in class.

A short time later we were introduced to the beauty that can be found in physics, a subject I had never thought of as being particularly beautiful. Yet the presentation revolved around the idea that beauty in art is very similar to that of science and that equations and mathematical concepts are beautiful in there own right. The discussion of beauty in physics focused on familiar concepts, such as the location of the earth in relation to the sun and other planets and the idea of a time/space continuum, but I had never before contemplated them in regards to their beauty. The idea that "beauty in physics is taking two unrelated concepts and making them into one joined concept" really resonated with me. I could truly appreciate the idea of simplification of the earth's processes into concepts and equations. There seems to be a great beauty to be found in physics (and other sciences) that take seemingly unexplainable workings of the earth and compress and simplify them into understandable formulas and theories. It is amazing to think of the mental capabilities needed to take an observed phenomenon such as the fact that objects fall when you drop them, then be able to translate that into the concept of gravity, then simplify it farther to equations such as w=mg, or weight equals mass times acceleration due to gravity, measured at a nice and simple 9.8m/s2. The thought that such grand physical properties are constant no matter what occurs is a beautiful concept as well. No matter if you are tossing a penny from the empire state building or a bowling ball onto your toe, the acceleration will always be 9.8 m/s2 and both will most likely hurt someone when they land.

Soon after Mark Lord presented us with his concept of beauty in theatre. His ideas seemed to focus more on what could be deemed the "not-beautiful," trying to find beauty in the unexpected, the thought provoking, or the odd. Originally working towards removing any beauty from his works he eventually found himself adjusting passages in order to incorporate beauty and symmetry into his work. My perception of beauty was greatly enhanced by his words, for prior to this discussion I had often focused simply on the stereotypical beauty but Mark's words encouraged me to try and seek out objects that might not normally be thought of as beautiful and to try and discover of hidden internal beauty about them. Mark also proposed the idea that beauty is fleeting, that it is just a moment in time not to be repeated. I found myself very displeased by this concept. I enjoy preserving beauty, looking at paintings, taking pictures, writing down recipes in order to recreate the original beauty experience at a later date. Yet Mark seemed to feel that this conservation of beauty lessens the experience, perhaps taking the sum of beauty available and spreading it out over time instead of being focused on one moment. Though I am still trying to incorporate this idea into my beauty perspective I can understand why temporality is so vital in theatre where every performance is different from the last and can be beautiful in its own diverse fashion.
Another interesting presentation was that of Susan Levine, a psychoanalyst. This topic significantly broadened my perception of beauty for I had never previously thought about therapy in regards to being beautiful. Many of the things she said struck a major chord with me however. My desire to become a doctor includes a wish to experience the beauty that comes from helping other people, to "fix" them and make their lives whole again.

This desire was echoed in a similar format when Susan spoke about her work with her patients, creating a "coherent narrative" in an attempt to understand why a person would behave in the fashion they do. She spoke about this healing needing to be focused on a relationship in order to be successful and productive, trying to eliminate any of her own negative contributions to make the relationship a positive one focused on the healing. She sought out patterns in her patients in an attempt to delve into their histories and discover what events were vital to the formation of their personalities. I found this idea simply fascinating. Though similar to the diagnosis and treatment of a medical doctor, this is instead a healing of the mind, a search into bits and pieces of meanings and memories in an attempt to get a whole clear picture. I found this ability of hers to accomplish this search for and piecing together of meaning intensely beautiful and I hope to be able to incorporate a similar beauty into my future profession.

Philosopher Christine Koggel gave a more historical look at beauty, speaking about the ideas various other philosophers had about beauty over time. She brought up the question of "who judges beauty," forcing me to think about how I my everyday life I serve to perpetuate stereotypes or encourage misconception. Though this presentation might not have expanded my own perceptions of beauty it served the purpose of causing me to become more aware of what effect my actions (or inactions) have on other's views of beauty.

She spoke about false consciousness, where the "oppressed" unwillingly adopt the views of the "dominant class." In relation to beauty that translates to the common normal person viewing the media and adopting the ideas presented therein about beauty, though those ideas come from a very small group of people. From this I gained the hope to be able to break free from this assumed stereotypical belief about beauty and to transition to discover for myself what paintings, people, foods, music, and flowers I find beautiful.

The topics brought up over the semester in this English class have enabled me to do just that. I am now able to try and see through the mask, to look at objects that are considered by "everyone" to be beautiful or ugly and to concentrate on the object itself, throwing away the conventional thoughts often associated with it. In this way I can better view the world for what it is rather than what others say about it. This course has given me the ability to look at an mathematical equation and find beauty in its simplicity, to look at a pink cloth and find beauty in the idea that there really is no pink at all, to look at the healing process one goes through after a traumatic even and find beauty in the mending of a life. My ideas about beauty have been so greatly expanded by this class and I know that I will take the concepts presented here and use them to view the world in the future, allowing me to find a more beautiful life experience.

Full Name:  Katy McGinness
Username:  kmcginne@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Final Thoughts on Beauty
Date:  2005-05-06 13:47:01
Message Id:  15060
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Throughout this course I have had the opportunity to reflect upon my own beliefs about beauty, as well as to be open to and hear other people's beliefs. I have explored beauty in paintings, in pieces of literature, in chemistry and physics, and the consequences of ascribing standards of beauty to human beings. One thing that I can say I have taken from this course is a reinforcement of a belief that I have held for many years: that beauty is a subjective and personal experience. Everything that we have done has reminded me more and more strongly of this conviction of mine.

The paintings at the Barnes Institute were widely considered beautiful. I for one especially enjoyed the older (i.e. medieval, if only for their eeriness) pieces of artwork as well as the non-Western displays. Many of my classmates enjoyed the French paintings a lot, and I must admit that I hated Renoir's portraits of women (although I found his landscapes delectable). His portraits of women were ugly—and grotesque, even—to my eyes. Nonetheless, several of my fellow classmates found them extraordinarily beautiful (as apparently did Barnes himself). It occurred to me how subjective beauty really is as I was conversing with classmates after the tour. Even in such a small setting (with a fairly limited display) there was much disagreement over what was and was not "beautiful."

Previous to taking this class, I would not have believed for a minute that the hard sciences could be in any way beautiful (although I definitely would have agreed that chemical reactions can be quite beautiful). Physics, mathematical equations, etc. were in an entirely different realm from what I thought could be considered beautiful. Upon listening to some of my classmates who were more the "math-and-science" types than I was, it occurred to me that even these fields are very beautiful (more beautiful for them than paintings or photos, even) for many people. My mind was suddenly opened up to a whole new definition of beauty that I had previously not been able to see.

I still am not a math-and-science kind of person (I am pretty "right brained"), so it remains difficult for me to truly appreciate the beauty that can arise from mathematical equations or phenomena of physics experiments. Nevertheless, the fact that many of us can and do find such things so beautiful has really opened my eyes to a new world of beauty that for many plainly exists. Beauty in this sense is highly personal in that wherever one's passions lie, it is there that he/she will find beauty.

Biology professor Paul Grobstein noted how, without human perception, the concept of beauty does not exist. It is our appraisal of an object as beautiful—not the object itself—that allows us to deem said object beautiful. This notion reinforced my idea that beauty is inherently subjective and likely to vary across different individuals and cultures, and that Plato's concept of the "true forms" of beauty (i.e. a sort of fixed beauty that is independent in an object) is far too simplistic an explanation for beauty.

Take, for example, the Western beauty ideal of the blond, blue-eyed individual. If it is true that this ideal is a "true form" of beauty, how does it take into account the fact that nomads in Mongolia for instance probably do not find such an ideal beautiful at all? I feel that Plato's explanation for beauty was too narrow and too Western-centric to fully account for all that is considered beautiful in this world.

The articles about Dr. Stephen Marquardt and his "golden ratio" face mask (courtesy of Eebs) infuriated me. Here was a plastic surgeon who was not only attempting to explain "true beauty" in purely Western terms but who was also advocating the bending and shaping of faces in conformity to such terms. This man is making money by reinforcing negative cultural stereotypes that undermine the self-esteem of scores of individuals. I personally find the evidence supporting the arguments for the "golden ratio" standard of beauty questionable at best, and the fact that this standard was a product of Western culture (ancient Greek, to be exact) only makes me more suspicious. How can the golden ratio standard explain the fact that many people's faces do not fit this standard of beauty? My guess is that it cannot explain this, and that it is simply an attempt to objectify that which cannot be objectified.

For my group's beautiful texts, we did Allen Ginsberg's (my choice) poem "Sunflower Sutra" and "Angela's Ashes" (another group member's choice). The reason I chose Ginsberg was because I love Beat poetry, and I find its anti-authoritarian nature and the fact that it was written in rebellion to the Establishment to be very beautiful. In addition, the Eastern religion tinge that the poem's title ("Sunflower Sutra") contains is incredibly beautiful to me (plus the fact that the poem is written about a gorgeous flower). In general, I personally find poetry so beautiful because it is far less structured than prose, and the author has more freedom to incorporate his/her own personal style into it.

A few of my group members, however, did not share my affection for poetry, nor were they particularly impressed with Ginsberg. Likewise, I did not love "Angela's Ashes," although it was undeniably gripping. All of this again fed my belief that beauty is not only highly subjective (in that some of us liked poetry more than prose, others liked prose more than poetry), but also highly personal (much of the reason that I found Ginsberg's poetry beautiful was because it is congruous with much of my own personality and belief systems).

Finally, our discussions on the social/political consequences of beauty alerted me again to the dangers that arise when the dominant society attempts to impose an objective standard of beauty onto the masses. Women starve themselves, men overdose on steroids, and people of minority group status are discriminated against when this occurs. Saltzerg and Chrisler recount in "Beauty is the Beast" of all that women in our society put themselves through in order to achieve the ever elusive standard of beauty that society feeds to them. People's forms of beauty in reality are diverse, and when the Establishment fails to realize this, many of us can get hurt.

I have learned a lot about beauty in these last fourteen weeks. I have not only experienced other people's creations of beauty, but I have also been able to create my own forms of beauty. My beliefs have been challenged, expanded, and strengthened. One such belief that has been strengthened is my belief that beauty, in all of its forms, is subjective (in that it varies from individual to individual and from culture to culture) and personal (in that it reflects underlying aspects of our own selves and our own personal pasts). Everything that I have undertaken in this course has further allowed me to develop this conviction, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Full Name:  Kat McCormick
Username:  kmccormi@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Redemption
Date:  2005-05-06 16:24:42
Message Id:  15065
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Sitting on the Greyhound bus riding from Baltimore to Philadelphia, I realize the old dream of the "industrial north" is a carcass now: I pass abandoned buildings and warehouses and factories. The hard-tacked shiny new metal, the productivity which used to define a region, has decayed into a rusting hulk. The people here no longer emit the same glittering, bustling pride. Transformations like this occur daily, slowly, the minute reductions of time compiling to change entirely the surface of who we are.

At seventeen, I fell in love for the first time. Though that love was beautiful, this is not a story about that love, or any of the women and men I have loved since. I only mention it because it was with a girl, my best friend- the detail of her gender a fact which my parents found revolting. When I told my mom, she threw the typical "my daughter is gay" fit: screaming, yelling, throwing lamps, even pulling out my hair. I say typical, because in the time since, I have heard so many stories like this. For me, though, the experience was distinctly atypical. That was the first of two times in my life I have heard my mom raise her voice, and the first and only time I have heard her curse. She said that she doesn't want to be a part of the lesbian exploration of my life, that it is too painful for her, that I should call her in eight years, when it's over.

I wonder when I'm going to be able to laugh off anything about my mom, which I almost certainly should.

Two years later, she decided to tell my dad. I was living with him, it was the summer after my freshman year of college. Afterwards, he sat heavily at the table, contemplating.

"I'd rather you be a leper than a lesbian. You're better off losing a leg, or half your brain cells," he said. He aimed those comments at me, like a javelin, feeling the weight of them before hurling them across the room. Each designed to make me feel ashamed, shocked by his disgust, crumpling under the pressure and strength of it. Each comment did knock my breath from me, coming under the guise of unconditional love.

I was determined not to let him see my emotion, and determined to as best I could not feel it myself. Exacting a form of rigidity in myself was the nearest thing to escape I could find or afford. Perhaps this is just the drama of being young and feeling things rub raw against you- when you are young, you have not yet developed calluses. I'd say it was the curse of youth, but I'm beginning to think that "settled" is an illusion at any age. My parents seem no more settled than me.

On the days of that interminable summer, I found it helpful to think that I was concieved with the intention that I would one day be the only judge of what is truly best for me. I continue trying to realize and validate that intention, the right of being born. You were born, and so you're free. What distinguishes humans from other living things is our ability to change environments and the intelligence to know what power that holds.

My parents wanted me to transfer out of Bryn Mawr to a small Christian college in Texas. They refused to pay for Bryn Mawr, saying they could not financially support my schooling at a women's college, an environment which they saw as enabling my sexual decisions. Financial abandonment was just another form of emotional dissertion that was also threatened. But while I had defense against thier opinions, money was another matter. As my Dad said, "He who has the gold makes the rules." I decided that no matter what else happened, I needed to get myself some gold.

Three years later and miles and miles in debt, I am set to graduate a week from now, from Bryn Mawr- and institution which I chose, and an education which I paid for. Coming to celebrate this achievment with me are my parents. Ultimately, we have come to an understanding: we respect eachother for the strength of our convictions, and our determination to act on them. They are proud of me for achieving what I wanted to achieve, despite that it is not what they wanted for me, and that they did nothing to support it.

I was talking with a friend last night about what, if anything, is beautiful in this story. She asserted that it was beautiful because it was a story of redemption, of a parent child bond that lived through the ultimate questioning of whether a parent's love can, or should, be unconditional. We learn to forgive each other for being human, to forgive the volatility and melodrama of it.

I am not sure what constitues a beautiful life, but part of it seems to be in the stories you tell about it. Consider "La Vita E Bella" (1), where a man's deception about the horror of the holocaust to his son allows his son to remain alive. The story, and his belief in it, are beautiful. Similarly, I want to reject thinking about these events in my life in terms of thier underlying disgust, hate, and hurtfulness. I want to construct, and believe in, a story that flips everything over in order to see that the driving motivation is love. This parent child love is sometimes so strong that is can warp those who hold onto it, pushing or pulling you into a new form. Likewise, it is a love that will continue through this warping, and hold you together as you reinvent yourself anew.


1) "La Vita e Bella". Dir. Roberto Benigni. Perf. Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi. 1997.

Full Name:  Alanna Albano
Username:  ajalbano@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Searching for Correlations Between Beauty and Intelligence From the Male Perspective: A Brief Study
Date:  2005-05-07 00:50:46
Message Id:  15070
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Abstract: In order to determine if men place particular stereotypes on women based on looks alone, five members of the Bryn Mawr College community answered a brief survey. The survey involved looking at a collection of pictures of different women, and then answering a series of questions that made references to the women's beauty, intelligence, personality, interactions with others, and job capability. Some small specific trends were observed in the completed surveys; however, it was rather disappointing to find that no two surveys were exactly alike in their responses about the women. Although no definitive conclusion was reached in regards to associating certain stereotypical roles with a particular feminine appearance, the majority of the survey responses reinforced some of the beauty-related issues previously debated in class.

Keywords: Beauty, symmetry, confidence, intelligence

Experimental Procedure: Nine color pictures of women from various age, job, and socioeconomic divisions were collected onto a single sheet. No information about the women was provided to the participants other than the pictures. A survey consisting of nine questions was designed to ask about the intelligence, personality, and status of the women (see Supporting Information for a listing of all survey questions). Participants were chosen based on accessibility, relation to the surveyor, and willingness to complete the survey. Candy and chocolate was sometimes used as an incentive, along with a pleasant disposition and firm, polite manner in order to attract survey participants. Usually, stating the overall purpose of the survey worked best when encouraging others to complete the survey. At this particular time of the year, it was very difficult to find survey participants. A couple of men "politely" refused the request to complete the survey due to excessive amounts of work and other commitments. Five members of the Bryn Mawr College community completed the survey. All participants were men; four were post baccalaureate students between the ages of 24-30, and one was a housekeeper of the College. Participants required 15-25 minutes to complete the survey.

Results: The results of the survey were found to be highly varied among the participants, with only a few common responses to some of the questions. This was probably due to the highly subjective nature of the survey; most of the participants expressed different reasons for answering the survey questions in the way that they did. Pictures 3 and 5 got the most votes for being beautiful due to reasons that included "nice eyes, lips, and hair," "3 looks good with a scarf on," "a put-together look and incredible/nice eyes," "looks good from many angles, well-proportioned, nice symmetry in her face," and a look of cleanliness. Picture 7 also received a majority of votes for beauty for the same reasons regarding eyes, facial symmetry, and a clean look; however, one participant remarked that she did not look as put-together as 3 and 5, but still had a natural beauty to her. The general consensus among the participants was that the woman in picture 9 was the least beautiful. Her irregular features were found to be quite distracting, and her facial expression was considered "interesting." 4 and 6 also got a considerable number of votes for not being beautiful for reasons similar to those for 9. One man thought all of the women were beautiful except for 4 and 9, and suggested a makeover would help 4. Another commented that 1 and 2 could be beautiful with the help of a different style. One man only chose 3, 5, and 7 to be beautiful, and said that the rest of the women were not beautiful due to odd features or looks/styles. Another commented that the reason he thought certain women to not be beautiful was due to today's societal attitudes toward beauty. He continued to write that 1 and 4 looked like they came from the 1980s, and since the 80s style is outdated, those particular women did not look beautiful to him.

Most of the participants agreed that 2 and 7 were the most intelligent. It was commented that 2 looked intelligent because of her glasses, shorter hair style, smile, personable expression, and overall look of a business woman. Another remarked that 7 appeared intelligent due to her confidence and composure, which gave the impression of a very productive person. Pictures 6 and 9 were thought to be the least intelligent. One man considered 6 to be unintelligent because she did not look like she was in control of her life. 9 was deemed as unintelligent because one participant remarked that she portrayed the stereotypical flaky blonde. One young man made a very interesting comment regarding the intelligence of 3 and 5. He thought that they were unintelligent because they looked like women from the 1950s, and he felt that women in that time period were not as focused on higher education. He admitted that he was probably wrong and that social aspects might be affecting his view; on the other hand, he did remark that he was giving his honest opinion about pictures 3 and 5.

2, 7, and 8 were voted the most likely to be hired for a job. One man stated he would hire 2 and 8 as fashion consultants, and that it would not be possible to hire 7 because she would already be the boss. 7 also looks sophisticated enough to be the boss. 2 would also be hired because she looks successful, seems comfortable around money, is in control of who she is, looks put-together, and appears intelligent. These same reasons also applied to hiring 7; another man remarked that he would hire 7 specifically because she is very beautiful and appears nice, as well as intelligent. The friendly looking appearance of 8 would greatly increase her chances of being hired, according to one young man. Some interesting comments were made as to why the other women would not be hired. 1 looks like she is stuck in the 80s and is against change, which is an important quality for hiring. 4 would not be hired because she looks socially awkward. 6 is unfit for employment due to her emotional state, and because she does not look intelligent. Since she does not present herself as intelligent, 9 would not be hired either. One man stated that who he would hire would entirely depend on the job that the woman was applying for.

According to one participant, he determined the niceness of the women by their facial expressions, and another made judgements based on the pictures of women who resembled nice women in his own life. 2, 4, 7, and 8 got the most votes for being nice people. Reasons for these choices included soft and welcoming facial expressions, as well as looking family oriented.1, 3, and 9 were voted to be not nice. 1 and 9 appear to be on the defensive and look unhappy. 3 would not be nice because people that are pretty often tend to have an attitude toward others, and expect everything to be given to them. 5 and 6 got mixed reviews in terms of niceness. One man felt that 5 would be nice only to do something sinister later, and another thought 5 was nice in the same way that 2 would be. 6 could be nice because she appears family oriented and emotional, implying that she is a very caring person; on the other hand, she might be mean since she looks unhappy in the picture.

Most of the men would be likely to give money to 6 if she asked them for it, because she has a child, looks like she is sad and poor, and seems to really need the money. However, one man remarked that he would not give 6 any money because she looks all disheveled, and probably would not put the money to good use. With the exception of 1, 6, and 9, this same man also stated that he would be more likely to give the other women money because they look like they try hard in life. One participant would give money to 4 because she looks like she needs it, and another said that he would actually give money to 9 because she has a cup (in the picture) to put it in. In terms of lending the women grocery money, two of the men would lend money to any of the women; one specifically stated he would lend to all of them because he knew he would feel sorry for them, and at least he would know what the money was being used for. Another would give money to some of the women, and another said that he would give it to all of the women except 9, because she does not look like someone who helps others. One participant made it clear that he would give all of the women money at the grocery store because money is not important to him.

The women most likely to be offered assistance if they found themselves lost at a busy street corner were 1, 2, 4, 7, and 8. 9 looks too mean and scary, 6 looks like she is crazy and unstable, and 3 and 5 look like actors who would only "act" like they were lost at a street corner. Some of the other participants stated that they would assist any of the women. One man wrote that he likes to help people in need, especially when they do not ask for it. Another would help any of them because he would want directions if he were lost, and someone else said he would give any of them directions if they looked disturbed enough.

All of the participants gave various responses for the types of jobs and lifestyles that they could envision each of these women living. The summary is as follows: 1 - Ex-rock star from the 80s, professor, waitress, lawyer, chef, dental hygienist; 2 - Doctor, TV anchor, professor, mother, lawyer, waitress, comedian; 3 - actress, model, entertainer, professor; 4 - farmer's wife, professor, lawyer, librarian, scientist, mother, housekeeper; 5 - actress, professor, mother, housewife; 6 - mother, poor immigrant, housekeeper, professor, housewife, counselor, social worker; 7 - maintenance worker, housekeeper, writer, CEO, professor, mother, real estate agent, lawyer; 8 - housewife, mother, professor, social worker, office secretary, lawyer, housekeeper; 9 - entertainer, waitress, "gold digger"/seeker of men with money. One man commented that most of the women seemed capable of a variety of different jobs, although wearing glasses made for better doctors and scientists.

Discussion: In my last paper, I had written about a beauty survey on feminine beauty and intelligence that I conducted on twelve female participants from the Bryn Mawr community. This detailed survey was done in response to a similar, much shorter type of survey that had been given in class. When the question of whether a beautiful woman pictured on the slide projector screen was also intelligent, many of the students responded no. This answer disturbed me greatly, and I decided to find out how different members of the Bryn Mawr community viewed women's beauty and its connections to intelligence. My first survey did not contain any male input. Therefore, this motivated me to conduct a second survey in which the participants were male students and employees of the Bryn Mawr community. The exact same survey questions and pictures were used for the male participants as for the previous female ones. Although the small number of five participants did not accurately represent all male perspectives on feminine beauty and intelligence, it was still very helpful and interesting to read what they had to say on the topic. Despite some of the many flaws in the structure and design of the survey, some trends were indeed observed in the survey responses.

Symmetry, an air of confidence, and a neat, clean appearance played huge roles in determining which women were most beautiful (3, 5, 7). Asymmetrical features, an unhappy countenance, and outdated styles were characteristics shared by the least beautiful women, 4, 6, and 9. Of the women declared most beautiful, only 7 would be considered intelligent and hired for a job. The confidence and beauty of 7 give her an edge in these areas, whereas the glasses and hairstyle that 2 wears are what label her as intelligent and job worthy. 8 seems more likely to be hired because of her glasses and friendliness. Somehow, wearing glasses gives a person the look of an academician. 6 and 9, considered to be the least beautiful, were also considered to be the least intelligent and not very likely to be hired for a job. Although 3 and 5 were considered beautiful, most of the participants knew that these women were actresses in real life, which probably influenced their decisions to not specifically label them as intelligent. It is interesting to consider how responses toward 2 and 7 would have changed had the participants known that one woman is a model and the other is an actress.

Interestingly enough, the women considered most intelligent and job competent were also considered to be the nicest people. Ironically enough, the women on the two extremes of the beauty scale (3, 5, and 9) were deemed to be mean people. 6, who was considered to be one of the less beautiful women, would be the most likely to receive money if she asked for it because she has a child and appears sad and distraught. Some opinions about giving her money might have changed had her child not been in the picture with her. 9 is the least likely to receive any money because she looks mean and scary. Most of the women, regardless of their looks, would still receive help from the male participants if they got lost.

I thought it very interesting that only the male housekeeper survey participant thought that one of the women might be a doctor; none of the male postbacs labeled any of the women as potential doctors. One would think that the postbacs, who are studying to attend medical school someday, would be the more likely ones to label some of the women pictured in the survey as physicians. I noticed that the term "housewife" was mentioned frequently as a potential career for some of the women, especially 4, 5, 6, and 8. The job associations that the men made for each of the women were too widespread to make any definitive connections between being beautiful and having a particular career. However, it should be noted that all women except 9 were labeled as potential professors, all except 1 and 9 were considered to be potential mothers, and 1, 2, 4, 7, and 8 were thought to be possible lawyers. One male participant commented that he judged the jobs and lifestyles of these women based on the women he knew in his own life; for example, he thought 8 could be an office secretary, since she looked very much like the secretaries who work in his father's office. He also thought 1 could be a dental hygienist, since she looks so much like his own. Sometimes the articles of clothing or jewelry that the women were wearing influenced the men's decision regarding what kind of lifestyle each women might be living. 2 was thought to live a nice lifestyle because of her nice glasses. 4 was thought to be a lower middle class person because of her outdated clothes and glasses. The flashy necklace that 9 wears implied a superficial lifestyle, as remarked by one male participant.

This survey yielded some very eye-opening data. However, a similar survey conducted on a much larger scale, and perhaps with a different type of answer response format, would be more useful in understanding how men view feminine beauty and intelligence. One male participant suggested giving the survey to more people both on the campus and off the campus. I heartily agree that this would be a better step in the direction of learning more about the masculine perspective of beauty. However, if such a survey on a larger scale were ever conducted, I would hope that the majority of men would be much more willing to complete it.

Supporting Information: The following are the original questions asked in the survey:
Which of these women do you find to be beautiful? Not beautiful? Either way, explain why.
Which of these women do you find intelligent? Not intelligent? Either way, explain why.
Which of these women would you hire for a job? Why?
Which of these women do you think would be nice people? Which do you think would be mean people? Explain why.
If all of these women asked you for money, which women would you choose to give it to? Why?
What kinds of jobs and lifestyles do you envision each of these women living? Why?
If any of these women found themselves a couple dollars short at the grocery counter, would you spare them some cash? If so,which women, and why?
If you saw any of these women looking hopelessly lost on a busy street corner, would you immediately offer assistance? Which women and why?
Which of these women do you think would make good Doctors? Lawyers? Mothers? Chefs? CEOs? Scientists? Models? Actresses? Professors/teachers? Waitresses? Maintenance workers? Housekeepers?
Any other comments.

The nine photos of the different women, as well as the actual survey responses, are attached to the back of the hard copy of this paper.

Full Name:  Amanda Glendinning
Username:  aglendin@brynmawr.edu
Title:  A Beautiful Woman
Date:  2005-05-07 11:58:26
Message Id:  15071
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Beauty is an integral part of a woman's life, whether or not she is beautiful. The thought process, by both the woman and the world, about her appearance and other instances of beauty, affects how she portrays herself and is viewed. Women are affected by beauty and the pressures related. Part of this is due to the historical and national correlation between beauty and femininity. But, I believe, and have discovered through the class, "Beauty: Chemistry and Culture", that external beauty is not the defining aspect of a woman's life.

Internal beauty is just as important as external beauty, especially as it radiates out. Attitude is more important than appearance. At Bryn Mawr especially, even if a woman is feminine, she is not necessarily beautiful and vice versa. The advertising industry and media portray the concept of ideal beauty as a woman who is "young, skinny, with big boobs, white, blonde, tall, no personality, smiling, a.k.a. 'Nazi Barbie.'"(1) This woman is "a narrow-hipped, high-breasted woman with flawless skin."(2) The media believes that women want "the Cosmo package [which] seems to offer everything: sexuality, success, independence, and beauty." (2) In America, women are exploited and demanded to be similar to the ideal.

American women are brought up in a society which emphasizes physical appearance. For example, fairy tales portray beauty as good and ugliness as evil. Take "Snow White" for example. Snow White is described as beautiful with red lips, "skin white as snow", and raven-black hair. Her stepmother, who also portrays herself as beautiful, asks, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" When the mirror states that Snow White is, the evil witch turns herself into an ugly hag to reach Snow White, demonstrating to the audience that she truly is ugly inside, and thus externally as well. Bruno Bettelheim explains:

The story of Snow White warns of the evil consequences of narcissism for both parent and child. Snow White's narcissism nearly undoes her as she gives in twice to the disguised queen's enticements to make her look more beautiful, while the queen is destroyed by her own narcissism. (3)

Snow White and her stepmother both desire to be beautiful. They demonstrate that external beauty is necessary as it displays internal beauty.

"Beauty and the Beast," on the other hand, tries to demonstrate that a person can still be beautiful, even when ugly. Despite this, the fact that Belle learns to love Beast even though he is ugly is nullified when he becomes handsome through the transformation. From a woman's childhood, physical beauty is emphasized, and people assume that women want to look like the pages of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Vanity Fair.

Advertising is important in an American's life, influencing social decisions. The average American spends about two years of his or her life watching television ads, which create a "toxic cultural environment." (4) This forces people to "sacrifice our health for corporate profit." (4) The media has a good deal of influence, despite the fact that only eight percent of an advertisement's message is taken in by the conscious mind. (4) For example, advertisements are created to influence women's body image. The thinner the models, the more diets are advertised, and the more eating disorders are created. Jean Kilbourne stated, "advertisements create a climate where disconnect to our body is normalized." (4) While I don't believe that is completely true, Kilbourne has a point. Advertising disconnects people from the dangers, but I believe that it connects people to the expectations of their bodies.

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through the May issue of Harper's Bazaar and opened up to the "Best Dressed: Bazaar Parties in Paris" photographic article. On the second page, alone in the largest picture of the "society type pictures" was a smiling blonde girl with dark eye makeup. "Lydia Hearst-Shaw in Emanuel Ungaro." It read. I couldn't believe it! Lydia and I went to middle and high school together until she transferred in 10th grade. Lydia Shaw, as we all knew her, and I had been friends who carpooled and now she was a model who had been featured on the cover of Italian Vogue. While Lydia is gorgeous physically, the reason I was drawn to her when we were friends was her personality. She was fun and took the time to see how people were doing. Her beauty was not just physical, though that helped. Her physical beauty was common among the girls at my high school, which in turn caused pressure.

Partially because of the social context of beauty, women have varying self-esteems. One way that women have manifested low self-esteems is through eating disorders. I went to a socially intense high school, Greens Farms Academy. There were fifty-two seniors in my graduating class. Out of the twenty-nine girls, I calculate that 93% had eating disorders. Only two of us, my friend and I, did not. In fact, two of my best friends would compete over who could throw up faster after a meal and exercise more. I know it's not pleasant but it was reality where I was from. As a size 8, I was too fat, even if I was one of the few natural blondes. Jane Fonda once said:

Society says we have to be thin, and while most of us don't have much control over our lives, we can control our weight, either by starving to death or by eating all we want and not showing the effects...I love to eat, but I wanted to be wonderfully thin. It didn't take long for me to become a serious bulimic—binging and purging fifteen to twenty times a day! ...bulimia was my secret 'vice.' No one was supposed to find out about it, and because I was supposed to be so strong and perfect, I couldn't admit to myself that I had weaknesses and a serious disease. (2)

In a place like GFA, anorexia and bulimia are control mechanisms that allow a woman to have a feeling of success. When parents and peers are pushing a girl to be smart and look good, eating disorders emerge. Dr. Wooley, a psychologist, stated in a Glamour study, "Dieting is often a self-cure for depression and other ills. It gives women a sense of control, of doing something about problems...that may have nothing to do with their bodies." (2)

I arrived at Bryn Mawr and expected that a high-stress place such as this would be another breeding ground for eating disorders. I was pleasantly surprised to find that eating disorders are distinctly less apparent. While there are still women with problems, including some of my friends, I believe that Mawrtyrs take their mental independence to a level which includes an independence from classic beauty norms. Despite this, I do see that Bryn Mawr women compulsively eat, either socially or when stressed. Women in general do this. Friends and I were joking that it's not the "freshman fifteen", it's the "thesis thirty." A number of friends gained weight during their senior year by eating as either a procrastination device or from stress.

When I look at that, it reminds me of being at GFA. My sisters are thirteen and in seventh grade there. Their friends have begun worrying about what they look like, and not only dieting, but also taking it to the next level. They are taught from the Westport, CT society that appearance is socially important. This is a common US theme that is taken to an extreme at home. "Today, many young girls worry about the contours of their bodies—especially shape, size, and muscle tone—because they believe that the body is the ultimate expression of the self." (5) The girls are taught that people judge based on appearance and that they should live up to that. "The body is a consuming project for contemporary girls because it provides an important means of self-definition, a way to visibly announce who you are to the world." (5) I think that women at Bryn Mawr, even though they still use their bodies, don't allow themselves to be subjected to the judgments. My friends have said multiple times that they like the break that Bryn Mawr has allowed them about feeling self-conscious.

At Bryn Mawr, there is a feeling of body acceptance. If one wanted to (and was crazy enough in the cold), she could go skinny dipping every day of the year. Nudity is accepted, no matter what size a person is. The beauty of Bryn Mawr allows for bodies to be appreciated. Where else could women streak at every major school event? It is different when women see other women naked than when men see women naked. Even if women see each other as potential lovers, they do not see each other as sexual objects. My friend made a joke, "By and large, Bryn Mawr girls are bi and large." As everyone laughed, I realized that people are more comfortable about sexuality and body image at Bryn Mawr. In class, someone stated that there is "a community here that wants to subvert the norms." Bryn Mawr women consciously attempt to go against the "beautiful" found in the outside world.

Body hair removal, or the lack of it, has been a common theme for women expressing their femininity or as an expression of feminism. 85% to 90% of women have unwanted facial or body hair. (2) This has stemmed from a long history of women being taught that hair is bad and that getting rid of it is feminine. Women were not allowed to display body hair as it was not acceptable or sexual. Some feminists determined that leaving their hair where it grew was a form of rebellion. Today, especially at Bryn Mawr, it is more acceptable to make that choice. Some of my friends here don't shave on principle or because they like how hair feels, or because they get lazy. Other friends still shave all the time. My friend had not shaved for a while and then at the beginning of this school year, she began waxing and increased her entire hair removal regimen. She made a comment regarding this:

I love plucking my eyebrows, not for any change in overall appearance, but I just find I really fun and rewarding to remove unwanted stuff. Kinda like Biore strips and flossing and wax hair removal. It's sorta like taking hygiene to the next level—not only being clean but feeling clean on the surface.

Our conversation had gone from what people were wearing out that night to a bizarre story that my friend had told regarding the intense pain she felt while plucking her eyebrows due to the fact that her twin sister was getting her eyebrow pierced at the same moment. Another friend had turned to the first and was surprised that she would pluck her eyebrows. My friend's reaction about getting rid of "unwanted stuff" really emphasized that society teaches what is and is not acceptable.

Is it though a case of nature versus nurture? Are we bred to find certain appearances beautiful and others ugly? In class, Krystal stated, "Everything we admire is fate." Does society teach us that or is it in our nature? I believe it's a combination, as we can seat Bryn Mawr. Megan stated that the "Bryn Mawr look is different from the standard" which can be true or not depending on a background. It is certainly true for me, as I have discussed. The Bryn Mawr environment is unique. As we discussed in class though, there is a common thread of beauty of appearance, which some people state leads to the Golden Ratio.

As someone who has been very involved with art, I distinctly see the make-up for this concept. We were taught that the human face is a combination of three shapes: it is an upside down triangle, within a square, within a circle. We were also taught other common proportions of people: the middle finger is the width of the hand and also one-third of the forearm. The face, if divided in thirds, can be from the hairline to the eyebrow, the eyebrow to the nostril, and the nostril to the chin. The height of the ear is the height of the nose and width of the mouth is one and a half times the width of the nose. As each of these ratios becomes closer to the Golden Ratio, the person is supposed to be more attractive. While we do not know if this is globally true, it has been found to be commonly true in the United States.

Despite the common conception of beauty and beautiful people, I have found that at Bryn Mawr, this is not the defining factor in beautiful. There are a multitude of beautiful women here, and as I have become closer with them, they have become more beautiful to me. I look through my photographs and see that none of my friends are ugly, even though they may not be conventionally beautiful. I think that Bryn Mawr's environment allows for that.

At Bryn Mawr, gorgon women have been described as beautiful before. They may be absolutely ugly, but they still draw people. Others cannot turn their heads away, usually due to the fascinating personality emanating from the woman. Likewise, women that others might find masculine or "butch" are found to be beautiful here, demonstrating the beauty and femininity do not necessarily correlate at Bryn Mawr.

Historically, women have found that they demonstrate not only their sense of selves, but also their sense of beauty through clothing. Part of this is that it boosts a woman's confidence or hides her imperfections. Efrat Tseëlon wrote, "...dress has a profound effect on the woman's sense of self-worth and well being. Clothes both confer a sense of self worth and help creating it." (6) At Bryn Mawr, I believe that women's façades, while different from the outside world, still affect the way that she presents herself, and thus her beauty. I find that the most beautiful women at Bryn Mawr have the strongest personalities. They emit an inner beauty, which is necessary for me to find anyone beautiful.

Bryn Mawr cultivates that inner beauty. The school was set up as a place for intellectual and social growth for women. The school prides itself on emphasizing education relationships between faculty and students, as well as relationships between women who are mature in their thought processes. Bryn Mawr was not a finishing school, like a number of other all women's institutions. It did not focus on society and manners, even though they were taught. M. Carey Thomas stated, "...a woman can be a woman and a true one without having all her time engrossed by dress and society." (7) This has been applied to Bryn Mawr.

Part of Bryn Mawr's attitude stems from the fact that there are no males. Women are encouraged to focus on only other women and themselves. There is no societal expectation that women will be feminine, beautiful, and focused on men. Bryn Mawr women are independent thinkers. Scarlett O'Hara states what I see as a common feeling of Mawrtyrs:

I'm tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I'm tired of acting like I don't eat more than a bird and walking when I want to run, and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I'm tired of saying "how wonderful you are" to fool men who haven't got one-half the sense I've got, and I'm tired of pretending I don't know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they're doing it. (8)

Mawrtyrs have an opportunity to escape those expectations for four years and blossom because of it.

Today, I realize that I have grown with my confidence and my view of myself. Because of this sense of self, I have made myself more available to friends. It is an ongoing cycle of learning to find yourself beautiful and thus making friends who make you feel better about yourself. I use Helen Keller's famous quote to demonstrate Bryn Mawr's atmosphere. "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt from the heart." Bryn Mawr, by subconsciously encouraging this, demonstrates that women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful.

I realize that beauty, to me, is more of an internal measure than external. Whether my pupils dilate or not (what eyes do when they see something attractive), I have found beauty at Bryn Mawr with my friends. Emotionally and mentally attractive, my friends exude beauty on the outside. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said, "People are like stained glass windows—the true beauty can be seen only when there is light from within. The darker the night, the brighter the windows." (9) After going through a rough semester, my friends have held strong and helped me. Because of that, they are more beautiful than any fashion model could be to me, unless of course, she was my friend.


1) Naomi Wolf Talk at UPenn. 2/17/05.

2) Wendy Chapkis. Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance. South End
Press, Boston; 1986.

3) Bruno Bettelheim. The Uses of Enchantment. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1976.

4) Jean Kilbourne. Slim Hopes. Talk 10/27/04. Bryn Mawr College.

5) Joan Jacobs Brumberg. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls.
Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc, New York: 2000.

6) Efrat Tseëlon. The Masque of Femininity. SAGE Publications, London: 1995.

7)Famous Creative Women

8) Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind. MacMillan Co., New York: 1945.

Full Name:  Beatrice Lucaciu
Username:  blucaciu@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Reconstruction
Date:  2005-05-07 14:31:20
Message Id:  15073
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Beauty. What is it? Is it something aesthetically pleasing? Is it tangible? Do we each experience the same beauty, or do our individual differences and preferences create varying perceptions? These are just a few of the questions that we have sought to explain over the course of the semester. My goal is to take a look at how my own experiences of beauty have changed, and how my preconceptions about what is beautiful have been challenged.

Typically, I have found that I consider something to be truly exquisite when it can stir up emotion in me that I may not have felt otherwise at that moment in time. Although I still feel this way to a large extent, my experience of beauty has expanded beyond the emotional level. When taking the "Beauty Quiz" at the beginning of the course, I had felt as though I had a pretty good idea of what I found to be beautiful. In the quiz, I had rated highest the images of nature and classic figures. These were the images that had struck a chord with me. I had seen some of them before, thus they provided me with a sense of familiarity – maybe even a sense of comfort. However, if I were to rate all of the images again, I cannot be certain that my re-ratings would be very similar to the original ratings.

I wanted to remember the images I had seen during the quiz, so I took another look at them. When reaching the image of the woman wearing glasses and smoking that had received low ratings from the class (and from me as well), I was surprised to observe that my perception had changed. How is this possible? I was wearing the same pair of glasses each time I saw it, so it isn't as though my vision has suddenly cleared. Perhaps it is because now when I see her, I imagine that she has her own special story. After examining artwork at the Barnes Foundation I have realized that, although I may not fully understand their subject choices, many artists have reasons for painting certain images.

However, all of this makes me wonder. It makes me question whether my own perceptions of beauty have really changed or if I have altered my experience by having previous exposure to the piece in question. The Elkins essay we read months ago helped me to realize that doing research on or having already seen a painting lessens any emotionality when viewing it (again). Therefore, if I do not experience a wave of emotion upon seeing this vague image of a smoking woman yet I still consider it to be beautiful, that must mean that emotion is not absolutely necessary in the experience of beauty. Naturally, upon realizing this, my whole world was turned upside-down. This idea challenged what I thought was my final and complete perception of beauty. I had thought that I had it all figured out and had very little to learn. How wrong I was!

This is not to say that emotion is never necessary in experiencing beauty. In February, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Salvador Dalí exhibit. I wanted a pure experience of the paintings which I was going to see, thus I decided to forego the complimentary audio tour that was offered. Furthermore, while walking through the exhibit, I avoided reading the many stories about Dalí posted up on the walls. The lack of outside influences telling me specifically what to observe or the meaning behind a certain painting heightened my awareness of the beauty that was around me. To be honest, though, it was not a simple task to avoid such influences. Besides the magnificent artwork displayed, I was also surrounded by people who had chosen to be guided by the audio tour. I was upset that I could not appreciate the fine work before me in silence. Instead, I heard a multitude of muffled voices escaping from the headsets worn by others; and, because they were wearing headsets, the people themselves were commenting loudly on the paintings because they were not aware of their own volume. Aside from feeling a bit frustrated, I found myself feeling as though it was I who was having the most pure experience of beauty, untainted by the influence of others' words and ideas. I can honestly say that if it wasn't for the readings and discussions of this class, I might have been duped into believing that some form of guidance would have been necessary for me to really appreciate what I was viewing. That was my first conscious effort in applying things learned in this class to the real world.

In the past, I had always felt the need to know everything – how things work, why people do the things they do, why the sky is blue. You name it, I wanted to know it. However, during the course of this semester, I found myself retreating from solid answers. This was one of my biggest problems when we worked on various science experiments. Suddenly, I didn't want to know why certain metals cause the color of a flame to change. I didn't want to know why two clear liquids had turned into a rich blue liquid when combined. I wanted the mystery. I have tried to pinpoint when this change in me occurred, and the only conclusion I can make is that the illusion is much more magical and appealing to me. Being in awe of something almost makes me feel like a child again. So now, the only time I really want to know why things function as they do is when I am trying to fix something. The only real exception is when people are involved. I still want to know what causes them to behave in certain ways, or what cognitive processes are at work. This distinction exists, however, because I identify myself as a social scientist. Therefore it is possible that I view other experiments as intriguing novelties – not to say they are unimportant, of course.

As the semester progressed, I found myself becoming hyperaware of the beauty that exists in my daily life. Each time it snowed during the winter months, I would just gaze out my large window, taking in the view. That was also my way of capturing that image in my mind, that moment in time; because I knew that I would be moving to southern California in June. Although California is very sunny and lovely, it is highly doubtful that I will ever see such beautiful snowfalls out there.

My appreciation for the purity of the freshly fallen snow increased tenfold this year. To see such an untouched blanket of white covering everything in sight was breathtaking. Even though I have lived in this state practically my whole life and have seen countless snowfalls, this year it was almost as if I had been seeing it for the first time. It was around this time that it dawned on me that talking about beauty so much had opened up my eyes and helped me to see things in a new light. Things that I may have seen a hundred times before were like new!

One thing in particular that I have come to appreciate even more in light of the things that I have learned this semester is my experience at Bryn Mawr during the past four years. It seems appropriate that this would be one of the last classes of my college career – it has helped me to take in everything that I see and really observe the beauty in it. I have been so lucky to spend such an important part of my life on such a beautiful campus. It's interesting to suddenly wake up after four years and realize how beautiful it really is here. Because it becomes part of daily life, it is easy to take its beauty for granted.

This year's May Day made me remember how lovely campus can be, considering it had been a chilly, dismal day that had completely turned around. Seeing the sea of individuals dressed in white on the green grass reminded me how traditions here are so special an invaluable. So, clearly, it isn't just the college campus that makes an impression, it is also everything that comes with it; all the people, the traditions, the experiences.

The sharing and exchanging of ideas about beauty in terms of science and culture has made a lasting impression upon my life. I still find beautiful things that I had previously considered to be so. That has not changed. But my scope of beauty has broadened greatly. I have realized that beauty is not just linked to emotion or aesthetics; it is much greater than that. Beauty can exist in the way the carpenter takes great care to smooth the edges of his creation, in the way the artist wields his paintbrush when creating his great masterpiece, in the way a mother cradles her child, in the way the college graduate receives her diploma. Beauty really does exist everywhere and is limitless. Everyone may have their own experience with it, but one thing is certain – everyone does experience it.

Full Name:  Rachel Usala
Username:  rusala@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Pain-Beauty Paradox
Date:  2005-05-08 17:04:38
Message Id:  15082
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Pain is a reoccurring theme in the study of aesthetics and the human experience. John Dewey implies that pain and suffering are necessary for a beautiful world because complacent pleasure is not satisfying: "We envisage with pleasure Nirvana and a uniform heavenly bliss only because they are projected upon the background of our present world of stress and conflict. Because the actual world...is a combination of...breaks and reunions, the experience of a living creature is capable of esthetic quality (1)." For Roald Hoffmann, beauty is found in moments of tension: "Beauty...is to be found, precarious, at some tense edge where...order and chaos contend (2)." Even a less abstract examination of beauty and of our perceptions of beauty is impossible without discussing pain. Beautification, for example, is too frequently painful or unpleasant to ignore the possibility that pain and beauty are related. A discussion of the effect pain has on the afflicted, on the perceiver of suffering, and on society helps to resolve the philosophical and practical questions about pain's inherent beauty or ugliness, to discern the relationship between aesthetics and suffering, and to weigh the significant consequences of both.

Before any discussion of pain's aesthetic consequences can unfold, the inherent ugliness or worth of pain must be established. C.S. Lewis, a 20th century Christian writer, recognizes that pain is an "unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt (3)." Nevertheless, he also makes a convincing argument that pain is a lesser evil: "Of all evils, pain only is sterilised or disinfected evil. Intellectual evil...may recur because the cause of the first error...continues to operate...Pain...may of course recur...but pain has no tendency, in its own right, to proliferate. When it is over, it is over, and the natural sequence is joy." Anyone in chronic pain may scoff at Lewis' flippant dismissal of pain as transient, but his point that pain does not have the tendency to cause more pain sets suffering apart from other evil, which does tend to perpetuate itself. Pain is unique because although we strive to get rid of it, suffering is capable of something benign or even good: pain forces change in order to cope with it and results in spiritual, physical, and emotional strength.

The growth of the sufferer is a result of the vulnerability that pain causes. In pain, people are torn from whatever life they have constructed for themselves and from whatever complacency mars their appreciation for life and the gifts that they have. The "raw" experience of life that may have been smothered by comfort is inflamed.

The intensity of real pain, emotional or physical, makes us more receptive and alert to beauty. There is nostalgia for the complacent quiet life beyond our grasp and openness to new experiences, which could relieve the present suffering. In times of complacency, people do not often seek to expand their beautiful experiences because they are content with the beauty they see. This is reflected in the experience of age: the elderly who have seen the imperfection of their lives and careers and the deterioration of their bodies are disposed to explore and grow as individuals. They do not sit in front of a television and play the video games of youth. They travel, read, and actively seek out beauty more often than the child who has not known intense suffering. The child inexperienced with pain has a passive response to beauty; the person who has painful memories has a proactive yearning for beauty.

As childhood literature reflects, experience trains us to perceive, cope, utilize, and even value suffering in our personal lives. The Giver by Louis Lowry is a common book read in adolescence that tells the story of a boy Jonas who is responsible for bearing and remembering all the pain of the world in order to protect his society. The book teaches that pain is not something to avoid. When Jonas asks the purpose of pain, his mentor responds that "it gives us wisdom (4)." Jonas' adoptive father who has never known pain demonstrates Jonas' contrast. He is the epitome of ignorance born of a life without pain. He is ugly in Jonas' eyes and in the eyes of the reader because he kills young children and elderly. In a society free from pain, he has never learned the dignity of humanity and life. Jonas is saddened that people do not know pain: "They have never known pain, he thought. The realization made him feel desperately lonely." Pain is intrinsic to the human experience; without it something of our humanity and the dignity and beauty of human life is trivialized.

The reoccurring narrative pattern of hero facing conflict and transforming to face it reflects that humanity values emotional, physical, and spiritual pain because it can bestow wisdom, understanding, and even beauty to sufferers. The most admired heroes, like Jonas, are the ones that suffer. The characters that are forgettable and even condemned are the ones that live complacent, pleasant lives and remain static, like Jonas' father. The theme of removal of pain resulting in indifference, oppression, and loss of justice and beauty is not isolated to children's books but rather is common in negative utopia literature like 1984 and Brave New World. In both books, the societies use painkillers to oppress and stunt the growth of individuals.

The beautiful virtues that pain can instill in individual sufferers, like a new awareness of beauty and the wisdom to respect fellow human beings, are not the only meaningful effects of anguish. Suffering ripples out and affects the witnesses of pain as well because everyone has experienced the intensity of grief and physical pain and longs to assuage the pain of others. A movie theatre is a good forum to witness this phenomenon. After the viewing of a comedy, the crowd leaves quickly and is detached emotionally from their movie-going companions. In contrast, after a deeply tragic film, the crowd leaves more slowly and often in silence, holding the doors for others, and generally more aware of the people around them.

Seeing pain has a way of making other people seem more important and the environment in which we share more sacred. In our Beauty Seminar class after we had watched the tragic ending to A Beautiful Life and the clips from Frida, I was more aware of my peers and their personal reactions then I had been at any other time during the class. Watching their tears, stricken body language, and closed eyes, I felt more beauty in the room and more unity in our expression of grief then at any other time during the course. The intensity of everyone's reaction to human pain coalesced into an intense awareness and beauty.

The relationship between beauty and suffering is complex, but there is also an element of simplicity: both beauty and suffering are intense and drive us to react to the rawness of our emotional response. The increased awareness of others and the desire to heal brokenness because of perceived suffering resonates with Elaine Scarry's description of the effects of perceiving beauty: "Beauty seems to place requirements on us for attending to the aliveness or (in the case of objects) quasi-aliveness of our world, and for entering into its protection (5)."

It is possible that pain beautifies society since it motivates us to create a more just and beautiful world. Pain and death are among few characteristics that all people share, and the desire to eliminate it is almost categorically the case. The universality of the desire to resolve pain can provide a common cause that permeates a society and unites people who share almost nothing culturally. For example, among 1.1 billion Catholics from almost every country and culture, the desire to eliminate suffering unifies them in a common identity as Christians.

Nevertheless, the relationship between pain and beauty is even more complex. When we do not seek pain, suffering has no predisposition for perpetuation. We can find beauty during and after suffering because it has the potential to transform the sufferer and inspire empathy and action to resolve the distress. What if the pain is sought, however? Is a meaningful or even beautiful experience possible? This question must be addressed by considering why the pain is inflicted and if the pain is self-inflicted or caused by a second individual.

I don't think a beautiful experience is possible whenever one person inflicts pain on another person. The very nature of our response to pain, the desire to relieve suffering in others, suggests that our aesthetic sense is against inflicting pain. When a mother strikes a child for disciplinary purposes, the response may be a positive one and the child, as an adult, may someday thank the mother for modifying destructive behavior, but neither the child nor the mother looks back on the event with any aesthetic pleasure. Similarly, it is considered tragic, not beautiful, that the United States must imprison thousands of people to protect society and reform convicts.

Inflicting pain on oneself, however, does have the potential to elicit aesthetic pleasure. In America alone we use innumerable painful practices like shaving or waxing our legs, plucking our eyebrows, and exercising to the point of soreness to achieve beauty. Nevertheless, there are several important distinctions between the aesthetic experience resulting from self-inflicted pain and the beauty resulting from unsought pain.

The aesthetic derived from self-inflicted practices is more concrete. It is possible to say "I find that woman's brow attractive because she has plucked her eyebrows," but it is more difficult to explain why sharing, and overcoming, a painful experience is so moving and beautiful.

The aesthetic derived from self-inflicted pain is localized in a particular culture. In the United States, shaved legs and plucked eyebrows are considered aesthetically appealing whereas in Europe, Africa, and many other cultures hair removal is considered unnecessary and even unattractive. On the other hand, the aesthetic appeal of the transformation required to cope with unexpected pain or the beauty of sharing and relieving someone's pain is more universal. It is praised in literature from all over the world and most beautiful narratives of every culture have the element of a painful or distressing conflict that must be overcome and which changes the protagonist into a beautiful and respected individual.

The beauty derived from self-inflicted pain tends to be more transient than the beauty derived from other suffering. Although relationships are often started because of the appeal of painfully constructed beauty, the relationship grows because each partner learns to be whatever type of respite and friend the other needs. A man might be attracted to a woman who diligently diets, plucks her eyebrows, and enlarges her breasts with plastic surgery, but beautiful, enduring relationships are built on the type of sacrifice that comes from enduring the pain and discomfort inflicted by the partner. Self-inflicted painful beautification is not the glue that keeps couples together.

Beauty constructed from self-inflicted pain is, at least in American culture, sometimes less respected and admired than beauty born of surviving unsought conflict. Actors, actresses, and models try to conceal their plastic surgeries, and extreme dieters tell others they are not hungry. In contrast, when someone is called a "beautiful" person, the individual is the often the type that endures unsought, unexpected emotional and physical suffering or discomfort in a quiet and accepting way.

One characteristic common to all experiences of beauty derived from pain, self-inflicted or not, is the perseverance required to maintain or achieve beauty. A beautiful experience that does not result from pain, like the appreciation of a painting, is a passive one; to act to prolong or to share the experience is not a requirement for having the beautiful experience. In fact, although we may feel the desire to share our beautiful experiences, to do so might destroy or trivialize the experience. On the other hand, to have a meaningful experience related to pain, we must act. When suffering inflicted by fate is endured alone, the beauty is lost. As when a tree falls in the forest and does not make a sound because no human ear hears the air disturbances, pain does not result in beauty when no person is there to share the suffering. A person driving past a fatal accident and gaping at the sufferers without stopping to help would not experience any beauty from the painful experience. The passing bystander might instead feel shame for not helping, disgust with the violence, or even indifference. The person who stops to help, however, has a very different experience. They will be distraught by the violence but they might also be moved in a beautiful way when the surviving family reaches out to thank them or when they see the devotion of the paramedics that help the family. A beautiful, meaningful experience that involves pain is more likely to occur when we relieve the suffering of a close friend or family member than when we detachedly watch a tragic movie and never respond by helping end someone's pain. Similarly, beauty derived from self-inflicted pain is proactive in nature. If a small group in the United States would stop plucking their eyebrows and shaving their legs and were able to convince the rest of their country that the practice was no longer aesthetically necessary, the aesthetic appeal of hair removal, no longer proactively pursued, would disappear.

Because pain sometimes results in an aesthetic experience, running from pain threatens to eliminate a form of beauty from society. In fact, because not everyone has the means, money, or health to escape from pain, those that do manage to evade suffering leave in their wake millions of others who suffer and experience beauty in their suffering in a way that is alien to those that don't suffer. If we continue to cultivate a young generation that fears pain and does not embrace it and conquer it as a dignified aspect of their humanity, there will soon be a widening of the societal gap. The wealthier populace who can afford to alleviate pain and put off the grief of death with expensive healthcare will experience life in a way that the poorer can not imagine. The wealthy will grow to love beauty that is passive and detached from pain like art, museums, education, and nature. The poorer will thrive on the passive forms of beauty and the more proactive beauty of working through pain and suffering and assuaging others' distress. There will be two classes of people: those who have found beauty in living through pain and those that have cultivated beauty detached from blood and tears. We will not be able to relate to each other's experiences.

It is unrealistic to think that there will be an end to all pain among a small group of society and the formation of a complete breach between the different classes. Nevertheless, the impact of an era of "a pill for every pain" is already taking shape in American culture. The prosperous are delving into a culture of quick, anesthesia-aided procedures that set the standards of beauty higher than the less wealthy can afford. Others who have learned to cope with pain and use it as a source of beauty are trying to meet the unrealistic plastic surgery standards under more intense and more prolonged physical and emotional pain of self-induced starvation and low-self esteem.

The fissure is even wider between different cultures. In the third world such as certain Latin American countries where painkillers and healthcare are a luxury, religions like Christianity, Buddhism, and others which teach a doctrine of embracing pain as a beautiful and spiritual exercise are exploding. In the United States and particularly Europe, however, where pain is dismissed as unnecessary and even evil and where healthcare stifles prolonged suffering, the number of practicing religious is falling. The character of the third world is becoming very distinct from the morality upheld in the first world because suffering people have a different aesthetic prospective than well-fed, well-medicated people. The gap in perspective is damaging to our global community.

The ultimate paradox is the relationship between beauty and pain. Pain can result in beauty by transforming people into stronger individuals, but we strive to eliminate most of the suffering in the world. The more pain and conflict we eliminate from our own personal experience, the more potential beauty that could result from suffering is lost. We become more and more unable to relate to the sufferers of pain because we lose their aesthetic perspective. Self-inflicting pain can create a kind of localized and transient cultural beauty, yet to inflict pain on others is not beautiful.

It is significant, however, that the pain-beauty relationship is a paradox and not a contradiction. Small, painful cultural practices that we use to beautify ourselves are avenues for us to express our roles as contributing, integrated members of society. We need pain to remind us of our vulnerability and make us constantly alert and aware of the beauty of the world around us, but we also need its end because the resolution is part of the aesthetic experience. Tension implies resolution.

It is possible and necessary to embrace suffering in our personal lives and find beauty and dignity by doing so while also working to relieve the suffering of others. By working to end the pain of others yet not running from it ourselves, we are truly creating a tension that is capable of the beauty Hoffmann describes, a place somewhere between a static heaven and chaotic hell. Life and the search for beauty are constant battles to find the right balance between two worlds that Dewey describes: "There are two sorts of possible worlds in which esthetic experience would not occur. In a world of mere flux, change would not be cumulative; it would not move toward a close. Stability and rest would have no being. Equally true, however, that a world that is finished, ended, would have no traits of suspense and crisis, and would offer no opportunity for resolution. Where everything is complete, there is no fulfillment." The challenge of every true seeker of beauty is to be accepting of their own pain but uncomfortable with the pain of others.

1. John Dewey, "The Live Creature." Art as Experience. 1934; rpt. New York: Perigee, 1980. pp.17.
2. Roald Hoffmann, "Thoughts on Aesthetics and visualization in Chemistry." Preface. Issue on Aesthetics and Visualization. Hyle. pp.4.
3. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. New York: C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd., 1940.
4. Lowis Lowry, The Giver. Bantam Doubleday book: New York, 1993. pp. 110-111.
5. Elaine Scarry, "On Beauty and Being Fair." On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999: pp. 90.

Full Name:  Lauren Sweeney
Username:  lksweene@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Marked From Birth
Date:  2005-05-09 15:10:50
Message Id:  15091
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip









I never really think about it until someone else points it out to me. It isn't as if I can see it without a mirror; it's out of my range of vision. How else would I know that it was there at all? Sometimes I wonder if it would be better or worse if I couldn't see it when I look at my own reflection. Even as it is, in a way, I guess you could say that I don't see it when I look in the mirror. Unless I am actively seeking it out, it doesn't register in my mind that there is something unusual about my appearance.

My mom tells me that when I was first born she and my dad and the doctors couldn't see it either. She doesn't know if this is because it hadn't yet developed on my skin or if it was just hidden by the rolls of baby fat under my chin. She tells me she noticed it a few days after they brought me home from the hospital. I've seen pictures from when I was an infant--it was a lot more noticeable then, a solid dark purple football- or egg-shaped mark. I don't know when exactly it became the pink spray of an oval that it is now.

Even when I was very young, I don't remember many people saying anything to me about it, just the occasional "what's that on your neck?" generally accompanied by staring and pointing in a very bold and unselfconscious way, but never offensive or insulting. It never bothered me. The questions never bothered me and the mark's very presence never bothered me. I considered it to be as normal as my elbows or my feet, a part of my natural part of my physiognomy that belonged there and was necessary to my body.

Maybe the reason it never bothered me is the fact that I can't see it. Maybe it's because I knew two people (a friend's mother and another friend's sister) that had much bigger ones on their hand and arm respectively. "Strawberry marks" they called them. I thought that they looked like burns or an animal's markings more than anything else. I know that people like my mom and other adults went out of their way to make sure that I knew that there were other people like me and that my birthmark wasn't the only one of it's kind. They made sure that I knew I wasn't unusual or a freak of nature and that I should feel comforted by the thought that there were others like me. Despite their efforts, I didn't make the connection I didn't feel like we were really in the same category. I could see how my birthmark was similar to Katie's mom and Sara's sister, but theirs were gross deformities. To me, their birthmarks were scary but mine was interesting if not completely unworthy of mention. My birthmark was a non-issue to me for me.

It wasn't until I started baby-sitting and spending considerable periods of time with little kids that I ever felt the need to explain its presence to anyone. Most little kids think that I've hurt myself and ask, "What happened to you?" or "Is that a boo-boo on your neck?" "No," I tell them. "It's a birthmark. It's kinda like a freckle." This definition generally suffices, but some are not completely satisfied with just that. Some want to touch it. "Does it hurt?" they ask. "No," I say. "It feels just like regular skin." Some don't know what a freckle is in which case I point to one on their own skin and say, "There. That mark there is a freckle. Does it bother you? Does it hurt? Did you even know it was there?" Most of them never take the time to look so closely at their own skin, but when I point out a freckle to them, they become preoccupied with it and search for more.

I'm always surprised at the audacity of children to ask such questions, not because I'm offended when they do ask, but because they don't seem to be afraid of offending me. I know that when I was younger I would have had to be extremely close to and comfortable with someone to ask them a question that I would consider to be so incredibly personal. The truth is, they have no idea what it is. It could be anything. It could be leprosy for all they know. They don't know if it's painful for me to think or talk about it. It's weird and marks me as "different," but why do they feel that it's okay to ask me about it?

I suppose that the explanation for the children's audacity might be rooted in the fact that most children are unselfconscious and generally curious and honestly want to know what happened to my skin. I sometimes get the sense that some little kids are afraid of it and want to know if the same thing will happen to them. But this curiosity mixed with fear about a deviation from the "normal" appearance is not limited to children alone, nor is it confined to just supposed deformities like mine.
As a group, people always want to know about something remarkable or different about someone's appearance. My roommate is extraordinarily short (measuring in at only 4'6") and people constantly ask her about it. "What is it like to be so short?" People want to know. Once, in a dorm room, one particularly inquisitive young man asked, "does this room look huge to you?" Though her situation often leads to such stupid questions, it is also an invariably great conversation starter because people always want to hear her talk about it. Nearly everyone she meets thinks that her size is unusual and wants to know more about it, or wants to mention it, though sometimes the short jokes made at the expense of her most distinguishing physical trait can be trying. No one with a distinguishing physical trait can escape the questions or the jesting which invariably ensues.
I was twelve when the accusations began. I remember a lunch break at my summer theater camp when a tall, much older girl pointed at me from down the hall and shouted "Hickey! Hickey!" At first I didn't realize that she was talking to me, but when I did, I laughed, partially from embarrassment and partially at her foolishness. "It's a birthmark, I swear!" I called back weakly. I knew at that moment that she wasn't going to be the last person to make the same assumption. For a few years I thought about getting it removed or covering it with makeup or only wearing shirts that hid the mark, but I decided that it just wasn't worth the effort. Why should I go out of my way to hide something about my appearance that doesn't really bother me? Yes, people are going to stare and people are going to make comments, but what difference does it really make? I feel that I would rather get asked about it rather than spend thousands of dollars to have a doctor laze it off.

I now get asked regularly, Is that a hickey? Is that a love-bite? Is that a sucker-bite? I had no idea that there were so many names for the same thing, but I always know what they're talking about based on context clues. Pointing and staring are common, as are people indicating with their hands on the left side of their own collarbones. Once, two men in their seventies came into the restaurant where I work and one of them asked if that was a hickey on my neck. Even after I told them that it wasn't, the other man playfully punched his friend's arm and said to me "You'd better watch out or he'll give you a matching one on the other side! I know he's given plenty in his day."

I knew that I shouldn't, but I had to laugh. I've come to accept that there's absolutely no escaping it; everyone, from little kids to old men, notices this thing on my skin. This is a part of my physical appearance as obvious as my hair. Unless I wear a shirt that covers it, anyone can see it and most people probably do. The difference between a birthmark and hair is that most people have hair--most people don't have a permanent red mark on their necks. If you get close enough, you will realize that I am different and it's obvious.

When I greet people it's amusing when I find that sometimes people address questions or responses or even hold conversations while maintaining "eye contact" with my birthmark rather than my eyes. Many women worry about certain males holding conversations with their breasts but I don't even consider that option because I know they're looking at my birthmark. Women do it too. It's funniest when they're aware that they're staring and their eyes flicker back and forth between my eyes and my throat. It's natural for people to want to stare at something unusual and I know that I would do it too, so I don't attempt to stop them.

I think that I first began to actually appreciate my birthmark when I read that the ballerina Anna Pavlova had a mysterious mark at the base of her throat, which she always had retouched in photographs. I wondered why she wouldn't want anyone to see it. What difference would it make? She was a world-famous ballerina--who cares if there's a birthmark on her neck? No one would be looking at her neck--I bet no one could even see it from the stage. With the prestigious position that she held in the realm of physical beauty, she had the authority to make her mark a symbol of her beauty. One example of this is Marilyn Monroe, whose mole became commonly called a "beauty mark." As one of the universally recognized "most beautiful women in the world," this imperfection of her skin has become one of the reasons why she is considered to be so beautiful. In Julian Robinson's article "The Quest for Human Beauty" there were numerous examples of cultures that decorate their skin to adorn it and make it appear more beautiful. Anna Pavlova's mysterious mark, Marilyn Monroe's, Cindy Crawford's and Eva Mendes's beauty marks as well as my birthmark are all marks of distinction and originality. These are proof that there is no one in the world like us. I'm an original copy, complete with imperfections.

As a young very young girl with a very active imagination, a family friend once told me that freckles are angel kisses (he had been kissed all over his shoulders and back.) I liked to combine this with the outstanding theory that my birthmark was a hickey and imagined that an angel had given me a particularly passionate kiss on the collarbone, at the base of my neck on the left side. How metaphysically romantic! Just like the movies Ghost or City of Angels or the ballet Le Spectre de la Rose. (In each of these stories a male ghost/angel/spirit falls in love with a mortal woman.) Sigh. Just think; an angel, in love with me--a mere mortal, but obviously of striking beauty as to be able to attract supernatural attentions. What a lovely thought.

This sense of mysticism about beauty seems to be a common theme throughout cultures. The idea that beauty is a gift bestowed by benevolent forces greater than man is one that appears over and over again in fairy tales like "Sleeping Beauty." In his article Robinson writes that the Mende people of Sierra Leone believe that perfect female beauty, which is "God's finest handiwork" and "the standard [against which] other creatures and objects are judged," is "divine, unearthly, from paradise" and not to be achieved by human beings (37.) This is a perspective that I feel our culture has unknowingly adopted and is now starting to deconstruct. I think this is why our class discussions about human beauty became so heated. We understand that women are beautiful, but the establishment of a strict standard is where the problems are begun.
We oftentimes equate beauty with goodness and truth, but this is a dangerous way to live. Though we learned that in math and science symmetry and simplicity are often the characteristics that distinguish a beautiful equation or experiment, the same standards cannot be applied to human physical attractiveness. We all agreed that the Golden Ratio was an interesting phenomenon, but certainly not the definitive way to determine human beauty. Thinking of physical attractiveness based against a predetermined standard, as a virtue equivalent to truth, is not only unreasonable and unhealthy, it is impossible. You can never really know with full certainty whether or not a statement is "true" based on the nature of reality. This is the first lesson I learned in my biology class last semester and it has since made an impression on the way I view "truth." The same thing has happened to me in this class in terms of the word "beauty."

Now my perception has altered. Human beauty is dependent on deviations from the mean, on individuality and diversity. If everyone looked the same, no one would be called ugly, but then again, no one would be beautiful either because there would be no need to make such distinctions. As in Ted Chiang's short story, the inability to perceive a difference in people's appearance is what erases our ability to see beauty. I have come to understand that like Marilyn Monroe, mine is a mark of beauty.

The doctor continues to inform me at my annual physical that "they can take care of that with lasers you know." "I know," I tell her. "I don't mind it." This is sort of a lie because I more than "don't mind it." In fact, I like it. I like to hear what people have to say about it. Now when people ask me "what's that on your neck?" I ask them, "What do you think it is?" I'm always amused by the responses I get. A few weeks ago in Starbucks the barista asked me what my "tattoo" was supposed to be. The other night at work a customer exclaimed "Holy shit, is that a hickey?!" One time the checkout guy at Trader Joe's told me that it looked very elegant and suited me.

Most people who mention it still think it's a hickey, some think it's a tattoo but very few say something if they think it's a birthmark. One man, who identified himself as a musician, very nervously and embarrassed but clearly genuinely curious asked if I was a violinist because apparently they sometimes get red sores on their necks from playing too intensely. I liked that one. It was different.

Full Name:  Meera Jain
Username:  mjain@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Cultural Implications of Beauty
Date:  2005-05-11 19:12:16
Message Id:  15123
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

The Cultural Implications of Beauty

"Human beauty is a reflection of cultural perceptions and ideas of aesthetics are indigenous to that area." (13)

"Beauty is not one's own, but a reflection of one's culture." (46)

The conclusion of our beauty class ended on a topic that I was really interested in and wanted to explore further. The cultural implications of beauty are prominent in every culture and have a strong influence on the way women are perceived. Across the world, different cultural perceptions uphold an ideal of beauty that is linked to sexual appeal and social status. The purpose of beauty is the feeling and consequences from being beautiful. In ancient cultures, according to Julian Robinson, "the enhancement and beautifying of the human form by various means appeared to be an inborn human trait-an essential part of our genetic makeup and an expression of our psyche."(13)
Both genders are aware of the societal need to embellish them, in order achieve something that is closer to the ideal. In general, the appeal of beauty is to attract a sexual partner or attain a higher status in society. My interest in the cultural implications of beauty stems from my background of being a 2nd generation Indian living in the United States with a very traditional upbringing that has influenced my view on what is beauty, and why it is so. I conducted research on fellow Bryn Mawr College female undergraduates to try and comprehend how the different cultures and religions of the participants reflect their stance on beauty. I interviewed seven undergraduates who have different cultural, religious, living backgrounds that would provide a wide spectrum of responses. The questions were focused on how their culture influences their idea, feelings and acceptance of beauty.

I. The process of beauty
We have all endured some sort of process to beautify ourselves, and in each culture the process varies, but the purpose for most women is to be considered sexually attractive. Robinsons makes a valid point, that "human beauty is an expression of this inventive and aesthetic nature, a reflection of our inner sprit, a biological imperative sculpted into our soul by some seemingly godlike life force, about which we can do little except accept its reality and validity."(31) Although some reject beauty as a powerful tool, it is pervasive in all environments can be paid for with a price.
As women, we undergo many transformations to be a beautiful woman, and although the changers are costly, painful the end result is a work of art. In the past five thousand years, the quest for beauty has changed significantly but they have the same purpose, to show off material wealth, social position, authority, and flaunt sexual appeal. "We have a desire to be more sexually attractive and this causes us to aesthetically alter how we appear, and as we become more aroused by our beauty we desire sexual activity from another human."(30)

II. What is beauty?
Based on our class discussion and my cultural beliefs, I think beauty is being desired by the opposite sex, even if not conforming to the ideal. "It has always been well understood that the desire to be united with another human whom we perceive to be attractive-even if this union is only a fleeting fantasy- is so fundamental a part of our nature that our judgment of beauty is influenced by it."(25) The desire to be admired by another person, in a sexual aspect drives women to perform beautifying tasks and changing their form. In all cultures, clothing and jewelry styles have sexual overtones and we use these packages to cover our nude bodies to appear more sexually attractive. In fact, the nude body is seen to be the most beautiful thing because it captivates and seduces others and ourselves without adornment.
The results from the survey question, "Is there an idea of beauty that is accepted all over the world; are there variations?" were not surprising. Most of the participant said they found symmetry, slender, proportionate, and thinness to be beautiful characteristics. One participant who originated from India and was born in the United States believes that "true inner beauty reflects outer beauty, but for most people, beauty is superficial." Her answer is culturally influenced; the Indian culture believes beauty to be a fleeting and artificial, but rather the personality and charm to be beautiful and long lasting.

III. The Nude
Both the Eastern and Western cultures have very contrasting definitions of public nudity and the nude figure. Robinson in his research states that "Although Western cultures have a "marked phobia about nakedness" (23) Westerners have not lost respect for some attributes of the naked body, even when they redesign some body parts to cover the genitalia. But it is when the nude figure comes out publicly on display that both Eastern and Western cultures consider it distasteful. "Because of our religious and cultural traditions we are not accustomed to observing the naked body as it really is, in all its various shapes"(24)
The women surveyed were in consensus that the public nudity is unattractive, unacceptable and uncomfortable when confronted with it. One participant says, "Because we are raised to always cover ourselves, we see nudity as wrong," However, when asked about cultural ideas of nudity, the participants reasoned that it is not admired in either culture. It is not admired because of the sexual instincts that are associated with a "pure form", and when someone is gazing at a naked body it is out of sexual pleasure. Kenneth Clark in The Nude writes, "No nude, however abstract should fail to arouse in the spectator some erotic feeling"(25) Despite the differences in cultural beliefs, both hemispheres have an aversion to public nudity and the nude figure unless displayed in an inanimate manner e.g. a painting, sculpture, temple idols, ukiyo-e prints, and carvings.

IV. Western Cultural Ideals
My survey asked, "Do you know what the Western ideal of beauty is?" The answers to this questions exemplified how strong culture is tied to our ideas, one Caucasian stated a natural looking glow, and big breasted, one Jewish stated straight-edge classic, and an Indian said white features- small nose that turns up, tall, thin and with few curves. They proceeded to give examples, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Pamela Anderson, and Kate Bosworth- all white, famous, affluent actresses. Based on these answers, one can state that all races feel a Western ideal of beauty- a white, slender, sensual figure. Although I knew the Western ideal to be what these women stated, I didn't think that two women would have written the same actress or felt the same characteristics to be the Western ideal. This further proves that regardless of our religion, ethnicity, and cultural background the Western notion of beauty will always be in our minds and is used as a comparison tool.
However, I do believe Robinson's claim that "each cultural group has invented the ideals and symbols it needs to reflect its natural peculiarities."(28) The Western culture applauds women who are tan, tall and slender, have large breasts small waists, and delicate features. Most of the Western ideals originated from early artist's rendition that depicted women in plumpness and opulence, which was made these women appear rich because they could afford to eat more food than thinner women.

V. Eastern Cultural Ideals
In this paper, I confirmed that the ideals of beauty are related to what each individual desires sexually. However, in Eastern cultures where sex is not discussed, their ideals differ very much because of this. For example in India, "women naturally have full bosoms and waists, they have persuaded the men that this conformation is the highest degree of perfection, they have also worked themselves into the same belief."(28) The ideal is not based on sexual attraction but rather what is appealing in society, hence nudity is looked down upon even more so. Despite this, the ideal of Eastern cultures based on the Caucasian surveyed students is considered more subtle, cherished, and have sensual, delicate features. But the Indian students polled think the Eastern ideal is voluptuous, curvaceous, big eyes and strong noses. Both Asian races that were interviewed, Korean-American and Indian-American felt the influence of a Western ideal of beauty- undergoing plastic surgery to attain that perfect upturned nose, larger blue and green eyes, and luscious lips as one participant writes.
Robinson found it difficult to define one Eastern cultural ideal because of the influence of Western culture and the varying process of beauty evolution. The evolution has been closer to a Western ideal. He says, "The ideals of the industrialized world are rapidly spreading through these remote areas- affecting the way of life and the sensibility of all, regardless of skin, their religious beliefs, or their cultural heritage. I have observed many business men from Sri Lanka who shave and prepare their hair in Western style, signifying their membership in the global village."(49) The discrepancy between the Caucasian and Asian students interviewed stem from their racial background. The Caucasian students see a European look as being the Eastern ideal because they arrived from Europe, where the Asian students see East and South Asian curves, average height, being the Eastern ideal.

VI. Religion and Beauty
For the Asian religions in the Eastern hemisphere, especially Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikhism, the pressure to treat beauty as a respectful and dignified attribute is repeated over and over in the religious texts. The surveyed students of Asian descent state that, "Hinduism suggests that beauty is demonstrated through a woman's actions and behaviors, and is admired more when reserved." Furthermore, it makes the Indian students view beauty on a different level, rather than for its material characteristics. However, for the Caucasian students, religions such as Christianity, Episcopalian and Judaism did not play a role in how they viewed beauty.
The religious idols and texts displayed in Western and religions have not been nude and the idols are fully clothed, signifying that beauty might not be found in religious idols but rather in the scriptures. Oppositely, Eastern religion idols are considered beautiful, especially when depicted in the nude because it is real and has to be revered because it is a religious being. The Kama Sutra which originated in India and the Bijinga painting styles from Japan, both painted a very beautiful depiction of women, and although it was in a sexual way they were considered religious because the beauty of the women were god-like.
Robinson sees a relation between what cultures find beautiful and the appearance of their Gods. "These forms of adornment are also the measure by which we judge other people. Many of us find it difficult to comprehend or accept the aesthetic merit or logic behind any form of apparel or adornment other than that which we currently admire within our society."(47) With this belief, both cultures can admire the beauty of what is displayed in their houses of worship, and use that admiration to define their cultural ideal of beauty. The Hindu goddesses are displayed as plump, round figures, and the male gods, which are in animal, or baby stages are nude, but shown innocently rather than as sexual objects.

VII. The relation between Sex and Beauty
Sex and beauty go hand in hand, especially when determining what the ideals are because Robinson says that sexual attraction influences what the cultures find attractive. Early Freud stated, "I have no doubt that the concept of beauty is rooted in the soil of sexual stimulation and signified originally that which was sexually exciting."(32) For cultures that are more open to consider sexual attraction as a basis for beauty, the study of Eastern sexual practices describe the "sex-sensual pathway to health and happiness has a beautifying effect and energy on the mind, body and beauty of participants."(32) This reaffirms the participant's belief that beauty comes from sexual desire and the men and women who are considered beautiful in all cultures are those that are wanted as sexual partners. Robinson says, "Without such regular sexual contact very few couples would stay together for very long, it is also this sexiness that seems to fuel our aesthetic sensibilities, it is also one of the main motivating forces behind our modes of beautification, experimenting with new and different ways to attract a mate."(36) The seeking of a mate helps prove that in all cultures, women and men go to great lengths to beautify themselves into that cultures ideal.
The women participants all felt that sex and beauty are intertwined, more so in the Western ideal, when beautiful women are displayed as sex symbols, for example runway models in scantily clad clothing or in magazine advertisements displaying bathing suit fashions. Even the Asian women surveyed felt the sexual influence of beauty in their culture, especially when Western advertisers have a pervasive sovereignty on the young generations of Asians. The women feel the effect of sexual pressure more strongly, because they see sexiness and beauty relating to, "healthiness, and the ability to successfully bear children, all the females had to was learn to woo these males with their beauty and they would be protected and given a greater chance of survival."(38)

VIII. Cultural influences on survey participants

The purpose of this paper was to investigate how cultural backgrounds, religion, and ethnicity influenced the ideals of beauty. Through my survey, I saw a consistent trend that explained how ubiquitous the Western ideal of beauty is all over the world and even in cultures that have little exposure to the pressure of advertisements. The Western ideal is what most women are striving to attain, it replaces their own ideal and this causes obstacles when ethnic women are not meant to biologically conform to the Western ideal. The seven women who were interviewed ranged from Episcopalian, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, and Christian to being Korean, Indian and Caucasian. The wide array helped me understand that women of different generations and locations have felt the globalization of a Western ideal- skinny, "white" features, tall, and non-curvaceous body.
Even Robinson saw this occur when researching Robert Brain's findings in The Decorated Body, "our current Western modes of beauty are far from average, they are not even products of natural evolution, but of astute marketing and industrialization. We in the industrialized world now live in what can best be described as a "beauty culture"- a culture that in many countries has virtually replaced religion. Western ideal of regulated beauty, where it is manufactured for mass consumption." (44) The mass consumption is taking places, in Eastern countries at a rapid rate and the end result is a perception of beauty that is not indigenous to that area, and is based on manufactured attributes.

IX. Conclusion

Although I was only able to survey seven women, I think with more time I would have come across similar responses that prove a Western ideal to be the most coveted by women. The geographical divide between the Eastern and Western hemispheres permit beauty ideals that are opposites of each, however there is a Western influence felt today by civilizations and I think it helps cultures enjoy the beauty of others for the purpose of sexual enjoyment, which is what beauty is about.

Full Name:  Elizabeth Newbury
Username:  enewbury AT brynmawr DOT edu
Title:  Musings of An Anthropologist
Date:  2005-05-12 14:05:34
Message Id:  15134
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Beauty,Spring 2005 Fifth Web Papers On Serendip

It is hard to create a definition about beauty that could be applied universally when one is only looking through the lens of one culture. As beauty is arguably one of the more elusive constructions of humanity, it is vital to not only look at how beauty manifests itself in different disciplines within the academia of Western culture, but how it manifests itself within other cultures. The social sciences, those sciences devoted to the understanding of humanity as whole, are a vital tool to learning about beauty and gaining a broader understanding. Perhaps what urges me to think thusly is that, as a student of anthropology, a discipline that prides itself with the ability to study humanity in whatever form it may present itself, I was virtually pulling my hair out at times as we tried to define beauty, but did not try to cast a wide net to create a holistic view of beauty.

Thus it is that I decided to shoulder the heavy burden of attempting to provide a crash course on beauty with an anthropologist's eye. It should be made clear, before I press on too far ahead, that in the pond of anthropology, I am a tadpole. I am by no means an authority in any way, shape or form. I cannot speak for my field as a whole. I can speak from the limited experiences that I have had in my limited studies thus far. This paper is by no means supposed to be taken as a doctrine for anthropological theory and beauty.

Let me state simply the acknowledgements, or rather, assumptions that I am making in this discussion of anthropology and beauty. The first assumption is that everyone understands that there are a wide variety of human experiences, and that anthropology, nor any discipline, could ever hope to cover all variances of the human experience in a lifetime, let alone a single paper. The reason this assumption is important is that is means I make no presumptions that there is no golden rule when it comes to human thought and the perception of beauty. Human experience is unique to each individual. This falls under the guidelines of the cultural relativism view, which I will explain later.

Following that, the second assumption is that humans are not born with a definite sense of what is beautiful. They are not born knowing what to find beautiful. It is their exposure to culture, the process of learning their identity as a person and a member of society, that creates the standards of beauty in their mind. Therefore, they are not born knowing that blonde hair is beautiful, but must learn it from the onset. Granted, babies are like sponges, and quickly absorb this information, at such a rate that there are many studies that would argue that some stereotypes are born before a child can even articulate these stereotypes. This series of assumptions can never be tested. There is no means of isolating a baby from all humanity, and then coming back a few years later to see if that same child, had it survived, would have any innate perceptions of beauty. There are a multitude of reasons why such an experiment would never work, the primary one being that it is entirely too inhumane for anyone to consider.

The final assumption I make is that the reader has had very limited exposure to anthropology, let alone anthropological theory. Therefore, before I press ahead with my analysis of various cultures, I'll cover some of the basic terms that I will be throwing around. I'll try to get through this as quickly and painlessly as I can.

When it comes to anthropology in there here and now, everything is relative. Culturally relative, that is. This concept of 'cultural relativism' is moderately new to the field, having only been introduced as a theory in the late 1930's and early 1940's by Franz Boas. Today, anthropologist are making a die-hard effort to remain a third party observer in whatever they are studying. Cultural relativism and importance to the field is immeasurable, for cultural relativism calls for the anthropologist to consider cultures with a grain of salt.

Prior to the introduction of cultural relativism, societies were considered to be on a path of evolution from primitive social groups to industrialized societies. In short, the Western culture was the ideal society, and groups such as the Native Americans were entirely inferior to their way of life. As cultural relativism was introduced, anthropologists began to identify their ethnocentric biases and have made valiant efforts to not apply Western standards on other cultures. Yet even know we, members of Western society, nevertheless find ourselves falling into the same trap of holding other cultures up to our standards.

What I find most amusing about this notion is that this seems to be a human characteristic. Other cultures that anthropologists have studied, such as the Native Americans, consider their own culture to be the height of humanity, the center of the perfect model for our species, and as a result pity our culture for being unable to reach their level of perfection. In other words, while we should try to remain culturally relative, we shouldn't kick ourselves too hard if we miss the mark a few times.

In the following few paragraphs, I'll attempt to describe some of the rudimentary forms of thought that anthropology has concerning the purpose of material items in a society. The reason I have to go into this bit of nitty gritty is that beauty is generally applied to either objects within a culture (material culture) or the modes of adornment on the human body found within the culture. To this end, I will skim over the theories of functionalism, structuralism, and cultural ecology, three theories that I think can be applied to nearly every culture in some way or another.

Functionalists believe that culture develops around the biological needs of the individual. For instance, the purpose of marriage is to reproduce, the purpose of a house is to provide shelter, and thus those are the reasons for marriage and houses. A very popular theory, even today, in part due to its barebones simplicity. Under this theory, the reason for clothing could be to provide protection from the elements, or it could be to try to attract a mate, and therefore people come up with a wide variety of ways to adorn themselves in order to accomplish these tasks. Expanding this to material culture, the reason for creating a painting would be in order to increase your status in order to obtain food, shelter, or a mate; or even to provide you with a basic biological pleasure.

On the other hand, structuralism believes that it is through the analysis of objects in a culture that we can derive their true meaning and delve into the psyche of the culture that created them. For instance, the language of the culture is a reflection on what is important to that society. If there were a culture where there are more terms to describe kinship relations, then kinship is very important to the culture. With our culture, we have a wide variety of terms that we can use to apply to visual qualities, like color and shape. A structuralist would take this to mean that visual stimulation is very important to us and our way of life.

Then there is cultural ecology. Under this theory, the qualities within a culture develop as a direct result of the environment that we exist in. Cultures use what they have available in order to make their material culture, and in turn, as humans are prone to do, they shape the environment around them due to their demands on the environment. One could go as far to say that what people within a society find beautiful will be dependent on what they are exposed to, and what is available to them. Obviously an individual cannot learn that, again, blonde hair is beautiful when they have never been exposed to blonde hair.

Now that that's out of the way, let us turn our attention to more pressing matters, and more tangible arguments.

One of the things we failed to discuss in class was the evolution of mankind. When we are working with such as integral part of our culture, beauty, it is important to at least in passing consider why it may have developed within our society. The Quest for Human Beauty is a fantastic reference for the following argument. One of Robinson's primary arguments is that humans could have created beauty for entirely sexual reasons. For the purposes of furthering the species, we seek out the ideal mate. The ideal mate, primitively, was defined as a healthy individual. But either as our brains developed or we became more selective in our process, we came up with higher standards, and thus the seeds for beauty were created. These standards of what the 'ideal mate' would later become what is beautiful to our eyes.

It would also create competition, and pressure to become these ideology so that we could participate in the furthering of our species. Competition lead to creativity, and no doubt it was for these very reasons that our predecessors began to experiment with adorning themselves. It's a very Darwinian argument, as well as a very functionalist one, that being that we are beautiful in order to fill the basic need of mating.

To our contemporary mind, awash as it is with Adam Smith theory, this explanation seems fitting. In order to get the best resources, the best mate, an individual will have to be better than its peers, who are also after the same resource. To this extent, you have to become the most beautiful, the most desirable individual around.

Pursuing something along those lines would have greatly added to the course, I feel. It would have provided a background, a foundation for us to build upon. Obviously there are a plentitude of counter arguments to the evolutionary theory. Theology could be brought into the mix, whether some other being created us with an ideal beauty in mind. My retort to that is that, if one universal being had created humanity with one ideal beauty in mind, why are there so many variations? But then again, I'm not a theology student, and evolution is a pretty vital assumption to my field.

So far we have hit upon the theories in anthropology, but now let us apply them to actual cultures. Bearing in mind that I am still only a tadpole in the great lake of anthropology, I will turn my attention to describing a few concrete examples of beauty in different cultures that I have encountered in my studies, that could be applied to the class and contribute to a better understanding of beauty. The first among these are the Native Americans.

The Native North Americans, classified as a cultural group, are not as cohesive as one might assume based on that ethnographic classification. Indeed, there is a great diversity amongst the Native Americans, as the name encompasses hundreds of unique tribes that occupy many different geographic regions; from the harsh climate, cold climate of the Artic, to the swampy recesses of the South East, to the vast expanse of the Great Plains, and so forth. Due to this geographic and consequently ecological diversity, it would seem near impossible to discuss the similarities amongst the different tribes as far as beauty is concerned. For the purposes of this paper, I will only consider the Artic and Sub-Artic region.

The primary issue to understand about the Artic region is that there is very little resources with which to construct things from. Particularly with the more northern regions of the Artic, there are virtually no trees, no woodlands, and very little vegetation to work with. Nonetheless, the Yupiks, Inuits, and Eskimos that inhabit this area have managed to create an abundance of beautiful objects.

What I find the most interesting about these tribes is that, while they do create objects out of ivory and driftwood for pleasure and religious purposes, even their basic material goods, such as boxes, baby bundles, bowls, and weapons, are made beautiful through ornamentation. They not only apply dye to the functional objects, they apply meaning. A bowl is not simply a bowl, it reflects the spirit of the sea otter or the whale. In their religion, each animal in this world has a spirit, and this is a way of honoring the spirit so that they will the blessings of these animals in future endeavors, such as hunting, or simply just good luck in their lifetimes.

As a consequence, there is a lot of animal imagery in the Artic material culture. But they aren't simply depicting a sea lion or a sea urchin as they see it on the beach or in the ocean. Utilizing the limited color palette that they have at their disposal -- most of Inuit objects are painted in blacks, reds, and possibly green or blue -- they use the natural colors of the wood and outline the animal they are trying to depict, fashioning an image that is not only a representation of the animal itself, but of the spirit. Animal faces sometimes seem to take on a human quality in their artwork.

As a result, one could conclude that the Inuits find spirit animals beautiful. Another interpretation could be that they find geographic designs beautiful, as they seem to utilize a very rigid, geometric style in their artwork. Yet that's only scratching the surface. When I as an anthropologist look at these objects, I see an appreciation for the basic necessities in life. Everything to the Inuit is beautiful, from the smallest comb to the canoe. This sense of beauty no doubt blossomed from a long history of having to scrape by from year to year, of being victim to the elements and the migration of animals, but in the end it is a sense of beauty that we could all draw from.

Going across the Pacific Ocean now, let us turn our aesthetic eye to East Asia, specifically Japan. The Japanese have a long history of traditional art forms, all of them beautiful, from kabuki theater to ikebana, the art of flower arrangement, to calligraphy to ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints. But we will hold off on diving into these traditional forms, and consider a less conventional form of beauty that I have grown particularly fond of.

Martial arts.

What's this, you say? Martial arts? That's hardly a form of beauty! But martial arts is beautiful to the culture. It is an icon of the culture, and it represents more than just memorizing a series of motions for combat. Martial arts has a long history of preparing individuals for combat both physically, mentally, and spiritually. An individual learning martial arts is, in effect, learning a belief system that is tightly connected to Buddhist and Confucius ideas. As with the Native Americans, the beauty lies in that everyone in the culture recognizes the significance of the action. With martial arts is a way of seeking not only cool kicks, but also enlightenment.

Consider this. In our culture, we consider ballet to be a beautiful art form. It's graceful, it's eloquent. The ballerinas are exerting masterful control over their bodily movements in order to express a piece of music. Like in ballet, it is important in martial arts to have control over the body, and, again, not simply for the effectiveness in a fight. In forms such as aikido, which translates roughly as 'way of harmonious spirit', the movements are as graceful as any ballerina. Just as the ballerina is an extension of the music, the movements in aikido are an expression of a spiritual meaning.

Yet despite all of these examples, you may still doubt the abilities to integrate social sciences into this pursuit of beauty. Let me then pull from the shelf the example of Muslim women. In my studies, I had the great fortune to run across the book entitled Veiled Sentiments. It was the description of one anthropologists journey with a Arab family, a Muslim family. The anthropologist, a woman, lived with this family, and by living with them discovered the disparity between women and men in the society. Or perhaps, not discovered, for we have always known that there is a hierarchy in Muslim society between men and women, favoring men. But through the eyes of a woman, we were able to look at the woman's world, and the twisted beauty of the veil.

In Muslim society, a woman is an object of sin, for she is a sexual object. She represents primal lust. In order to prevent sin from occurring, the women must consequently wear a veil to hide their faces and bodies from the world. So long as she wears the veil, she is showing not only respect for her family and representing them will in the society, but also that she is acknowledging her religion. She is acknowledging that she is an object of sin, and that she is doing her part to prevent sin from happening. When she wears the veil, if she is following cultural norms, she will remain silent in the presence of men, and only speak in the woman's world. The veil is an integral part of the woman's identity.

Is the woman therefore beautiful? It would seem that the woman is only beautiful when she is acknowledging her inferiority. When applying this to the class, it is very much like the argument that we, as women, are acutely aware of the male gaze upon us. These women, aware that the man's gaze is upon them, must wear the veil, must become invisible to the world. In this cultural sense, I would argue that the woman is not the object of beauty. The object of beauty is the veil, for it represents the religion, the sacrifice of the woman for the betterment of her family and society. It is not an aesthetic beauty, but it is a beauty nonetheless.

It is hard to create a definition of beauty, even to apply within one cultural group. There are too many ways for humanity to vary, too many instances of exceptions to the rules one would wish to apply. But if one will step away from the lens of their own culture for a moment, and consider the wider realm through the eyes of an anthropologist, you would find a beautiful variety of different perspectives on beauty, and perhaps even a glimpse at the inner beliefs of the society that created those views. Through the culture, you can find the beauty of the human spirit.

Bibliography and Recommended Literature

  • Gell, Alfred. "Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory." Oxford, Clarendon Press: 1998.
  • Hendry, Joy. "Wrapping Culture: Politeness, Presentation and Power in Japan and Other Societies." New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
  • Richie, Donald. "The Image Factory: Fads & Fashions in Japan" : London, Reaktion Books: 2003 (about various forms visual and aesthetic expressions in Japan; from fashion to comics to traditional mediums)
  • Robinson, Julian. "The Quest for Human Beauty: An Illustrated History". Hong Kong: 1998
  • Rubin, Arnold (editor). "Marks of Cibilization". Los Angles, University of California: 1988.
  • Tanizaki, Jun'ichiro. Translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker. "In Praise of Shadows." US, Leete's Island Books: 1977 covers how the use of light can be aesthetic, particularly related to Japanese architecture and settings
Pictures: Inuit Gallery

Full Name:  Tanya Corder
Username:  tcorder@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Coping with a Misrepresentation of Beauty
Date:  2005-05-12 20:14:07
Message Id:  15137
Paper Text:
<mytitle> Beauty,Spring 2005 Fifth Web Papers On Serendip

COPING WITH A MISUNDERSTOOD BEAUTY BEAUTY is but a vain and doubtful good; A shining gloss that vadeth suddenly; A flower that dies when first it 'gins to bud; A brittle glass that 's broken presently: A doubtful good, a gloss, a glass, a flower, Lost, vaded, broken, dead within an hour. And as goods lost are seld or never found, As vaded gloss no rubbing will refresh, As flowers dead lie wither'd on the ground, As broken glass no cement can redress, So beauty blemish'd once 's for ever lost, In spite of physic, painting, pain, and cost. The Passionate Pilgrim, XIII William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Aristotle once said that beauty is the "gift of God," and it is true that in this world we are blessed with this ability to perceive and bask in beauty. However, because of the nature of human beings, we have universally misused and abused this boon, and our actions have led to a new negative outlook on beauty. Humans have become accustomed to mutilating themselves, discriminating, and even killing in the name of beauty and beatification. Shakespeare's poem above lists many of the negative attributes we have placed on beauty because of our inability to cope with it. He calumniously describes beauty as "vain", "a gloss," and even fleeting in the line "dead within an hour." These descriptions demonstrate how our attitudes toward beauty have evolved to resent beauty. I feel that we, especially westerners, have forgotten the true meaning of beauty and the blessing that it was meant to be. In order to reclaim beauty and take full advantage of its benefits, we must understand the causes behind these beauty-driven injustices and learn to appropriately respond to them. We must realize that it is not beauty that is inherently bad but the way we as humans interpret it and respond to it. "Our beauty receptors receive more stimulation than they were evolved to handle; we're seeing more beauty in one day than our ancestors did in a lifetime. And the result is that beauty is slowly ruining our lives" (Chiang 296). Although this statement was from a fictional documentary, the story reflects the sentiments of many today regarding the role of beauty in mainstream media and its infiltration into our lives. Nancy Etcoff's statement in Survival of the Prettiest that "We have to understand beauty, or we will always be enslaved by it" adds to this notion that an overflow of beauty is capable of overpowering our judgment and freewill. First of all, many of the issues that we have with beauty are not actually brought about by beauty, but rather society's representation of it. We become upset when society does not portray beauty in a way that fits our own personal standards. This causes us to feel unacceptable and leads to our questioning of both society's standards as well as our own. Our fear of not fitting into society leads to problematic responses. We become preoccupied in trying to find satisfaction in belonging and that is when we feel that beauty is controlling our lives. However, I feel that we shouldn't even blame society or the media for our discontent. Society actually plays a role in promoting beauty. Understanding the motives behind society's standards and why they are in place can help us come to terms with society's as well as our own standards. Cultural standards are also guidelines that we, the general populace, create in order to form some sort of consensus regarding beauty. We've been told "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and these standards are a way for us to objectify beauty and explicitly define it. Beauty is ultimately subjective, but having a standard helps us to consolidate these subjective responses. However, should someone not fall in into "the standard," they have the option to remodel themselves into it or they may also remain the way they please knowing that beauty is subjective, and they fit someone else's personal standards. "The old definition of beauty...was 'multitude in unity" (Grobstein). This is illustrated by the fact that in our society there is a united idea of beauty, but each of us that make up the multitude hold our own individual standards. That is one of the beauties of beauty. The media will always portray this unobtainable ideal of beauty so that beauty withholds its elusiveness. Society and the media aid in preserving the idealness of beauty, and thus beauty's value and worth. Plato classifies beauty as a "special Form" or ideal comparable to the Good or Truth (Koggel 1). This comparison helps to shows how beauty is meant to be desirable and difficult to come by, like the Good and Truth. "An ideal, by definition can be met by only a minority of those who strive for it. If too many women are able to meet the beauty standards, ...then those standards must change in order to maintain their extraordinary nature." (Chrisler 2). Cultural ideals of beauty need to change in order to maintain its challenge and prevent the ideal of beauty from becoming valueless. Dewey in Art as Experience informs us, "The enemies of the esthetic are ... the humdrum; slackness of loose ends; submission to convention in practice and intellectual procedure (40). Therefore, society portrays a near impossible standard in order to help preserve the value of beauty and accurately represent this extraordinary attribute of beauty. Societal standards cannot incorporate everyone's ideals of beauty, but usually embody the majority's ideals. Living in a world where the standards are accommodating to everyone's personal preferences is not only unrealistic, but would hinder personal growth. Part of growing is learning to make your own decisions despite outside influences and learning to take on challenges. Although the human psyche is trained to respond to social and physical stimulants, I believe that we as human beings- beings who are argued to be substantially more intelligent than animals and who possess the ability to reason and make rational decisions – should be able to evaluate media-presented messages in an appropriate and educated way. We must learn not to allow these societal standards to overpower our free will, but learn to overcome insecurities and regain our sovereignty. We must "come to terms with ourselves as we are. We must understand out needs as individuals, and we must be honest about our faults as well as our good points (Robinson 56). Although societal standards can at times be demanding, it is we who ultimately decide to follow them or not. What it ultimately comes down to is not how outrageous these demands are, but how far we are willing to go to satisfy them. Societal standards force us to question our own value system and self-confidence. For example, if we wanted to mold into these standards, we do not necessarily have to completely adopt every attribute society deems beautiful. We can remodel to different degrees. This allows us to adopt societal standards while maintaining our own standards. For example, I can wear the heels and low-cut jeans, but choose not to starve myself because I find my full figure beautiful. Having challenging standards allows us to make such decisions and allows us to develop ourselves. Despite a common belief that men and those with power set the standards, I feel everyone plays a role in establishing as well as promoting societal standards of beauty. By being a member of a capitalistic system, judging based on appearance, and our biological desire to mate are all ways that we contribute and promote these standards. Understanding our contributions show how the negatives associated with beauty are our own doings. Americans believe in laissez faire government because it promotes competition, ingenuity, and motivates the society to work. As with most economic systems, there are negatives associated with capitalism. The one that we are concerned with is exploitation and ruthlessness. The media is the means by which society advertises its ideal of beauty. However, the media's main objective is not to inform viewers of what is beautiful or not; it only uses the ideal of beauty to sell a product. Beauty has always been a tactful way to trigger emotions and lure consumers. Beauty is such a powerful means of attracting attention for numerous reasons. First, we are biologically programmed to respond to physical beauty. It is "an essential part of our humanness and an essential part of Nature's survival strategy" (Robinson 56). Also, Fisher explains in Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences, that aesthetics incite wonder, questioning, and close attention (46). To add to that, Scarry adds "beauty is a call" because it provides a "generous availability to sensory perception." (109-110). It appeals to our senses, our emotions and hormones, and our curiosity, which makes it so hard not to respond to it. However, this bombardment of beauty was all brought about by a desire to make money in a capitalistic system. Therefore, capitalism indirectly promotes societal standards. However, because we are the consumers who buy the products, we subsequently promote the ideals. Also, the ideologies behind capitalism, Social Darwinism and competition, help promote the ideology that beauty is a competition, it is something that can be bought, and it is reserved for the elite. Therefore it is this desire to come out on top that prompts extreme behavior in order to acquire beauty, and leads to negative consequences. Another way we promote societal standards is through lookism. We discriminate based on appearances, usually favoring those who fit the societal norms, and this is what prompts more and more people into wanting to adopt societal standards. In order to be rewarded in this society, one must possess the attributes that society deems worthy. Appearances play a role in any selection process, whether it is which applicant to hire or which presidential candidate to select. Despite the fact that we know we may not fully fit the standards, we still favor those who do. It is because by judging others, we are taking attention away from our own insecurities. However, our judgments foster insecurities in others as well as fuel the societal ideals. This in turn prompts others to become more insecure and judge. As you can see, it becomes a paradoxical cycle that will only end when we learn to deal with lookism and conquer our own insecurities. Lookism not only promotes the negative side affects of cultural standards, but is an issue within itself. Judgment based on appearances has had a detrimental effect on social relations, social equality, and self-image throughout the past few centuries. Effects range from anorexia and unfair job hiring to six million dying in the Holocaust because of un-Aryan attributes. We teach our kids not to judge a book by its cover so that they will not prejudge matters before gathering all the necessary information. However, humans instinctively form preconceived notions based on appearances. It is as uncontrollable as wincing in response to pain. Paul Grobstein claims, "'Beauty' is the result of an unconscious analysis and is reported to the I-function as the resultant of that analysis without any information about how the analysis was carried out." Humans just get the results; they have no influence over the formation of these opinions. Ted Chiang in Liking What You See, concurs by stating, "Evolution gave us a circuit that responds to good looks – call it the pleasure receptor for our visual cortex" (296). He goes on to add, "...in our natural environment, it was useful to have." Grobstein also deduced the same conclusion that, "Even if one could, one would probably not be wise to abolish the category since "beauty" as a discriminative category is a result of evolution and likely to have some value." Therefore, not only is it ok to judge, it has a purpose; it is a mechanism for survival, proliferation, and advancement. It is apparent that judgment cannot and should not be restricted, however our personal responses or prompted actions due to our judgments are what lead to problems and injustice. We've been taught to respect other opinions, and this is an ideal we promote throughout our society. It is taught in classrooms and is evident in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. Therefore, one is entitled to believe someone is of lesser aesthetic value than another. However, our society discourages and places regulations on inappropriate actions or behavior. Teachers encourage us to "challenge the ideas, not the person." Therefore, although we may not necessarily be drawn to another person, we still have to learn to play nice. Ted Chiang's Liking What You See: A Documentary demonstrates what it would be like if we could be programmed not to judge based on appearances. Clearly that type of a world would be un-stimulating, and moreover we should not need scientific technology to prevent our discriminative actions. Brittany Pladek in our course forum explains how it would be a form of "moral laziness." We should learn to regulate our own behavior because in the end it results in a more functional, fair and fundamentally beautiful society. It becomes evident that the problems brought about by human beauty can only be corrected through individual reformation. Society as a whole will always place demanding standards on us, and we are genetically programmed to judge. Therefore, the only solution to our frustrations with beauty is to make more informed decisions and regulate our behavior. We cannot rely on society standards to change in order to accommodate to our individual preferences. We can only look to ourselves to overcome them. Robinson expresses my own sentiments when she says, "we humans are very resilient and inventive, and I am positive we will find ways to survive and thrive, just as we have done in the past" (56). This is how we will grow individually and as a society. There is no doubt about the importance of physical beauty in our lives because it is a way in which we humans can embody beauty, an entity we naturally seek to enrich live. "We naturally seek beauty as we seek good" (Hoffman 2). We've seen how this embodiment helps us attract a mate, who is seeking beauty as well. It also promotes our sense of belonging in society. However, this causes us to forget everything else that beauty can encompass. There are other means in which we may utilize beauty and they tend to provide a lot more emotional sustenance than mere physical embodiment. There a variety of ways in which we respond to beautiful experiences. Such experiences usually result in an overload of emotion that requires another means of expression. Expression is a way to release some of this emotional energy. Most artistic expression is prompted by some sort of beautiful encounter. After the experience, the artist is moved to recreate the poignant personal experience. Their recreations heighten the experience for the artist because "beauty... may be personal but gains strength when it is shared with others" (Hoffman 1). However, it also creates a possible new beautiful experience for the viewer. "A work of art... is recreated every time it is aesthetically experienced" (Dewey 108). Because of natural beauty, beauty is recreated into music, dance, paintings, sculptures, and the written word. These are forms that truly enrich our cultures, our lives, and the world. It's a display of the capabilities of mankind and is a way in which we as humans can share our beautiful experiences with others. Natural beauty is also used to uncover scientific truths. "Einstein...was quite convinced that beauty was a guiding principle in the search for important results in theoretical physics...Nature, at the fundamental level, is beautifully designed" (Zee 3). Zee believes that theories with beautiful attributes, symmetry and simplicity, are more likely to be accurate. Therefore, recognizing beautiful features help eliminate incorrect solutions to natural phenomenon and choose the most accurate models. Reciprocally, scientific truths help define and provide the formula for beauty. "Aesthetic imperatives of contemporary physics make up a system of aesthetics that can be rigorously formulated"(4). Fisher raises the idea that it is beauty in nature, like that of the rainbow, which prompts a desire to discover fundamental truths in the first place. "The sudden appearance of the rainbow, its rareness, its beauty are all part of this initial act of striking us, trapping and holding our attention by means of beauty and the unwilled response of wonder" (40). Beauty's role in the sciences has led to many remarkable discoveries. These discoveries in return make our even more beautiful. Aside for the arts and science, beauty has numerous other benefits. "Beauty can wake us up to care, to enlarge our world, to go beyond our skin, to feel the pleasure of being alive" (Gebara 25). Beautiful experiences open our eyes to the world and remind us what it means to live. It provides us with our purpose in life and reminds us why it is enjoyable. Beautiful experience can range from and intense conversation to running through a thunderstorm. These experiences can incite love, happiness, passion, and so much more. We should celebrate and rejoice in the beauty of the world not use it as justification for destructive and immoral behavior. In today's society we become bombarded with all of these downsides and injustices brought about by beauty and in our efforts to correct these injustices, we forget what true beauty really is. Beauty should be internalized. We determine what it means to us personally and how we want to apply it to our lives. Because beauty is subjective, it is we who ultimately have control over it, and we who decide how we want to apply it to our lives. Through creating beauty, observing beauty, or embodying beauty, we can find emotional and psychological sustenance, which is the purpose of beauty. Any negatives associated with beauty are only describing our behavior in response to beauty. I leave you with the following poem to experience as beauty and remind you of what beauty should truly represent. WHEN Beauty and Beauty meet All naked, fair to fair, The earth is crying-sweet, And scattering-bright the air, Eddying, dizzying, closing round, With soft and drunken laughter; Veiling all that may befall After—after— Where Beauty and Beauty met, Earth's still a-tremble there, And winds are scented yet, And memory-soft the air, Bosoming, folding glints of light, And shreds of shadowy laughter; Not the tears that fill the years After—after— Rupert Brooke (1887–1915) Works Cited *All of the citations were from the course readings, therefore if I don't have all the citing information it is because they were not given in the packet. Chiang, Ted. Liking What You See: A Documentary. Tom Doherty Associates. New York. Dewey, John. Art As Experience. Fisher, Phillip. Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences. London, England: Harvard University Press, 1998. Gebara, Ivone. "Yearning for Beauty." The Other Side. July & August 2003. 24-25. Grobstein, Paul. www.serendip.brynamwr.edu/local/scicoc/beauty/grobstein/ Hoffmann, Roald. "Thoughts on Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry." Robinson, Julian. The Quest for Human Beauty. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998. Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton University Press. www.bartleby.com (for poems) Zee, A. Fearful Symmetry. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Full Name:  Megan Monahan
Username:  mmonahan@brynmawr.edu
Title:  The Beauty of Age
Date:  2005-05-13 01:12:29
Message Id:  15148
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Our fast-paced modern culture has become utterly obsessed with that which is new. In a society where clothing trends barely last through the season there is little reverence for that which is aged. Though this desire to be cutting-edge has permeated almost all aspects of American life the most tragic effect is the resulting ageism that our society harbors. It is not an open hatred like homophobia or racism but more a lack of respect and an ideology that senior citizens have lost their value as human beings. The concept of respect for one's elders has become an antiquated notion itself but other cultures have a deep admiration for their more mature individuals.
As a concept, ageism was introduced in 1969 by Robert Butler, director of the National Institute on Aging and it has come to define any discrimination for or against an individual based upon their age. At the worst the elderly are horribly discriminated against and at the best they are ignored because it is a practice considered acceptable by our culture. We segregate the elderly to nursing and retirement homes in an effort to discard them in order to not have to be around them; for, we fear them as a reminder that we too will be aged one day. These homes are notorious for their neglect of those they are supposedly helping and commonly face lawsuits as a result. Years ago families would keep elderly relatives living with them at home but we have allowed ourselves to believe that our time is too important to be bothered by the old. Ironically, the largest proportion of the very old (aged 75 and over) can be found in the United States.
It also appears that this disregard shown to the elderly in America is prevalent in Great Britain as well. According to a study done by a charity called Help the Aged, elderly patients face discrimination and poor care in accident and emergency facilities. They say the conditions have reached an "unacceptable level of care". In one particular case highlighted by the charity, a 77-year-old man waited for three hours in "appalling agony" in a Surrey, England accident and emergency unit despite his having advanced stomach cancer. He then died four days later. His daughter told Help the Aged that her father was not allowed to lie down because there were no trolley beds available.
Even our language is riddled with such colloquialisms as "geezer," "old fogey," "old maid," "dirty old man," and "old fart" that promote negative concepts of the elderly. The Japanese language has a specific word for the beauty that comes with age, sabi.. The term refers to the concept that changes due to use, age, or wear may make an object more beautiful as well as more valuable. This incorporates an appreciation of the various cycles of life and the careful, artful mending of damage. This term has been combined with another Japanese word, wabi, into the phrase wabi-sabi, which means, "a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional. ... The closest English word to wabi-sabi is probably "rustic".... Things wabi-sabi are unstudied and inevitable looking ... unpretentious ... Their craftsmanship may be impossible to discern." This type of expression would be used to describe the beauty of a cracked pot, tarnished metal, or even the wrinkles on an old woman's face.
The need for perfection and newness has not affected the Japanese as it has Americans and this appreciation of that which is mature ought to be adopted in this country. Instead of seeing senior citizens as worn out or out of touch with the modern world, perhaps a new set of ideas could be put into place purporting the elderly as priceless sources of wisdom and life experience. Everyone is so scared of aging and becoming irrelevant, but growing old needs to be perceived as an honor.
Perhaps this is the result of our media and Hollywood but, "nearly 90 million American consumers currently use or have used products or procedures in an attempt to reduce their visible signs of aging." Also, if they had it their way, Americans would prefer to look considerably younger than they actually are. With men, the "ideal" age to be is 36 while the average age of the men surveyed was 49. As for women, the ideal age is 34 but the average age of the women surveyed was 47. Survey respondents also agreed that a youthful appearance is an important factor for professional success. Fifty-two percent of women and fifty percent of men felt that way. Women were more likely than men to view a youthful appearance as an important factor in personal happiness as well since 37 percent of women believed that as compared to only 28 percent of men.
With all the ageism in the United States it is not wonder that everyone wants to reverse the effects of aging. Even the current political system is attempting to further neglect the retirement community of our country. President George W. Bush's proposed Social Security reform would privatize the system and therefore leave the elderly community with fewer means of supporting themselves during their "golden years." Millions of seniors rely on their social security checks for some if not all of their income and to deprive them of that would be a direct slight the senior community.
Beauty is indeed all in the eye of the beholder, so why is it so difficult for us to see the beauty of the elderly. Relationships with other people as well as life events are some of the most beautiful things anyone can experience so it follows that the elderly would be an amazing source of beauty. Their lives have been so rich simply by virtue of existing for so long; and yet, they go untapped as the astonishing resources to times long gone that they are.
I remember a particular incident from just a few weeks ago when my friend and I were waiting in line at the local Wendy's to get some food. They was an extremely old couple in front of us who were taking forever to order and getting confused about what it was they actually were doing. It was no bother at first but then the scene dragged on and it was obvious that the workers behind the counter were on their last nerve with the couple. I found myself getting quite annoyed as well and wishing that they would hurry up even though I knew it was selfish of me to think my food order was more important than theirs.
Eventually, they worked it all out and everyone got their meals. I then proceeded to forget the couple entirely. However, during a lull in the conversation between my friend and me while eating, we overheard a bit of the couple's conversation. The man said to the woman (who I assume was his wife) that he had graduated high school seventy years ago that day. He seemed to be in total awe of that fact but I believe I was even more astonished. I could not ever fathom having lived that much life and suddenly I was flooded by intense feelings of guilt for wishing that they had not been in the restaurant forcing me to wait an extra few minutes for my hamburger.
Many believe that with age comes a loss of physical beauty but it is really only a necessary part of living. Everyone grows old eventually so it would simply be best to come to terms with aging. This is perhaps why ageism is so rampant, yet so nonsensical since it will affect everyone no matter what race, class, or gender.

Full Name:  Krystal Madkins
Username:  kmadkins@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Not a Pretty Girl
Date:  2005-05-13 08:56:36
Message Id:  15153
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

I am not a pretty girl
that is not what I do
I ain't no damsel in distress¡K

-Ani DiFranco¡¦s ¡¥Not a Pretty Girl¡¦

¡Kand God help you if you are an ugly girl
course too pretty is also your doom
cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room¡K

-Ani Difranco¡¦s ¡¥32 Flavors¡¦

Arms swinging loosely, legs twisting in awkward but oh so trendy angles, hair tossed wildly across her face, Margaret Armstrong ended the song three upstrokes on her baby blue guitar. She turned to smile at the lead singer of her band, Ethan, as their drummer, Joey, continued to pound frenetically on the drums, only stopping when one of his sticks snapped in half.

¡§Fucking great set,¡¨ Ethan shouted in Maggie¡¦s ear over the applauding crowd.
¡§Yea, I know.¡¨

Swing her guitar off her shoulder, Maggie turned to follow Ethan off stage. They sat in the small backstage room with Joey and their bassist, Patrick, taking sips of their drinks as they tried to cool down after their lively set.

¡§We were on another level tonight! I think this is the best we¡¦ve played in a long time,¡¨ Joey exclaimed, his words already starting to slur.
¡§Obviously,¡¨ Maggie smirked. ¡§How many sticks did you go through tonight?¡¨
¡§Don¡¦t worry about that. You¡¦re not buying ¡¥em.¡¨
Maggie leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. It had been a great show. Maybe the best they¡¦d ever played. After almost five years of playing venues along the East Coast, the band was finally getting attention. They had somehow even managed to get half a page written about them in the Rolling Stones. Maybe that was what inspired their performance tonight. Maggie slowly smiled as she remembered different high points during the set. This had to be it. All of the hard work was finally paying off. Her thoughts were interrupted at the sound of Patrick¡¦s voice.

¡§You guys wanna go back out and watch the other bands? Huh? Oh! And did you see Jimmy from Hot Red Heat out there? He¡¦s probably still out there.¡¨
¡§Yea I saw him,¡¨ Ethan replied. Smiling to himself, he continued. ¡§Man¡Kcan you imagine if he asked us to tour with them?¡¨
¡§Let¡¦s not get too excited, kids!¡¨ Joey shouted in an affected voice.

The four musicians shifted around as they got ready to go out into the crowd to enjoy the show. After a few minutes of stretching, playful nudges, and some stumbling, the members of Chocolate Pepper made their way out into the crowd. An excited buzz hung over the room. Concert goers chatted over the background music playing as stage technicians set up for the next band. The four band mates stood at the rear of the crowd soaking in the atmosphere. In spite of their low-key location, the members of Chocolate Pepper managed to attract the attention of nearly a dozen fans as if they had weaved their way to the center of the crowd.

There were pats on backs and excited shouts of praise for an excellent performance; queries about where they¡¦d learned to play like that and boastful claims from the fans of their own talent. Most of this display was aimed at the male members of the group with Maggie getting quick sideway glances from most of men who¡¦d approached the group and measuring looks or glares from the women who had decided to approach Chocolate Pepper.
Maggie rolled her eyes and took a swig of her beer. She slowly surveyed the room in vain for Jimmy Jackson of Red Hot Heat. Tapping her foot impatiently, Maggie turned her attention back to the conversations that her band mates were having with fans. Joey was currently engaged in a drunken debate over the hype that some new band was receiving. Patrick was excitedly telling half of the assembled fans about the dates and places that Chocolate Pepper would be playing. Ethan stood between two overly made up blondes, laughing at whatever the shorter of the two had just said. Maggie watched as the women moved closer and closer into Ethan under the guise of uncontrollable, body shaking laughs.

Maggie snorted, labeling the women as pathetic in her mind. Maggie was grateful to all of their fans; grateful to all the people who came out to see them play and supported them by buying their CDs and merchandise and offering kind words after shows. One group of fans that she could not stand, however, were the ¡§Chocoholics¡¨, as Joey had endearingly named them. These were the girls who came to every show in tight shirts emblazoned with the latest trendy phrase, their breasts pushed up chin high underneath, and curve hugging designer jeans or short skirts. Flaming red or bleach blonde straightened hair, eyelashes weighed down with mascara, and brightly painted eyelids and lips completed the uniform. Maggie doubted that the girls wore the make up for themselves and even if they did, how sad! Maggie knew from years of experience that the ¡¥Chocoholics¡¦ were all ¡§gussied up¡¨ in hopes of winning the attention of some band member or members.

Despite her distaste for the ¡¥Chocoholic¡¦ girls, Maggie never confronted any of the girls and spoke her mind. She was always afraid that some smarter than average ¡¥Chocoholic¡¦ would think enough to throw back the fact that Maggie was a model. Although she modeled along with playing guitar for Chocolate Pepper, Maggie never thought of herself as similar to the ¡¥Chocoholics¡¦ in any way. Sure three or four times a week she sat in a chair having her hair straightened and layer after layer of make up applied to her skin before being helped into sheer, low-cut dresses that fit like a second skin, but she was a confident and pretty girl without all of that; and shit, she thought to herself, she¡¦d needed a guitar. She¡¦d never planned to model after earning enough to buy the guitar of her dreams but the pay was good and the work fairly easy. She was not putting on a costume to impress scrawny, peculiar looking men. She was empowered and helping herself get to where she wanted to be in life.

Maggie brought her bottle up to her mouth to take another swig of beer but found that the bottle was empty. Cursing, she turned around and headed to the bar to buy a drink. As she waited for the bartender to make her drink she felt someone stand by her side. She turned around to a wide-grinning, bearded man.

¡§Hey there,¡¨ he said, nudging Maggie. ¡§You the girl that was just up there playing guitar aren¡¦t you?¡¨
¡§Mmm I don¡¦t think I¡¦ve ever seen a prettier girl and one who can play the guitar to boot. When you first got up on stage I thought to myself ¡¥Uh oh, this group isn¡¦t gonna be fun to listen to¡¦,¡¨ he chuckled to himself.
Maggie sneered at the man. ¡§Guess you haven¡¦t read the latest issue of Rolling Stone or any of the local papers¡¦ music sections.¡¨

Truth be told, even if he had read them, he¡¦d have had to read almost halfway through the articles to any mention of Maggie¡¦s talented and innovative guitar playing. Most journalists seemed to think Maggie¡¦s physique or her outfit or her moonlighting as a model deserved mention before her musical talent. And of course Ethan and the guys were discussed first.

¡§Oh I see somebody¡¦s got quite a mouth,¡¨ the bearded man replied.
Maggie flipped him off and turned to walk back toward her friends.
¡§Hey don¡¦t leave! C¡¦mon. I was just messing around. You¡¦re a damned good guitarist. Best I¡¦ve heard in a while. Plus, you¡¦re forgetting your drink.¡¨

Maggie turned around to see the drink she¡¦d ordered sitting on the bar. After a moment of hesitation she went back and picked up her drink. As she moved to take out her money and pay, her new friend motioned for her to stop. Maggie fought back the urge to shout at the man.

¡§I¡¦ll cover it. Don¡¦t worry.¡¨
¡§No thank you. I¡¦d like to pay for my own drink,¡¨ Maggie replied sharply.
The man raised his hands in mock surrender. ¡§Okay, okay. I was just trying to be nice.¡¨
Maggie smiled tightly as she paid for her drink. As she turned to leave, Maggie smirked at the man.
¡§You may not want to worry about going back out for this next group. All of the guys are pretty attractive. There¡¦s no telling how untalented they¡¦ll be.¡¨
The man chuckled as Maggie walked away. ¡§I see you¡¦re not only a sexy guitarist. You¡¦re quite the comedian.¡¨
¡§Comedienne,¡¨ Maggie shouted back.

When Maggie got back out she noticed that more Chocoholics had arrived and draped themselves over her band mates. She looked at them, one girl standing with her chest out, another turned slightly away as she applied more lip gloss, and three other girls giggling between puffs from their cigarettes at the idiotic jokes Maggie was sure the guys were telling. The men that Ethan, Patrick, and Joey had been speaking to earlier had been pushed aside by the girls. They now stood around awkwardly laughing amongst themselves while looking on enviously at the musicians.
Sipping her drink and taking in the familiar scene, Maggie thought back to conversations she¡¦d had in the past with her friends.

¡§You know guys wouldn¡¦t have all those girls throwing themselves at you if it wasn¡¦t for the fact that you¡¦re in a band,¡¨ she¡¦d asked.
¡§Whatever,¡¨ Joey had yawned. ¡§I¡¦ve always been a lady¡¦s man.¡¨
¡§Yea right,¡¨ she¡¦d replied.
¡§The quality of the girls has been going down though. We¡¦ve been getting some dogs lately,¡¨ Patrick had chimed in.
Maggie¡¦s eyes had widened in shock.
¡§Dogs? You¡¦re not exactly Brad Pitt,¡¨ she¡¦d said, surprising herself by coming to the defense of some of the Chocoholics.
¡§I don¡¦t need to be,¡¨ Patrick had responded smugly.
¡§But girls do?¡¨
¡§Hey I¡¦m just telling the truth. That¡¦s the way it is. Besides,¡¨ he continued, his voice rising, ¡§you don¡¦t even have to really be hot. Just put on enough make up and some sexy clothes. That¡¦s good enough for me.¡¨

Maggie remembered how she¡¦d continued to argue with Patrick, thinking the whole time about how the things he was saying were sadly true. Men had it so much easier than women. They didn¡¦t have to be beautiful. If they were in fact beautiful or, more appropriately, handsome, that just happened to be an extra plus. Over the years she had witness many male musicians hooking much more attractive women because of their ¡¥personality¡¦ or ¡¥talent¡¦. This hardly ever happened to the average looking female musicians that Maggie knew. They were praised for their musical talent but not much else. This was hardly a phenomenon exclusive to the music scene. Maggie had seen the same thing happening in other spheres of life as well. It happened to be just another of the many unfair things in the world.

As the lights dimmed lower and the crowd grew more animated with the anticipation of the next band coming onstage Maggie found herself still thinking about comments made about her appearance, the Chocoholics¡¦ lurid appearances, and the differences experienced by men and women. The three members of the headlining band came onto stage to loud shots of approval and excitement. Maggie moved closer to the crowd as the music began. Even as she the vibrations from the instruments reverberated through her body and the hyper crowd jostled into her, Maggie continued to think of whole ¡¥beauty thing¡¦ that had been plaguing her for the past few months.

Somehow she had not been so bothered by the importance of beauty, at least female beauty, in the past. Each article that she read about her band that mentioned her appearance at one point of another chipped away at her obliviousness. In the back of her mind Maggie had realized that she was not taken as seriously as her band mates because she was a girl¡Kone that happened to be above average looking. She¡¦d thought that things would change as the band grew more popular and her talent was recognized. To her dismay, Maggie was finding out that she had been too optimistic. It seemed that whenever someone mentioned her as a guitarist or her talent, these things were always qualified with the words ¡¥female¡¦, ¡¥pretty¡¦, ¡¥stylish¡¦, or ¡¥leggy¡¦.

The craziness did not end once she left the stage and ventured outside the music world. Maggie found herself having to deal with similarly irritating experiences when she entered the world of fashion and modeling. Here talents or smarts were not even mentioned. The only things that were discussed were the appearances and femininity of the models that Maggie often worked alongside. She saw gorgeous women having surgeries to look ¡¥even more beautiful¡¦; women binging and following bizarre diets to keep their svelte figures. It was all maddening.

Maggie took another sip of her drink, watching the lead singer of the group dance across stage, all messy hair, flawless skin, striking cheekbones, and pouty lips. He was gorgeous but Maggie doubted that would be first thing mentioned in the following days¡¦ reviews of the show. The singer¡¦s flawless voice and onstage magnetism would be the focus. Maybe a line or two would be dedicated to his appearance but its significance would be largely undermined in the review by tales of the singer¡¦s talent.

Maggie let her body sway to the music. Pleasant sensations pulsed through her body but pleasant thoughts were harder to come by. She brought the glass to her lips once more and took a long sip of the strong drink. Maybe it was time she stopped being a model, Maggie thought to herself. Maybe she had been fooling herself this whole time and selling out. It pained her to think such things but if she could not lie to herself anymore. Smiling madly, Maggie began talking to herself. ¡§Maybe I¡¦ll shave my head bald or gain fifty pounds or slash my face. Maybe then my music would be the focus. Maybe then everyone would talk about how beautiful my guitar sounds or about how beautiful the friendship and love between the hailed Chocolate Pepper is.¡¨ Maggie stopped to laugh and finish her drink. ¡§Or maybe Joey¡¦s artwork or Patrick¡¦s vintage bass or the stars and the moon,¡¨ Maggie ended with more giggling. She closed her eyes as the troubling thoughts slowly ebbed away to be replaced by an appreciation for the music flowing through her.

Maggie opened her eyes at the shout in her ear. It was Ethan.
¡§Are you okay?¡¨
¡§Are you okay?¡¨ Ethan asked in a louder voice.
¡§Yea,¡¨ Maggie shouted back.

Ethan gave her one last concerned look before turning back to the show. Maggie smiled to herself. She had not been lying. She was fine. She felt better now simply taking in beauty, in this case the music washing over the music. Thinking about the injustices and troubling aspects surrounding beauty had been too much. Just for tonight Maggie wanted to admire the beauty of the music being played tonight. No thinking, just feeling. It was a Friday night after all...surely not the time for such heavy thoughts. Maggie smiled again as a new song started up. With her arms swinging loosely, legs twisting, and tossing her wildly across her face, Maggie let the music carry her away.

Author¡¦s Note: In case I have not hit everyone over the head with the fact that I like music and to write creative pieces when given the chance, I thought I would drive those points in with this last piece of writing ƒº. In this piece I focused on the pursuit of feminine beauty, the issues surrounding female beauty, and the injustices that come along with feminine beauty. Through the character of Maggie I try to address some of the issues raised in class. For example, Maggie does not think much of Chocoholics¡¦ being made up to impress men but works as a model which calls for her to be made up. The issue of empowerment comes up here. Maggie thinks that in her case she¡¦s being empowered by her beauty but that the groupies are not. It is up for debate as to who is more empowered if either is empowered. In the comparison of Maggie and the groupies, another issue that was discussed in class is brought to attention. This is whether or not one type of beauty, natural or artificial, is better. For example, at one point in the story Maggie says that she is naturally pretty and hints at her type of beauty being better than the fake beauty of the groupies. Another issue that I brought up in this paper is the differing experiences of beauty between men and women. In Maggie¡¦s experience men do not have to worry about being beautiful nearly as much as women. In the story I also tried to bring up the idea mentioned in class that men are not concerned with beauty as much as women by describing women pursuing physical beauty and mentioning the appearances of women more so then those of the men mentioned in the story. Of course this is countered by the men who glance at Maggie to admire her beauty, the man who accosts her at the bar, and the attention that journalists, presumably male, give to Maggie¡¦s appearance instead of her musical talent. I did not try to answer all the questions brought up in class in regards to beauty, especially that of the female form. I simply hoped to express the various ideas brought up in class in a different format.

Full Name:  Liz Paterek
Username:  epaterek@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Beauty Standards in the World of Subcultures
Date:  2005-05-13 10:45:48
Message Id:  15158
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

When talking about standards for beauty in class, especially when in terms of human beauty, males often observe females. Females in turn primp themselves for this role as an object and generally treat it as a window to power. However, we need to look no further than our society to realize that there are groups that break this standard. Punk is a subculture that has existed since the 1970's and is based around individual acceptance and self-reliance. However, to an external observer the members appear members tend to be seen as strong, aggressive and intelligent. They also tend to dress in an avant-garde manner in an attempt to attract notice. People often see this as a reflection of violent tendencies and destructive behavior. However, punks tend to enjoy the role of both the gazed and the onlooker.

Punk has many negative stereotypes in society. Many people see punks as individuals who cause wanton destruction with no regard for others in an attempt to destroy order. Punks are seen as violent individuals, who act out against outsiders and one another. Some related groups, such as skinheads, are often labeled as being Neo-Nazi or white power. If all of this is true, then why would the punk movement not also be an attempt to destroy beauty and replace it with horror? Indeed to most outsiders, punk clothing may be seen as an act of pure rebellion without deeper meaning. However, in order to understand the way that beauty is reflected by the culture, we must first see how the culture generally defines itself.

Expression in punk may be relayed to the people through zines or pamphlets, public speaking, slogans or music. Music is the most common forms of expression and one of the easiest to access. It usually revolves around political and social topics that are currently issues within the music scene. Often bands employ sarcasm to spread messages. While it is a good way to measure the attitudes of the movement, it should not be viewed as the most important part. Music is just a form of expression and makes no change in the eyes of many punks. As the Dead Kennedys state in the song Chickenshit Conformist, "Music scenes ain't real life; They won't get rid of the bomb; Won't eliminate rape; Or bring down the banks; Any kind of real change; Takes more time and work; Than changing channels on a TV set". However, I will use it a supporting source for many of the points I am making about the feelings within the scene.

One of the most important aspects to mention of punk is the attitude towards non-conformity. It should be noted that conformity implies a blind following mentality; changing who you are and what you believe in to belong. Conformity is viewed as a control mechanism used to exert power on the obedient masses. Therefore anyone who thinks for themselves and makes an informed decision is not a conformist even if their ideals are similar to the ideals of a group. Blame for this may be placed on institutions like the government, religious leaders or authority figures in general. (1). Blame is also placed on advertising, as represented by the Choking Victim song, "500 Channels", which emphasizes the brainwashing power of television. Punks will even attack blind conformity within their own movement. The song Chickenshit Conformist by the Dead Kennedys talks both about forcing others into having your ideals and creating a "close-minded self-centered social club" that no longer revolves around ideals (1).

In this way punk may be viewed also as being an anti-establishment movement. Many punks believe in anarchy and some are nihilists due to distrust of large institutions. Government, religion and big business are distrusted as they are seen as using coercion, military force, and ignorance to manipulate the masses. They remove freedoms and generate bias. Many bands have songs attacking these institutions. The song Corporate Death Burger by MDC points to this destructive nature of corporate greed. The Subhumans song Heads of State discusses how politicians are two-faced. Anti-Flag uses the song You've Got to Die for Your Government to express how the government uses their soldiers as guinea pigs. Bad Religion links God and government in the song Voice of God is Government by discussing how religion manipulates people to give money for salvation. MDC expresses a similar sentiment in the song Church and State, stating that people are manipulated into becoming martyrs for these larger powers. Police are often despised as agents of totalitarianism. Anti-Flag goes as far as to call them "Hilter's Third Reich" in the song Fuck Police Brutality (1).

Another important aspect of the movement is the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ideal. This means that people try to be as self-sufficient as possible and avoid mass consumerism. Clothes may be made by individuals. Show spaces and record labels are run by individuals or groups of individuals, not corporations. They also generate their own press. "Don't hate the media, become the media" is a common slogan (1). This is often due to the fact that large companies may manipulate or abuse workers or feed the greed of one powerful individual.

Punks dislike sexism, racism and class lines because they create limitations. A large amount of the Oi! movement deals with working class sentiments and a hatred of class boundaries. Sometimes Oi is mistakenly confused with Neo-Nazis; however, the movement was also strongly anti-racist (2). The dead Kennedys, while not Oi, also express dislike of class lines in the song Kill the Poor. The song mocks the way in which the government views the poor as useless so they will use the neutron bomb to clear out poor areas. Operation Ivy's song Nazi Punks Fuck Off, which calls for an end to the racism of Neo-Nazis, represents the large number of anti-racist, anti-fascist songs. The women's movement was also represented in punk, Crass was especially known for its feminist lyrics. The album Penis Envy contained a number of anti-sexist songs that call the construction of male-female roles ludicrous. Even songs relating to sex were generally not derogatory towards women (1).

These attitudes towards the sexist nature of society and the removal from conventional society allowed women to forge new roles for themselves. Women in the movement were involved in everything that went on. Many women in the L.A. punk scene discuss how women were played every role from roadie, to performer, to promoter. They discuss how societal constraints and expectations did not bind them because society dismissed punks anyway. The majority seemed to mention the welcomed nature of women. Even women for whom equality did not seem to come easily mentioned fighting for it. This aggressiveness suggests that women were strong even when they did not find equality (3).

Women played in many of the early bands that aided in the formation of punk. Women adopted more than the traditional vocalist role. The Velvet Underground, an influential proto-punk band, had two female members. One of whom, played the drums. Crass, the Plasmatics, Black Flag and the Adicts all had female band members and male band members. Both the Adicts and Black Flag had females playing bass. All female bands like the Slits and the Raincoats were also popular at the time (4, 5)

Most females within the movement deviate from the expected social norms. Bands with females made similar music to those with males, which means loud, fast, intelligent and hard. Outside of that attitudes and actions can also be stereotyped as masculine. Gina from Go-Gos stated, "We were as bad as or worse than boys. Talk about gutter mouths". Caroline Coon spoke about the changing roles of women that punk bands represented, "Ari Up and the Slits are highly defined examples of an ideal type that is becoming more attractive to women all the time. What they represent is a revolutionary and basic shift of female ego from one which is biologically defined to one which is made strong by an assertive, mainstream role in society" (5). Ari herself states that punk existed to shatter standard of both men and women (6). Greil Marcus spoke about the Raincoats stating, "The very idea of roles is done away with...I was amazed." (5). Poly-styrene of the X-Ray Spex was known for being unglamorous, and stated that if she were made into a sex symbol she would "shave her head" (5).

Women are also known for being able to hold their own against men. Mosh and circle pits are circles that break out at concerts where people either dance in a circle pushing one another, or smash around chaotically kicking and punching. It should be noted that there is an attitude of respect in this form of dancing. Those who fall are always picked up and no one should injury anyone else purposely. Women in mosh pits tend to be treated no differently than their male counterparts and everyone is respected.

Even females that appeared to fall into societal stereotypes were often upon closer inspection strong individuals. Wendy O. Williams, lead singer of the Plasmatics, was known for using her sex appeal on stage. Wendy saw her body as something she owned and was frustrated that males in rock could use eroticism while she could not, "It's that censorship thing, that male thing that chauvinistic attitude. They have all these roles women are supposed to play. Women are supposed to be barefoot pregnant and in the kitchen. Women onstage are supposed to be almost asexual, a prude. Its bullshit and it really infuriates me. In the front of our shows there's always lots of girls...Girls like having a female out there doing all this stuff...its about time they had someone to relate to who's not afraid to be a woman stepping out and doing my thing and not being inhibited" (5). She was her own person and an individual who would not let anyone control her. Joey Ramone even stated in her tribute, "In the punk era everyone was always so angry, but she was someone who had fun with it. It was about liberation and movement." (7)

It is sometimes stated that the relationship between Sid Viscous and Nancy Spungen was the typical groupie rocker relationship. However, this was far from true. Sid Viscous was the bassist for the Sex Pistols. Nancy met him and latched onto him, in other words she became his groupie. They were known for their terrible drug addiction that likely played a major role in their deaths. However, Nancy was more to Sid than simply sex and drugs. He cared deeply for her. Nancy was known for being bossy and controlling Sid. He listened to her more than his band. Even though he is known for having beaten her, usually in a drug-induced state, she was also known for fighting back. This was clearly farm from the typical groupie relationship (8).

These women can be viewed as being one ideal for female beauty within the punk scene. These roles, attitudes and actions all show individuality, strength and intelligence; the individuality and rebellion against oppression that is integral to the movement. However, the women each had an individual personality and persona in expressing their freedom. For these things to become the stereotype of a community they must be accepted by the community. Ideally a community that tries not to be sexist would allow someone to be judged outside of the common societal boxes. Furthermore, these roles all show the attitudes of punk, the desire to be a strong independent individual. This shows a focus towards a deeper sense of beauty, a beautiful mind rather than exterior.

There is of course the issue of superficial beauty; however, it also tends to express the deeper beauty of the mind. There is a large amount of androgyny to punk fashion. Clothes are generally form-fitting. They may be ripped or old. They are usually black or brightly colored. Both males and females may wear dark eyeliner and heavy eye-shadow, although this is more common for females. One main difference between styles is that women sometimes wear skirts and fishnets; however, otherwise hair and clothes are similar (1).

Hair has several major styles. One is the Mohawk. Basically, the sides of the head are shaved and a long strip of hair is left down the center of the head. This hair is suspended upright. It can be arranged as pikes or a fan and is often supported by Knox Gelatin or glue. It is a time consuming endeavor to create. Dying it a bright color is not uncommon. Some punks also put hair into dreadlocks (1). Much of the hair styling is time consuming; however, it attracts attention representing a role as a gazed object.

All these elements of punk fashion are actually an expression of ideals. Fashion is one of the least important aspects of the movement. In general attracting attention to oneself can make people notice that these other ideals exist. Wearing political slogans may even make more opened minded individuals aware of current situations. It also shows the freedom to dress or act outside of what is conventionally acceptable. This is seen in the fact that much of punk fashion, such as spikes or razor blades, may be viewed as threatening or dangerous (1).

General fashion tends to revolve around the DIY ideal coupled with the political mindedness of many punks. The thought that pretty much anything can make clothes is common. Safety pins and razor blades were used as jewelry. Punks would sometimes pierce or tattoo themselves rather than going to a parlor, expressing the DIY attitude once again. Political slogans were written on T-shirts, pants or any article of clothing. These slogans show the political and social feelings that are so strongly present in punk (1). Another extension of this ideal is that clothes tend to be old and tattered or purposely ripped. In some cases this can be seen as merely being shocking or being linked to an anti-consumerist nature. Spikes and studs are often placed on clothes or jackets. Clothing can be time consuming to construct, although not always.

Attention and notice was one of the common threads that surfaced while talking to individuals; however, the role the gazed was no longer one of powerlessness. They wanted to be gazed like objects, representing this with hair styles like large Mohawks that can take hours to make and individualized clothing that can also take time to construct but attracts attention in all cases. They generally found negative attention amusing and positive attention a nice compliment. They felt power in that they control the way they were gazed making them different from the female in the painting who has no power. They also were apathetic towards most people's perspectives (9).

In changing the role clearly make themselves gazers of society, judging the actions the world takes. In this role, many stated their objections to the female ideal in society, because it seemed manufactured and fragile. They see their role of gazer as the ability to see problems and improve society so that it is fairer to all who live there. There is a beauty in the change that one individual can create.

On a superficial level the appearance and actions of punk may seem to be a direct rebellion against society. They appear as the anti-beauty and making the ugly beautiful or at least this was suggested to me many times as I began this paper. Some would say that beauty is that gut reaction and that horror and beauty are therefore very similar. This makes people feel that punk style fits with the horrible and the shocking. However, I strongly disagree and feel that this represents outsiders placing their cultural ideals on another group based on first impressions.

The horror beauty of punk is not the case; beauty ideals, in both the superficial and deeper sense, arise from the other goals of those in the movement. After all, no one would ask a tribe that pierces themselves if their beauty relates to horror even if it is horrible to us. Robinson states in The Quest for Human Beauty that ideals for beauty arise from the accentuation of the best feature (10). Perhaps the best feature to a punk is the mind's ability to create individuality and to express itself freely. Therefore this free expression becomes the mode of beauty rather than a physical feature. Punks also do not say that someone that does not dress in their style or express their ideology cannot be beautiful. However, humans tend to gravitate towards others that are similar. This shocking appearance is amusing to many and entertaining relating back to the role of the gazed.

From interviews it seems that many people within the movement are attracted to this expression of the mind when judging the superficial. Seeing any form of self-expression can make the superficial beautiful. Generally they realized that their expression tended to be similar between individuals in the subculture but most were adamant that they only wore what they enjoyed wearing and liked the fashion as individuals, not because they were surrounded by it. This fashion has evolved as the result of the desire to express a mentality that is synonymous with punk and the beauty of it comes in a wow factor. It is great to see something new and inventive, especially if it is different both from society and from the movement in general (9).

The deeper beauty in punk can best be summed up as being an individual; which means that punk generally transcends the male-female boundary. Going to shows or wearing the clothes does not make a person a punk but a desire for freedom, social change and individuality does. One might think that because clothes and ideals are similar between many members, that this means that they are conformist. However, as stated previously clothes are not important; only shallow individuals will judge others based on their attire. As for ideals, generally all that is important is the desire for freedom for oneself and others. Punks will generally accept those who have different ideas revolving around freedom as long as they are intelligent. Those ideals do not make them the anti-establishment punk but that does not mean that they will be excluded or attacked (9).

Women in punk are very similar to the men. All individuals have the tendency to wish for the gaze of society and to judge society themselves. In doing so, they are all strong and intelligent individuals and this is respected. It is not that there should be no difference between the two genders but rather that everyone should be very different. Whether or not punk can affect change throughout the whole of society is not the issue at hand. It is unlikely that any one subculture can really change the masses. To do so it would have to be marketed, and especially in the case of punk, the movement would lose some of its heart in doing so. What punk does offer is an escape for those who share the ideals or simply wish to be surrounded by those ideals, a place where people are judged on individual merit rather than societal stereotypes. It is a window to freedom but no the ultimate answer, if such a thing exists.
Works Cited:
1) Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. 13 May 2005, Accessed 13 May 2005. Various Articles all linked from Punk Ideology
WWW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punk_ideology
2) Skinhead Nation. ST Publishing © 2002. Accessed 11 May 2005 WWW:http://www.skinheadnation.co.uk/newyorkskinheads.htm
3) Bag, Alice. Women in LA Punk. Interviews conducted from November 2004- April 2005. Accessed 12 May 2005
WWW: http://www.alicebag.com/womeninlapunk.html
4) Women of 1970's Punk. 7 March 2005. Accessed 8 May 2005
WWW: http://www.comnet.ca/~rina/bands.html
5) Marko, Paul. Punk77. 12 May 2005. Accessed 12 May 2005
WWW: http://www.punk77.co.uk/index.htm
6) Dakota, Baron. The Official Website of ARi-UP of the Legendary SLITS .©2003 UP-Dakota Productions. Accessed 9 May 2005
WWW: http://www.ari-up.com/custom3.html
7) Albano, Humberto. Tribute to Wendy Orlean Williams and the Plasmatics. 9 Jan 2004. © 2004 Accessed 10 May 2005
WWW: http://www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/alley/1163/
8) Bruno, Anthony. Punk-Rock Romeo and Juliet: Sid Viscous and Nancy Spungen. Court TV's Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods. © 2005. Accessed 12 May 2005
WWW: http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/celebrity/sid_vicious/
9) 15 interviews conducted from April 29 2005- May 11, 2005. Note: Many people asked to remain anonymous or not have their name posted on the internet as such I have chosen not to include names
10) Robinson, Julian. The Quest for Human Beauty. W.W. Norton and Company. New York © 1998

Full Name:  Catherine E. Davidson
Username:  cdavidso@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Out of the Smoke: The Beauty of Fighting Fire
Date:  2005-05-13 11:19:31
Message Id:  15159
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

The crisp October air nipped at the skin on my neck as I huddled inside my sweater while I watched a group of Bryn Mawr fire fighters demonstrate to the community techniques they use to put out a structure fire. One of my Haverford friends was a fire fighter with Bryn Mawr and wanted me to stop by for their open house. They drenched a small house structure built of plywood in gas and set it to flames. Within seconds it was engulfed in fire, the flames danced on the rooftop and the sound of sirens suddenly started. One of the fire trucks raced to the scene, eight fire fighters and two chief¡¯s assisted in knocking the fire down. Five minutes later the fire was out: mission complete. I stood there shivering; more interested in picking out and admiring the attractive firemen than actually watching the fire and wondered when my friend would give me the o.k. to leave. I reluctantly accepted, with crushed hopes of leaving and doing something more interesting, like watch a movie, or sleep. I sat through friendly small talk and enjoyed the company of these local heroes. They seemed so close, like a family. I admired photos they had hung on the wall of fires they had responded to as I listened to some of their on scene war stories. My curiosity in fire fighting was peaked after visiting with the fire fighters and I contemplated joining. I was not sure, however if I really had what it takes to work as a fire fighter. I thought for a few days about joining, and the next week I found myself back at the firehouse for my first fire fighting drill.

The evening of the drill, my Haverford friend picked me up from my dorm. My body was running high on anxiety and it took a lot of effort to keep my hands from shaking with nervousness. We walked into the fire station and a group of guys hanging at the counter waiting for the chief to officially call drill greeted us. Some had recognized me from the open house and few even remembered my name. My friend introduced me to those that had not met me and referred to me as a ¡°new member¡±. I was not yet sure if I really wanted to join and felt uncomfortable with his presumptuous introductions. He started familiarizing me with fire fighter vocabulary when the head chief walked in and called drill. He said hello and told one of the fire fighters to get me a jacket. I would not be doing any firefighting that night, but the experience would bring be back again the next week.

I was assigned to the engine truck. I hopped on with seven fire fighters and smashed myself between two of them. Everything moved so quickly. Once I finally figured out how to put my seat belt and headset on, we had almost arrived to the drill site. As we approached the burn tower, the fire fighters around me started calling off numbers. I could see the smoke flowing out of the tower structure and once the struck stopped, the fire fighters rushed out of the truck and one of the chiefs told me to follow him. As though we were at the site of a fire emergency, firefighters put on SCBA breathing apparatuses (masks and oxygen tanks to aid in respiration), grabbed hose, and rushed into the building. The piercing sirens hurt my ears and the smoke emitted from the building started irritating my lungs. I was fascinated but intimidated by the intensity of the fire fighters and the rate at which they moved. After watching the firemen at the drill, everything seemed so complicated and they moved so quickly. I questioned my potential as a fire fighter.

The next afternoon I found myself on the tennis courts for team practice. I served the ball to my teammate to begin a challenge match that would determine out position on the team ladder. My focus was necessary in this match. I wanted to win. All of a sudden, the fire sirens went off, took my attention away from tennis and an indescribable adrenaline rush ran through my body. I wanted to drop my racket and spring to the firehouse but could not. For a couple minutes, I was distracted and could not focus on my game. The experiences at the op en house came back to mind, I could smell the smoke again, and Dewey¡¯s emphasis on emotions as playing a big role in experiences proved true. I tried to explain what was going on to my teammate and took a short break. I t was at this point I knew I was attached and had plans to continue fire fighting.

I continued to attend drills, learning the names and uses for all parts of the fire engines and truck, working on different techniques and procedures used for extinguishing fires and became well acquainted with the job of every rookie: packing hose. Packing hose involves draining all the water out of each section of hose, connecting the lines and neatly folding them onto the bed of the fire truck. Yes, this job is a lot of work, causes sore muscles that are felt for a few days after and is the least favorite job of everyone in the fire service. Nonetheless if you want to get anywhere in the fire service, you start with hose packing. Not to worry, the hose packing paid off. The next time the fire company was scheduled to drill at the burn tower, I was allowed to go in. If I did not have nerves at my first drill, I really had them now. All the way to the site I anticipated what was about to happen. I had only been with the company for a couple months and was not sure what I would be doing. We stopped and as the first time, everyone rushed out of the truck, packed with air tanks, breathing apparatuses and ran to the back of the engine with tools. The fire fighters from the engine and the truck reconvened by the burn tower where the chief stood giving orders. I felt the familiar adrenaline rush from the tennis courts and was prepared when the chief told me to gear up.

The chief informed me I would be going into the tower, leading a group of fire fighters to perform a fire fighter search and rescue. I was handed a thermal imaging camera that I was vaguely familiar with, and an axe. The signal was given and I, along with three other fire fighters raced up the metal stairs to the second floor of the building. I nonchalantly walked into the building and immediately realized I could see NOTHING. The fire fighter behind me yelled to get down on the floor and start moving forward. He grabbed me foot and followed me forward as I ran into walls and other obstacles in the middle of the floor. With one hand occupied by the camera, and the other hand occupied by the axe, I struggled through the building. I heard the ringing sound of a fire fighter¡¯s air pack. This was the fire fighter we had come in to save. I looked through my mask at the thermal imaging camera to guide me through the dark, smoky room and realized I could not see the camera. I was completely blind. The smoke from the room had fogged up my mask but I had to keep moving. I did not know how to de-fog my mask. Since I could not see anything, I relied upon my ears to lead me to the fallen fire fighter. I had remembered learning always to keep a hand on the wall when doing a search and rescue. I kept my right hand on the wall until I heard the fallen fire fighter¡¯s alarm directly across the room from me. I let go of the wall to follow the sound. The fire fighter behind me let go of my foot. We found the fire fighter and hot him out of the structure. A paid fire fighter from Philadelphia who had formerly been a volunteer with Bryn Mawr came to help us. He had followed us into the burn tower and talked tome when we got out. I had done a million things wrong.

I was sent back into the tower for a second time to practice putting out a fire. This drill went a little more smoothly but even so, I still felt the weight of being a rookie. A little embarrassed by my poor performance during the search and rescue, I ignored the irritated expression on the faces of the other fighters that had gone into the tower with me and started asking questions. I sucked my crushed pride and accepted I would simply have to perform better next time. The mood of the crowd lightened and once the other crews came back from their tower drill; we packed hose and went homes. I returned to my dorm room exhausted. My lungs hurt, my eyes were sore, and all moisture had been sucked from my skin. I drank a gallon of water and passed out on my bed.

I had avoided telling my parents about my participation in firefighting for a few months. I wanted to make sure I was going to stick with it but once I decided I wanted to become a fire fighter, I was afraid to tell them. What would they say? I was certain they would not like it. To my family, I was a ¡°closet fire fighter¡±. How would I come out? I decided on winter break as a great time to drop the ball. I was just past the entrance of the largest mall in our area when I whispered to my dad, so what my mother would not hear, ¡°What do you think about fire fighting¡±? My father asked me why I was asking this question. I told him I was not sure why I was asking, I guess I was just curious to know what he thought about the subject. He stopped and looked at me. I whispered, ¡°What would you say if I told you I was a fire fighter¡±? I smiled at him and in this calm moment, I prepared for the storm. I figured the mall was a convenient place to tell him though, that way, with so many pep le around during the holiday shopping season, they would not make a scene. Surprisingly, my dad did not mind. He asked about safety factors and once I reassured him that fire fighters stick together and every possible precaution is taken to protect my safety, he really did not give much more of a response than, ¡° that¡¯s cool¡± and asked a few more questions. I waited to tell my mother though, until we were in the car alone together a week or so later. I asked her if dad had talked to her about ¡°the fire fighting thing¡±. She said no and asked me what I was talking about. I told her and she surprisingly encouraged me. She said something about how it was great for me to be gaining practical skills and working with people in the ¡°real world¡± to complement my intellectually stimulating Bryn Mawr education. Ok, so I had the family¡¯s approval and looked forward to returning the fire fighting after break.

The other day I was at the fire company practicing with equipment and tools. As I was taking apart, putting together, and hooking hose line up to the engine, the siren went off. I quickly took everything apart, put it away and reported to the radio room to start filling out paper work. A senior fire fighter was in there writing down information on the location of the call and told me to gear up and get on the truck. I sprinted to the rack that holds my gear and quickly suited up. Without much time to think I hoisted myself into the engine cabin and anxiety overwhelmed me. Everything happened so quickly. I realized what was going on when one other fire fighter jumped in the engine and we rode off to the call. There were only four fighters responding to the scene on the engine, including myself. I did not know what to expect at the scene and was nervous. When we arrived on scene there was a bit of smoke arising from the base of a little tree. The chief called for pressurized water. The other fire fighter responded to this order and the fire concern was taken care of. We went home. The adrenaline was still running high through my veins and I could not believe I had actually been sent on a call. Though it many not sound exciting to many, being assigned to respond to a cal is a big deal for a training member of a fire company.

Why did you become a fire fighter? This is a favorite question of the Montgomery County Fire Academy instructors. The worse response one can give is, ¡°to serve the community¡±. An answer like that seems a bit self indulged and will get a sarcastic response from the instructor and the question will be repeated. Who is a fire fighter? I joined the fire service for friends. It was a friend that introduced me to the fire service, and at rough times, it has been friends that have kept me in the fire service. The main purpose of fire fighters though is to put out fires. What type of person wants to rush into a burning building and fight a fire? And without pay? I have not met one person so far that joined the fire service with a wish to die, even though we are constantly reminded, especially in fire training courses at the Academy, that a million combinations of mistakes or omissions could lead to our death or the death of a fellow fire fighter. Some aspects of this adrenaline rush, of being in such an unpredictable business are what make it amazing, as Fisher describes the beauty in the wonder of a rainbow, its uniqueness, suddenness, unexpectedness. Every fire call is different. A fire company could be dispatched for a simple fire alarm and once arriving on scene, may discover and actual structure fire.

The exhilaration and adrenaline rush from fire fighting is insurmountable. I have attended a few fires, very recently. The feeling I have experienced so far from working with other fire fighter, to take down a fire is amazing. Fire is the cause of widespread destruction. In some fire instances, take for example natural environments, a fire occurrence actually helps stabilize the ecosystem and is a necessary disturbance. However, often times in the material world, fire can mean great financial devastation, the loss of lives and precious memories. Fire consumes everything in its path, doubling in size every thirty to sixty seconds. In order for a fire to live, it requires heat, fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. So, to put out a fire, one of these sources must be eliminated. The satisfaction in fire fighting is obtained through overcoming such a powerful phenomenon as fire. Fire fighting can be looked upon as similar to the beauty Hoffmann describes, ¡°Beauty is created out of the labor of human hands and minds. It is to be found, precarious, at some tense edge where symmetry and asymmetry, simplicity and complexity, order and chaos, contend¡± in the tense power struggle between the fire and the fire fighters.

In class, we performed and discussed chemical reactions. Some people enjoyed the simplicity of watching the experiment and its consequences, others asked questions and sought answers to figure out what was happening and why. I started with absolutely no knowledge, and although I am not yet on the hose list, I have much more knowledge about fire fighting than I did when I began and this knowledge has helped me not only appreciate and respect fire more, it has enhanced my respect for those who fight fires. People in society are quick to judge and many do no appreciate the challenge of fighting fire. I can honestly say, learning how to be a fire fighter has been the most difficult experience I have ever had. Firefighting involves much more than pulling a hose off a fire truck and putting out a fire. It involves reading the activity of a fire, being aware of the chemistry of a fire to be able to predict what it is going to do and its hazards , as well as procedure and techniques of how to fight a fire and perform search and rescue. The list goes on but fire fighting is much more complex than commonly though.

The importance of knowledge to fire fighting is similar to Dewey¡¯s emphasis on immersion for full experience. My Deweyesque immersion in the fire service, perception, and participation thereof has enhanced my experience. I began as a spectator at a Bryn Mawr Fire Company open house, watching the fire fighters knock down a structure fire. Through struggle and uncertainty of my abilities, I reached the unexpected conclusion, probably as unexpected as Hoffmann¡¯s rainbow that I did in fact want to be a fire fighter. It has been a challenge. From trying to enter a profession intensely dominated by men, to stretching to my physical limitations carrying twenty-four foot ground ladders alone, I have learned a lot and have had to deal with success and setbacks. Frida Kahlo went through great struggle in her life; hopefully more than I will ever have to live with. She expressed her pain through her paintings, which are appreciated and considered beautiful by many around the world. The struggle I have experience through fire fighting has allowed me a greater satisfaction when my team and I succeed, and helps me appreciate the profession to a much greater extent.

Full Name:  Malorie Garrett
Username:  mgarrett@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Be Careful What you Believe:A Study of the Number Phi and it's Effects on Beauty
Date:  2005-05-13 13:20:41
Message Id:  15172
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

"So if I don't fit this number, does that mean I am ugly?" Laura# said as I calculated the ratio of each of my friends heights in relation to the distance between her navel and her feet. "Because if it does," she said "then that's dumb." The number she was referring to is the number F, Phi, which is an irrational number, approximately 1.61803398874989. A number is considered irrational if it has a decimal which never repeats and never ends. Phi is often called the golden ratio or the golden sections and it is attributed to many different aspects of the natural and human made world. It also has many interesting mathematical properties, which will be described in detail later. Some people believe that the closer one comes to this ratio, the more beautiful you are. So, being the mathematician that I am, I decided to gather some data to see how well me and my friends fit into this ratio. We got together and we measured each other from the belly button up and down to see how closely we fit this ratio ( For data see cart attached). As I started to crunch the numbers, all my friends were very interested to see how well they "measured up" to the "ideal number".

This is when Laura made the comment that one number could not possible determine whither or not someone is beautiful. And while I completely agree with that comment, I do not think we can dismiss Phi and it's relationship with many objects, including that of the human body. But as I started to explain that it did not mean you were ugly, but that does not mean it's "dumb", I realized I was surrounded by English and Anthropology majors. They all looked at me with squinty eyes as I recited some math jargon. Then there was a pause. Marcelina said "You cannot classify peoples beauty by a number!". I sighed heavily and shock my head. That's when I decided the purpose of this paper: to explain the mathematical significance of Phi and it's relation to beauty. Yes, Phi explains a lot of the world, but that does not mean if you don't fit within it, something is wrong with you. More importantly, is it even appropriate to classify the human body in terms of Phi? In order to answer this question and there discover Phi relation to beauty we first must understand Phi mathematically and historical.

Initially called division in extreme mean and ratio, Phi is the irrational number one gets from dividing a line segment in such a way that the ratio of the whole segment to the larger segment is equal to the ratio of the larger segment to the smaller segment. In other words, if you divide the whole line by the larger part it should be the same as dividing the larger segment by the smaller segment. If you are still confused, look at this image:

click this link to see the picture.

So AB/AC=AC/CB=F»1.6180339. And if you are feeling particularly mathematical, you can let AB equal 1, in which case you will get (1/X)=X/(1-X) or X² + X -1=0. If you solve this equation for X, you get two roots, the positive root is X=(1+Ö5)/2» 0.6180339, which you may notice is Phi minus one. The reciprocal of X is Phi, 1/X»1.6180339. The other root is X»-1.6180339, negative Phi.

Phi is a very unique number. When you square it, it is the same as adding one to Phi. Phi is also connected to other mathematical properties. One in particular that it is related to is the Fibonacci sequence, which is a string of numbers generated by adding the current number to the previous number, starting with zero and one. So you have 0+1=1, then 1+1=2, then 2+1=3, then 2+3=5, ect. Fibonaccis' numbers are another thing that seems to appear everywhere in nature. The number of most flowers petals are Fibonacci numbers. The reason for that is quite simple, it is "Nature being efficient" (Devlin). The leave or petals of pants arrange themselves in a way so as to obscure the least amount of each other. They are also really important when dealing with fractals. If you take one number in the Fibonacci sequence, starting at around five, and divide it by the previous number, then tend towards Phi. For example, the numbers 233/144» 1.6180. Phi also is closely related to geometry. An isosceles triangle, a triangle with two equal angles and two equal sides, with angles 72°,72°, and 36° contains the golden ratio between a side and the base. One can also create rectangles which fit the golden ratio as well. If you set up a series of rectangles next to each other involving the golden ratio and Fibonaccis' numbers, they will all have the same proportions. This sequence of rectangles creates a unique spiral.

So all that math is great, but what does it mean and how is related to beauty? Well, some believed that the Greeks thought that golden rectangular was the most aesthetically pleasing rectangular. It is also speculated that they used Phi to create the Parthenon and in paintings and sculptures. The uses of the golden ratio has not only been attributed to the Greeks, but the Egyptians and their Pyramids, DaVinci's Mona Lisa, the human body, and even the Washington Monument. And while it would be nice if all of this was true, it is just not very plausible. First off, we can never truly know what the ancients were thinking when they made the pyramids or the Parthenon. More importantly, most of these items mathematically don't add up to reach Phi. One problem is that "measurements of real objects can only be approximations. Surfaces of real objects are not perfectly flat" (Markowsky 5). This means that people who 'see' the golden ratio are working with inaccurate numbers. And while these numbers are only off by a fraction, they add up, and when you work with a number such as Phi with so many decimal places, that little but can through it off a lot. Also, sometimes where they measure of the golden rectangle is arbitrary or they place it in such a way that the entire object in question is not encompassed. The other problem also has to do with people 'seeing' it everywhere. As Martin Garderner explains, the problem here is to much information:

If you set about measuring a complicated structure like the Pyramid, you will quickly have on hand a great abundance of lengths to play with. If you have sufficient patience to juggle the amount in various ways, you are certain to come out with many figures which coincide with important historical dates or figures in the sciences. Since you are bound by no rules, it would be odd indeed if this for Pyramid 'truth' failed to meet with considerable success. Markowsky 5

Geometric shapes lead themselves to finding Phi because of their nature. It is easy, given time and some effort, to arbitrarily calculate the golden ratio. If you look hard enough, you can even see it in the human body.

There are many sites on the internet that would want you to think that Phi can and should be applied to the human form as a way to describe beauty. Dr. Stephen Marquardt claims that the golden ratio can be applied to the human face. He has created a mask that one can place over the human face. Apparently, the closer one fit's the mask, the more beautiful ones face is. Once you apply the mask to your face, Dr. Marquardt believes that one can change ones face either with make-up or cosmetic surgery to become more beautiful. According to his site as well as some others I've found, including The Learning Channels homepage, confirm that he has in truth used phi to create a mask that according to him "radiates, it advertises and screams: 'human, human, human.'" tlc.discovery.com). He says that the most beautiful faces are also the most human looking, and that his mask emulates the most 'human' face. Another site says "Through his research, he discovered that beauty is not only related to phi, but can be defined for both genders and for all races, cultures and eras with the beauty mask which he developed and patented" (goldennumber.net). Though he may have done this research, it does not show on his site. Most of the faces are female and look similar, even those from different ethnicities. I was surprised to find some actual mathematical information on his site, so I also do not doubt that he actually calculated this mask from Phi and it's shapes. But what does this mean? That it describes the most beautiful face? He would say it does based on the idea that the golden ratio and the golden rectangle is the most ascetically pleasing shape and that it appears everywhere, which is not necessarily true.

But perhaps I am being biased because he is a plastic surgeon. Another site that advertise the "perfect face" also describes the length of the body has containing the golden ratio. Easier and less judgmentally than applying the mask, I decided to round up some test subjects to see how true it was for the average Bryn Mawr girl. This is what I got:

Name AB AC CB AB/AC AC/CB Ethnicity

Ideal 1.618034 1.618034
Tonda 61 35 25 1.742857 1.400000 Japanese and White
Marcelina 62.7 36.2 26.5 1.732044 1.366038 Mexican and White
Laura 63.3 36.8 26.5 1.720109 1.388679 Dutch and Canadian
Malorie 66.5 40 26.5 1.662500 1.509434 White
Emily 64 38.5 25.5 1.662338 1.509804 White (Greek heritage)
Sruti 62.5 37 25.5 1.689189 1.450980 Indian

As you can see, across ethnicities, most of my friends do not add up correctly to fit the ratio. Only half of us even got within the first decimal point of 1.6 in the first calculation of AB/AC. But still, the number are kind of close to Phi. So then I calculated AC/AB, because according to the formula AB/AC=AC/CB=F»1.6180339. While I was never expecting these numbers to work out perfectly, I was expecting AB/AC to roughly equal to AC/CB. But they are not. Me and Emily measurements are the closet, we are off only by a tenth, and Marcelina and Laura's measurements are off the most at four tenths. At this point I felt I did not need to calculate the percentage differences between AB/AC and AC/CB because the numbers are so off. And although my numbers and calculations are by no means error free, the numbers I got tell me that the assumption that human body's fit into the golden ratio is unfounded. All of the mathematical papers of the golden ratio I read confirm my assumption. Mathematician Keith Devlin says on the matter in an article entitled "Good stories, pity they're not true" :

First of all, you won't get exactly the number GR. You never can; GR is irrational, remember. But in the case of measuring the human body, there is a lot of variation. True, the answers will always be fairly close to 1.6. But there's nothing special about 1.6. Why not say the answer is 1.603? Besides, there's no reason to divide the human body by the navel. If you spend a half an hour or so taking measurements of various parts of the body and tabulating the results, you will find any number of pairs of figures whose ratio is close to 1.6, or 1.5, or whatever you want. Devlin

Like the measuring of the Pyramids, the only people who see the golden ratio in the human forms are those who want to see it.

Astrophysicist Mario Levio says that "Mathematics is a human invention . . .but nature dictated to human beings what mathematics to invent" (Bramanti). This statement really explains the reasoning of math to me. It was created, like science, in order to explain the patterns humans where seeing in nature. In both fields, we do research, gather data, and then create hypotheses and sometimes even theorems to explain something. When we find that the conclusions we came to were wrong or misinformed, we change it or throw it out completely. Phi is no different than other mathematical equation in that sense. There are things we know for sure: it's unique mathematical properties, it's relation to Fibonaccis' numbers, and it's relation to plants in nature. But besides that, all the rest is not true or else up for speculation. To me, Phi is an exciting number and it makes me feel good that it has all of these properties. I like the relation it has to nature and the world. It makes me feel like we are justified in our creation and continued struggle with math. To me, that is what is beautiful about Phi. The number itself is not beautiful; in fact I find the repeating decimal both ugly and annoying. Also, to say that it creates the most beautiful shapes and that those shapes can be combined to the perfect face is unfounded and unethical. Dr. Marquardt misuses the math, and for what? Plastic surgery. Phi cannot tell you how beautiful you are or if you have the correct proportions because there is no such thing. It is closely related to nature, so we may in the future find evidence of Phi in the human body, but at time there is not sufficient evidence to confirm that there is a relation. What you have to remember is that information in the wrong hands can be misused and misrepresented, especially in this age of the world wide web. So as you search the world wide web, note who is publishing the information: a mathematician or a plastic surgeon?



1)Devlin's Angle,

2) Bramanti, Matt. "U.Notre Dame: Author promotes 'Golden Ratio'". The America's Intelligence Wire. Feb. 5 2003. May 2005.

3)Fibonacci Numbers and the Golden Section,

4) Maor, Eli. "Symbol of perfect proportions" Science. 299.5609 (2003): 1016(1).

5)Markowsky, George. "Misconceptions about the Golden Ratio". The College Mathmatics Journal. 23.1 (1992): 2-19.

6)Marquardt Beauty Analysis,

7)Phi - The Golden Number,

8)The Learning Channel. .

Full Name:  Kara Rosania
Username:  krosania@brynmawr.edu
Title:  What Is Beauty?
Date:  2005-05-15 16:04:53
Message Id:  15192
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

I have always been fascinated by the concept of beauty. I love the idea that certain things can have value simply for the way they make people feel about the world, rather than having utility. It is important that we enjoy the world and all the wonders it has to offer while we are living, and stop to consider all that is around us. Beauty in its many forms is what keeps us alive and makes life worth living. It is because I find beauty to be so valuable that I first became interested in this course.
I came into this class hoping to broaden my perspective on beauty to the point where I might be able to understand why I, and people in general, find certain things beautiful at the exclusion of others. At the very least I wanted to perhaps better articulate even to myself what my criteria for beauty are.
I find beauty in many things. I am inexplicably drawn to vibrant colors, shades of purple in particular. I find music in nearly all styles to be affecting, so much so that I often get chills or am moved to tears when listening to my favorite pieces. Photography is probably my favorite art form because it captures the beauty of the world as it exists without alteration or embellishment. I have been called an aesthete by a former English teacher, and I would have to agree. My fascination with beauty and my sensitivity to it are certainly excessive, and at times overwhelming.
I respond most strongly to the intricate and diverse beauty that I find in human relationships. Human beings are beautiful creatures in themselves, but it is the richness of their interactions with one another that captivate my attention. Relating to others as an art, as I mentioned in my second posting in the online forum:
Art should not simply be defined in the context of paintings and sculptures and writing, but as anything beautiful that has been created. By this definition, anyone who creates something beautiful can be considered an artist, including someone who has strong relationships with others. Relating to others well is a gift, and when used properly, can create beautiful things.

It was with these "beautiful things", human relationships, that I chose to begin my exploration of the mysterious world of aesthetics.
I wrote my first paper for the class on the beauty I experience in love. My interest in love can undoubtedly be labeled an obsession. I find a different form of it in every relationship I experience, which I think is what captivates my interest to such an extent. Through the course of writing this paper about love, I came to the realization that love and beauty have many common characteristics. Thus, the exercise led me to several conclusions about the nature of beauty.
I found that beauty, like love, "is the unspeakable connection to certain people or things for unexplainable reasons. It is very abstract, can be hard to describe, and is something that everyone defines differently and applies to many different types of things. It heightens our emotions and makes us feel truly alive. People will never lose their fascination with it, because it is inside us all to feel it, to share it, to let it fill our lives."
Most interestingly, I came to the conclusion that beauty, like love, is in the eye of the beholder. The definition of it depends completely upon who you ask. I hadn't realized that this was true when I began the course. I thought that ideas of beauty were basically universal and that as a class we would all agree on what qualities beauty possessed. I anticipated that the class discussions would involve us trying to formulate an all-encompassing definition. This was definitely not the case. Everyone had differing opinions about what beauty was and how one could experience it.
This at first made me uncomfortable. I have always had the desire to make everyone agree with me, but more strongly with respect to the topic of beauty. I found the answer to why in one of the readings for the class. Roald Hoffman wrote that "Beauty is built out of individual pleasure around an object or idea. It may be personal, but gains in strength when it is shared with others..." (Hoffman 1). We value our experiences of beauty, but value more the ability to share them with others. Perhaps this is for affirmation that our perceptions are correct, or simply related to the joy human being derive from their relationships with one another. In either case, I felt this desire that Hoffman referred to and was extremely frustrated that I couldn't share my experiences of beauty with everyone.
As I wrote in my last posting, however, "I resigned myself pretty quickly to the fact that we all had strong opinions when it came to beauty and it would be impossible to make anyone else view the world the way I do in that respect." I also came to acknowledge that there were positive aspects to having your own unique definition of beauty. Sometimes we feel better being selfish about our experiences and want them to be completely our own. I felt this slightly with my ideas about relationships. I was happy to find the connection whether or not people agreed with what I found. My conclusions made during the course were mine alone.
Additionally, it is freeing to not have to conform to a universally excepted idea because I don't have to worry about being right or wrong. As I wrote in my second post for the forum, "...if I am able to create my own standard for what is beautiful and what isn't just based on my own instincts, I don't have to feel inadequate when I am unable to find the beauty in something that others deemed beautiful. I am allowed to have my own definition that is no less accurate." There is no correct definition; there is only the one that is the truest to who you are and what you feel.
So now I was on my own in my search for what beauty meant. I could use the opinions of others in the class to guide me, but could not depend on them for concrete answers. The answer was all my own. I decided the key to finding this answer would begin with following my instincts.
We all have instinctive reactions to certain things based on the ideas that have been instilled in us. It is easy to recognize these impulses and give into them. The harder task is the more careful examination required to discover where our reactions come from. I had an opportunity for such an exercise when we studied paintings at the Barnes' Foundations. I allowed myself to be drawn to a particular painting, and then scrutinized what particularly had attracted me to it.
What I found in my self- exploration was that my affinity for the painting was due to a personal connection with it. I found that I was jealous of the subject of the piece, and that was why I couldn't help staring at her. As I wrote in a paper about the painting:
I find, as I get older, there are less and less opportunities to do things purely for your own enjoyment. And yet, here is a full-grown woman who seems to have no responsibilities or hardships. She makes me want a small, well-lit room of my own where I can shut out the rest of the world and do what makes me happiest. I know I would most likely be bored or frustrated by such a life, but it's nice to consider every once in a while.

I wanted to be her, and as I looked at the painting, I felt an experience of beauty in imagining that I was.

John Dewey defines an experience of beauty as a connection with the world:
Instead of signifying being shut up within one's own private feelings and sensations, it signifies active and alert commerce with the world; at its height it signifies complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events (Dewey 19).

This is a probable explanation for my experience of beauty in examining the painting. I felt a connection with the woman, and as a result the piece, and it made me feel more linked with the world. I felt like I was not alone in my emotions, and that this painting was placed in my path so that I might stumble upon it and feel a little better about the world. Beauty is simply as a person forming a positive relationship with something else.
So that leads us back to relationships. The essence of beauty is things relating to one another. That is what makes mathematical equations so beautiful. As Richard Harrison recalled in Kenneth Chang's article on the beauty of equations:
I remember my son holding up the index finger...of each hand...and the moment of wonder, perhaps his first of true philosophical wonder, when he saw that the two fingers, separated by his whole body, could be joined in a single concept in his mind. (Chang 12).

Equations summarize a relationship between two otherwise unconnected things compacted so that your mind can grasp it all at once. There are two beautiful qualities present here: one is the relating of two things that otherwise would have nothing to do with each other; the other is the simplicity of the form the relationship comes in.
Simple does not necessarily equal beauty by any means. However, it is a common trait among things that people find beautiful. This is possibly because simple things are easier to understand; there is less to get your mind around. That makes it much easier to appreciate the beauty of the thing. However, if the thing is not beautiful on its own, that will be more readily apparent as well.
So this indicates that simplicity is not enough to make something beautiful. For example, the pigment that we were all so enthralled with on the first day of class, which was very simple in its form and consistency, would not have received even a glance were it not for its vibrant color. The simplicity of the way the color was packaged allowed us to fully appreciate it undistracted, but it was not what made the pigment beautiful.
If simplicity cannot make something beautiful on its own, is that true for complexity as well? Hoffman tells how in the sciences, "We construct with ease an aesthetic of the complicated, by adumbrating with reasons and causes. We do so by structuring a narrative to make up for the lack of simplicity. And then we delight in the storytelling" (p.2-3). Complexity has its own beauty to speak of, one that is caused by the joy of working through the complications. There is a sort of fun involved in the challenge of understanding, and getting to the substance of the thing. Therefore complexity in itself, unlike simplicity, can cause something to be beautiful.
This idea can be related to the topic of beautiful people. If you relate complexity with unique features and simplicity with typical ones, there is a similar pattern with respect to what is considered beautiful.
We discussed the societal standard of beauty in class, but this, like everything else discussed in this class, could not be agreed upon. People felt different pressures from society and were receiving varying messages about what the ideal of beauty was.
My theory is that this is because it is the uniquely individual qualities people possess that make them beautiful. We all appreciate these qualities differently, which is why everyone has differing opinions on the "standard" of beauty. As I said in a posting on the forum, "If people are really honest with themselves and manage to drown out what they are being told is attractiveness, they will all have very different definitions of what makes a person beautiful." True beauty cannot be standardized, nor should it be.
Beauty also should not have to be justified. We discussed the relationship of beauty and justice in society, and how people attempt to create peaceful societies. This is difficult to do because, like with beauty, everyone has a different definition of what justice is. In beauty, I find that I like everything to fit together nicely. This has to do with my peaceful nature. I don't care as much whether the world is fair and equal as I do about it being peaceful. In my opinion, justice has more to do with mercy than vengeance.
I seek peace because it is beautiful. In this sense, beauty can describe any actions where people are making each other feel good. Crime is ugly because it involves hurting one another. Still, the same thing can be said about vengeance. Many believe vengeance is just because it involves responding to one action with an equal and opposite reaction. By this definition it seems consistent with the laws of nature. But responding to an action of ugliness in a way that is equal requires another ugly action. Therefore, vengeance only makes the world an uglier place. I prefer mercy because it involves responding to an act of ugliness with one of beauty. It may not be the "right" thing to do, but it is the more beautiful.
Having an experience of beauty and thinking about what it means led to a lot of personal growth. Beauty is necessary for personal growth. It stimulates a person and makes her more aware of the world. "...everything that intensifies the sense of immediate living is an object of intense admiration" (Dewey 6).
I found that I was learning a lot in my exploration of why I found certain things to be beautiful. My senses and overall awareness were heightened to the point where I was examining every reaction I had to everything. Then it was suggested in class that the examination might ruin the experience of beauty. Was the mystery essential for the experience of beauty? Was I destroying the experience by trying to solve the mystery?
Why is beauty so precious that we have to worry about ruining a particular experience? Experiences of beauty are rare and unexpected. In Philip Fisher's writings about the phenomenon of the rainbow, he points out that "Beauty visits, never stays" (p.36). It is the elusive quality that causes us to cherish it so. Fisher also claims part of the rainbow's appeal is that it is "a phenomenon of light rather than matter. This made it unique among objects of beauty, noble in a way that the material beauty of flowers or of human faces could never be" (Fisher 36). Because the thing is intangible, it is more beautiful.
When something doesn't happen that often, the experience is more appreciated. If someone is at a party filled with interesting people, they will not much appreciate any one person in particular. However, if one is at a dull party full of people they cannot relate to, and does not expect to meet anyone interesting, when they finally do the experience is valued more greatly because it was so long sought. The rarity of this experience is what makes it special, and thus beautiful.
At the same time, I find beauty in experiences that are very familiar to me. For example, I was raised in the Catholic Church, which is very tied to its rituals. I've gone to church with my family ever Sunday since I was young, and every Sunday the exact same things happen. I never get bored of it though. I love knowing what responses to give, and knowing when to stand and when to kneel, and knowing what readings are going to be said when. I find the rituals beautiful because of their familiarity, because they remind me of my family and my childhood.
The things we know well hold a beauty for us that is very personal, one that is probably the most difficult to share with others. But perhaps that is the key to the beauty. Our familiar experiences are unique in that they are only familiar to us, and no one else. We find beauty in knowing something or someone much better than anyone else does. I think this has a lot to do with why marriage is so beautiful.
In my exploration of what beauty means, I found many contradictions such as this one of the beauty of old versus new experiences. Beauty often contradicts itself because it can be found in so many things. I meant to narrow my definition in the course of my study, but instead was forced to broaden it.
That leads me to my final conclusion about beauty. Beauty is anything that causes you to feel more strongly about life and the world around you. This is a more vague definition than I hoped to be able to come up with, but the definition must be vague in order to encompass all that beauty really is. Beauty is connections between people and things. Beauty is both simplicity and complication. Beauty is unique characteristics that are seldom seen. Beauty is rare experiences, as well as familiar ones. It is intangible, yet it is describable. I hope as I continue to discover new meanings of the world I will become even better at articulating its description.

Chang, Kenneth. "What Makes an Equation Beautiful." The New York Times. October 24, 2004. 12.

Dewey, John. "The Living Creature." Art as Experience. 1934; rpt. New York: Perigee, 1980. 6, 19.

Fisher, Philip. "The Rainbow and Cartesian Wonder" Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998. 35, 36.

Hoffman, Roald. "Thoughts on Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry." Preface. Issue on Aesthetics and Visualization. Hyle. 1.

Hoffman, Roald. "Narrative." American Scientist On-line (July-August 2

Full Name:  Rebecca Donatelli
Username:  rdonatel@brynmawr.edu
Title:  Beauty of the Human Face
Date:  2005-05-16 14:49:22
Message Id:  15197
Paper Text:

Beauty,Spring 2005
Fifth Web Papers
On Serendip

Long before there was any form of written history, men and women were already going to elaborate and often painful lengths to change and beautify their natural naked bodies in their quest for a mate, to gain tribal passage, to protect themselves from spirits, or to appease their gods."
(Robinson 19)

People fry their skin in tanning beds and go through risky and painful surgeries all to be beautiful. What makes someone beautiful? Many theories attempt to explain what people find attractive in others but few are universally convincing. When embarking on this paper, I considered creating a survey and having a number of different people around the Bryn Mawr campus take it. The survey was to have pictures of several different women with different facial characteristics and people were to rate them on a scale from very beautiful to not beautiful at all. The problem was, for every beautiful face there is not just one trait that makes it attractive but rather a combination of traits. Also, there are different combinations of traits that can make faces beautiful. Therefore, within my means, it was impossible to design a survey in which all of the variables that could affect the perceived beauty of the human face were controlled for. There are many theories that identify trends in attractive faces but there is no ultimate theory that determines which faces are beautiful and which are ugly. Rather it is a combination of cultural and biological factors combined that make some people more beautiful than others.

The work of Dr. Marquadt, a former plastic surgeon, was originally to be the subject of the survey. Dr. Marquadt has proposed that the most beautiful face is one that is based on the golden ratio or divine proportion. This proportion comes from the number phi, named after the Greek sculptor Phidias, and has been associated with beauty for over two thousand years. Dr. Marquadt has designed a mask made up of golden rectangles, triangles and decagons of different sizes. The closer a face's proportions are to those of the mask, the more beautiful the person is. Dr. Marquadt's theory is that beauty is what allows human beings to recognize other members of our species. "The most beautiful faces, he claims, are the ones most easily recognizable as human. 'Beauty is just humanness,' he says" (Jones).
From a biological standpoint, this is very logical because according to the theory of evolution an organism is successful if it passes its genes on to the next generation. However, this is all working under the assumption that attractiveness is determined by a person's desirability as a mate.

Figure from http://www.beautyanalysis.com/index2_mba.htm

The pictures above were to be the basis of the survey. The mask fits the face on the far left the best and as the range progresses from left to right, the mask fits less and less well. According to Marquadt's theory the face on the left would be the most beautiful because it is the most human. If the survey was carried out it is a fair assumption to say that the results would have been in accord with those of Dr. Marquadt. However, with this particular sample of faces the golden proportion argument is not a convincing one. There are several other characteristics that could explain this spectrum. For example as the line progresses the faces gradually get fuller. Their faces become less symmetrical and their complexions become less clear with the final woman having a large mole on her right cheek. In order to have been credible the survey would have needed a much larger collection of faces that all had the same complexion, etc.

Another theory that attempts to explain what makes a face beautiful is the averageness hypothesis. A study was conducted in Germany at the University of Regensberg where advanced computer technology was used to morph faces together. The faces of sixty four women and thirty two males of different levels of attractiveness were blended together to form an "average" female face and an "average" male face.

http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychologie /Psy_II/beautycheck/english/morphing/morphing.htm

The diagram above shows the result of blending just two female faces together.

The average faces and the faces they were constructed from were then shown to a group of people who rated them on a scale of one to seven, seven being the most attractive and one being the least attractive. The mean scores showed that the computer faces were found more attractive than the original ones (Greundl).

The averageness hypothesis is another theory based on biological evidence. The reasoning behind this theory is that the average faces are more beautiful because they indicate genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is important evolutionarily because organisms that come from a diverse gene pool are usually healthier and less susceptible to diseases. According to this hypothesis when looking for a healthy mate, the one with the most average face is the best choice.

This study of blending faces also explored the relationship between symmetry and attractiveness. As the faces were being blended together they also became more symmetrical. This could also be indicative of a healthy mate because a symmetrical face could be a sign that a person had stress free development (Valentine 482). Averageness and symmetry are not exclusive from one another so it is difficult to assess why the morphed faces were found more attractive. Experiments were done where half of a person's face was taken and mirrored. The picture below on the right was made symmetrical using computer morphing software and the picture on the left is the original.

Figure from: http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychologie/Psy_II/beautycheck/ english/kindchenschema/kindchenschema.htm

"The results from (their) experiment regarding 'symmetry' show that facial symmetry affects the perceived attractiveness. However, the effect is rather small and by far not as influential as it has been reported in the media. To sum up our findings: Very asymmetric faces are judged rather unattractive, but very unattractive faces are not necessarily asymmetric. And vice versa: very symmetrical faces need not necessarily be judged attractive and very attractive faces often show deviations from perfect symmetry" (Greundl).

Another biological factor that contributes to a person's perceived beauty is youth. The word youth in this context is not meant to mean child but rather being of reproductive age. Having a youthful appearance is a sign of healthiness and fertility so from an evolutionary standpoint choosing a mate with a youthful face is an advantage. Features that are indicative of youth include fullness of lips, a thinner jaw, large round eyes, large forehead, small short nose, round cheeks, and short distance between nose and mouth.

The third and final part of the studies performed in Germany was called the "Babyface hypothesis" and explored the relationship between youthfulness and attractiveness. Again morphing software was used to create a sample of faces to be rated on a scale of attractiveness. This time pictures of young girls between the ages of 4 and 6.5 were blended with the face of an adult woman. An average child face was created and then pictures were created of various ratios of the average child face to the adult woman face. The results showed that a combination of youthful and mature

Figure from: http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychologie /Psy_II/bea utyc heck/english/kindchenschema/kindchenschema.htm

characteristics was preferred because only 9.5% of those surveyed preferred the photo that was 100% woman (Greundl).

Most studies of attractiveness are focused on women; however, perceived male attractiveness might also be influenced by biological factors. A study performed in Spain explored the relationship between attractiveness and sperm quality. A group of women were given pictures of sixty-six men and asked to rate their attractiveness. The semen quality was then rated according to the standards of the World Health Organization. The sperm of the more attractive men were better quality having better motility and morphology. The opposite was true for the sperm of the lower rated men. In the second part of the study the sperm was first evaluated and pictures of men from the good, normal, and bad semen group were rated by a different set of women. Again the more attractive men had higher quality sperm. "Although other factors like social and economic status influence women's final choice of a partner, say the researchers, they do seek attractive partners who are healthy and able to father children (Battacharya).

Only biological theories have been addressed up to this point, however, societal factors also influence a person's perceived attractiveness. Weight is a particularly interesting factor because people in the United States are obsessed with it and it is debatable whether weight is a societal or biological influence. From a biological standpoint it would appear beneficial for women to have a fuller figure with large hips and breasts. This is a sign of health and ability to carry children. However, in the United States and much of the western world extremely thin figures are considered more attractive (Marlowe).

This discrepancy brings societal influence on attractiveness into question. Research was done with Hazda hunter-gatherers in Tanzania and a preference was shown for larger females. According to the study, "the more subsistence-oriented a society is, and the more energetically expansive women's work, the more men will find fatter women attractive. Among foragers, thinness probably indicates poorer health" (Marlowe). Most people in the United States do not need to struggle for food from day to day so being thin does not make a woman less attractive. In the United States obesity is a problem and heart disease is the number two killer. Perhaps having a thin figure is more attractive in the United States because it is indicative that a person is in better health and therefore would make a better mate. Whether weight is a biological or social influence is arguable because in both cultures there is a desire to choose a good mate, however, the ideal mates are different because of the societal differences.

The relationship between skin condition and attractiveness could also be considered either a biological or societal factor. A face is more attractive if the skin has a smooth texture and even coloring. Skin free from rashes and acne is a sign that a person is free from diseases and skin without wrinkles is a sign of youth. This is a possible explanation of the averageness hypothesis because the more faces blended together, the smoother the skin becomes and thus the more attractive. While people may think healthy skin is a sign of a good mate; subconsciously they also might associate unhealthy skin with people of bad morality.

In movies and television bad characters are constantly being distinguished from good ones because they have unhealthy looking skin. Skin imperfections can be a spectrum of things such as acne, paleness, tattoos and the most popular sign of bad character, scars. Dr. Vail Reese is a dermatologist and movie buff who studies the relationship between skin conditions and character type in movies. The characters in the Oliver Stone movie Platoon are an excellent example of using skin texture to indicate someone's moral character. William Dafoe's character (left) is good so he has good skin
texture. This is juxtaposed against the complexion of Tom Berenger's evil character that

Pictures from: http://itsb.ucsf.edu/~vcr/Evil1.html

was given facial scars. Even in children's movies skin imperfections are associated with evilness. For example in Disney's The Lion King the evil uncle has a scar over one of his eyes (Reese).

Evil characters are often distinguished from good characters in movies because they have pale skin. After the release of the Matrix reloaded, there was an outcry in the albino community because of the negative portrayal of albinos in movies. The movie featured twins with white hair and skin and red eyes as Keanu Reaves's enemies. While the producers of the movie deny that the evil twins were meant to be albinos, one thing is clear: their paleness did make them scary. Another example of paleness being associated with evil would be the children in the classic horror film The Village of the Dammed with their white skin, transparent hair, and glowing red eyes. Evil characters that are portrayed as albino are often bald as well because baldness is also commonly used to indicate evilness is cinema. An example would be Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers series who is both bald and pale (Reese).

It is interesting how these stereotypes created by the media affect our perceived attractiveness. Baldness and albinism are usually considered unattractive, but from a biological standpoint neither serves as a large evolutionary disadvantage. It is possible that subconsciously people are uncomfortable around people with skin imperfections. It seems unlikely that the portrayal of people with skin disorders in the media is what makes people find them unattractive. It is much more likely that people's discomfort with skin disorders has manifested itself in these stereotypes that people with skin disorders are evil. However, the media reinforces these stereotypes by continuing to portray people with skin imperfections in a negative light on screen.
All these theories of beauty have credibility but none of them can be entirely separated from the others. When looking at the diagram of the range of faces (on page 2), it is possible to apply all of theories. The less attractive faces are fuller and asymmetrical. The more attractive faces have smoother complexions and the least attractive of the woman has a skin imperfection, a mole! If a survey had been created using those pictures, the results would have agreed with the range that Dr. Marquadt had created. However, it is impossible to prove that any one theory is the cause of that. Rather the beauty of someone's face is determined by a mix of social and biological factors that come together in the mind of the perceiver.

Works Cited

Battacharya, Shaoni. "Handsome Men have the Best Sperm." May 29, 2003. New
Scientist. May 15, 2005. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3777

Greundl, Martin. "Beauty Check." 25 June 2002. University of Regensberg. May 13, 2005. http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_ Fak_II/Psychologie /Psy_II/beautycheck/english/index.htm

Jones, Rafe. "Doctor May have Beauty's Number." 2005 TLC. May 13, 2005 http://tlc.discovery.com/convergence/humanface/articles/mask.htmls

Marlowe, F. and Westman, A. (2001) "Preferred waist-hip-ratio and ecology" Personality and Individual Differences. May 15, 2005. http://evolution.massey.ac.nz/lecture5/docs/facial.htm

Reese, Dr. Vail, md. "Dermatology in the Cinema Website." 2005 Skinema. May 15, 2005. http://itsb.ucsf.edu/~vcr/Lobby.html

Valentine, Tim., Stephen Darling, and Mary Donnely. "Why are average faces attractive?
The effect of view and averageness on the attractiveness of female faces."
Pscyhonomic Bulletin and Review. London England: Goldsmiths College,
University of London, 2004.