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The Beauty of Women: Costs and Benefits

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the feminine pursuit of the beauty ideal
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/25/2005 13:34
Link to this Comment: 14010

A reminder that your third paper, on "reading a picture," is due, both on-line and in hard copy, by 5 p.m. today, Friday, March 25. Don't forget to submit your paper in a folder along with your previous ones--I've gotten several already w/out that needed "background."

And now what you've all been waiting for: the feminine pursuit of the ideal of beauty. Next Tuesday, 3/29, we'll be having a discussion with Christine Koggel of the BMC Philosophy Department about three texts:

The first two are in your course packet; you can access the third online, and print it off from there. Post your responses to these readings--along with any particular questions you have for Christine, so she can be thinking about them ahead of time--here by 5 p.m. on Monday.

See you next week!

Body Image
Name: Liz Paterek (
Date: 03/26/2005 10:16
Link to this Comment: 14027

Society treats women as objects. Beauty is found in female uselessness. Footbinding in China, corsets, anorexic thinness, exceptional paleness and even restrictive clothing are all representations that these women either never needed to work or that they cannot work or survive without help. Perhaps it is a throwback to the stereotype of the man as the protector, the male who is influenced heavily by societal stereotypes may feel better about himself if he is strong in comparison to the female. One thing I've noticed is that at no time in history have athletic women been highly favored, I could of course be wrong and would love to hear that I am. The obese wealthy woman of the Renassiance, and the anorexic "beauty" of the modern world, while different on the outside represent the mentality that a woman either should never have to lift a finger or can't do so. The notion of chivalry in modern society, in which a man must open a door, pull out a chair, etc for a woman all show that women are treated as useless objects to be protected. I believe that this is a socialized thing, because there are certain groups of individuals or subculures within society that do expect that women should take care of themselves and defend themselves as well as men can and to say anything to the contrary would be viewed as sexist.
I think that it's funny that body image in men is almost never addressed and fine so a rich ugly man is more likely to get a beautiful girl than the other way around; however, these are extenuating circumstances. Many overweight men do feel ashamed of their bodies just as women do. While the ideal for men, one of muscular fitness, may be more healthy than the ideal for women, there is still a large amount of pressure on those who cannot be the ideal. I feel that it is something that needs to be discussed and brought up. I feel that society shoves male anorexia or overeating into a corner because of a perception that it is not there or that it is not as bad as women's issues. I feel, however, that there are many individuals, who one would never know had eating disorders because people are misinformed. Anorexia for instance cannot be defined by the weight or body fat of an individual, if this were to happen an athlete with an eating disorder would be considered healthy, it is an obsession with what one eats and the limitation of eating so that one loses weight.

The Best Topic
Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 03/26/2005 11:00
Link to this Comment: 14028

How appropriate to finally discuss the political implications of beauty and the timing could not have been any better. Friday afternoon, I endulged in some Kohr brothers ice-cream, and of course got a regular size which is HUGE and then read our CSEM assignemnts and laughed at myself. Here I was, sitting eating a dessert and thinking gosh, now I'm really going to get fat...and an article about loving your body just the way it is, is upon me.
I love how Koggel gave a concise and simple explanation of Plato, Kant and Wittgenstein with real-life examples. I see a reoccuring theme in almost everything we have read, "everything is explained in relation to how one experiences someting"- and that beauty is closely connected with the truth. I seem to buy into that, but recently catch myself asking why I believed it? Does beauty seem pure and innocent, and therefore is truthful.
Kant on the other hand had more open definition of beauty, "beauty is found in everything" and that our imagination can give us pleasure. But I found this particulary interesting: when he says that in subliminal things like the earth, clouds and sky which are powerful and fearful things, beauty is not experienced directly, we have to reflect on it. I disagree with that, I think beauty is found IMMEDIATELY in something so much bigger than you and I, and with a power so overwhelming that I have to find it beautiful.
I understand how Koggel really liked Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblances, because it says "there is no one definition of beauty" which is what I said when I came into the class, and I might be saying when I end the class. His claim that there are resemblances in everything, is what defines beauty. We base our liking of something because of the overlaps and criss-cross between what we know and don't know. (page 3 of 5, 2nd paragraph). The best part of reading is when Koggel finally asked the questions I have been asking everytime I read something, visit the Barnes museum, glance at Sharon's paintings, "who gets to judge things as beautiful, what does does this mean for people in different communities" but also, are people going to think of me DIFFERENTLY if i view something as beautiful but it is considered ugly/bad by society?
This brings us to the topic of women's beauty and beauty pageants, I have grown up in a very Indian-cultured household and body image has NEVER been an issue, I can never go without eating for 3 hours when I am home, it is considered rude to the cooks aka my mom. So, healthy eating and working out has been a topic, rather than what size my waist and breasts are. Therefore, when I was reading the piece on "No more miss America" I couldn't help but feel sorry for the women who were protesting AND the women who were on stage, beauty is not what people rate you as, or how many Vogue magazine covers you grace, but rather how beautiful you feel. I am not going to lie and say that I sometimes wish I could look like this girl, or have the 6-pack Gwen Stefani has. But to be paraded on a stage in front of many people, to me signfies low self-esteem and an unsupportive group of friends and family members. This might be my Indian upbringing, where women with large bellies wear Saris and have no problem baring their belly...I think we should watch "Real women have curves" in class.

Beauty Can Be a Very UGLY Word
Name: Alanna Albano (
Date: 03/26/2005 17:37
Link to this Comment: 14033

The "Beauty is the Beast" essay really grabbed my attention, and it made me seriously consider how much suffering and pain women have endured in order to be considered "beautiful" by the beauty-obsessed society that we live in. We as women are made to constantly live in fear that we will either never be truly beautiful and socially-acceptable, or that the beauty that we have achieved or maintained will one day be lost. I have witnessed so much of this pain and fear in my own life, as well as other women I have known. I remember in middle school and high school, the pressure was on to wear our plaid skirts as high as possible (I went to Catholic schools where we had to wear uniforms), to have manicured and/or fake long nails, wear make-up, have silky straight hair, perfectly clear skin, an ample chest, and to be thin. I remember my frustrations and personal battles during this time, b/c I couldn't quite seem to wholly fit the standard beauty image that was popular at my schools. For example, I had long, unruly, curly hair at the time (and still do, only it's much shorter), and my facial complexion certainly wasn't "clear." And having my peers who did achieve these things remark to me that I needed to "measure up" or fix myself to look beautiful didn't help my frustrations, either. I recall a male teacher that I had, who jokingly said that I should "shave my head." There were also instances when friends of mine would complain that they were "too fat" (when they were as thin and small as you could imagine), or they would remark that they thought that their boyfriends had dumped them mainly b/c "he didn't think I was pretty enough" or "he didn't like the way I looked."

That's one of the reasons I came to Bryn Mawr -- I knew it would be a school where it would be PERFECTLY OKAY (and even ENCOURAGED) to just be who I am -- to not have to feel pressured to conform to any one beauty ideal.

I'm not a big fan of beauty pageants, so I found the "No More Miss America!" article to be very informative, as well as amusing ("The Living Bra", "Saint Male") and sad. Again, it's the same trend -- the pressure for women to conform to this one specific ideal beauty image in order to win social acceptance, as well as a crown -- a crown that might as well display the message "I Have the Best Body and Face in America -- Worship Me!"

In Christine Koggel's essay, she notes how every beauty theory that we have come across never seems to adequately define what beauty is and all of the uses it encompasses. People's judgements highly vary when it comes to determining what kind of music, painting, animal, house, sculpture, or landscape is beautiful. Isn't it interesting how it's okay to have varying ideals or definitions of beauty for these different things, and yet for the female body, it is not okay to have more than one ideal. The female body is always under the scrutiny of the "male gaze" -- if our looks aren't aesthetically pleasing to those around us (other men and women) then we are deemed automatic failures.

One question I have is this: Has women's historical obsession with beauty been continually motivated by a profound desire to be found attractive by men? Do we suffer and agonize because we want to bring pleasure to men's eyes only? Do we obsess over beauty b/c we obsess over how men perceive us? I personally think the answer is yes to these questions, but if anyone can provide another idea or argument, I'm certainly open to it.

Name: Brittany ()
Date: 03/27/2005 00:35
Link to this Comment: 14037

Oh, ugh, ugh. I've been blessed to grow up in a household that's acutely conscious of the unrealistic demands society imposes on women... but it's still a fresh shock every time I read something like these essays.

What bothers me most, I guess, is the double-standard. This is probably because it's an issue that's constantly in my face. My mother is a news reporter. She knows that "technically" her station can't fire her if she gains weight or starts looking old. However, she also knows that the station expects her to come in every morning looking fresh, trendy, and made-up. She'll probably never be allowed to go grey on the air, though she works with male reporters who are completely grey, or balding, or chubby. Not only that, she has to possess an enormous, diverse, constantly-chaning wardrobe. Male reporters can get away with suits every day; just change the color of your tie and you're good to go. Suits never go out of fashion. But god forbid a woman wear the same outfit twice in a month---or worse yet, something that's "so last year."

It's not only the physical, temporal, and financial pressure these demands create that's harmful. What's worse is the mindset that goes along with it. For a woman to be really taken seriously in this society, she has to look good. With men, brains and personality are usually enough to redeem unfortunate wardrobe choices or a five o'clock shadow. (Einstein's hair, for example: who cared?). But women have to be beautiful (read: conform) and smart. The first is a prerequisite for the second. "Ok, you're beautiful---ah, and you also have a brain! Wonderful! Now we're talking!" (Example: letter to Time magazine which congratulated Condi Rice on her "smoking hotness." Riiigghhht.)

Not only that, but the standards women have to conform to are unbelievably unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy. Science knows this, and yet everyone buys into the stereotypes anyway (including people who should really know better... myself among them). Even when you *do* know better, it's really, really tough to look at a fashion magazine and force yourself to think: "she's too skinny--unhealthy" or "that's silicon" or "airbrushed!" We've been raised to accept these women as "beautiful," and there's something in the back of our minds that, no matter how much we know, is always judging---and finding our own bodies lacking.
And *then* there's this falsely "feminist" attitude that fashionable society sometimes adopts, which praises women for being individuals when really they're just slaves to the stereotype... for example, I was watching a fashion show the other day that congratulated Paris Hilton on "rejecting the female stereotype." Excuse me---how??

Name: Amy (
Date: 03/27/2005 10:02
Link to this Comment: 14041

Like Alana, the article that most fascianted and repulsed me was "Beauty Is the Beast". Although none of Saltzberg and Chrisler's arguments were new, I was depressed and not so suprised at how little progress society has made. And I was wondering to myself how these double standards that Brittany just commented on will ever change? How can we create a society where there is not one standard of beauty that you will never be able to fit? I was interested in Alanna's comment about coming to BMC and feeling like the pressure to be beautiful diminished , because in some ways I've felt the reverse. All I hear all day are girl's discussing calories or whether they should splurge and eat dessert or comparing how long they spent at the gym. Though I do agree that outwardly we respect each other for our minds and opinions, I would not say beauty and body images issues are nonexistent on this campus.

Name: Marissa Patterson (
Date: 03/27/2005 11:22
Link to this Comment: 14044

Wow. I really enjoyed the readings we did this weekend. The Koggel paper was very interesting because I am in a philosophy class and we are (sort of) discussing some of these topics, or at least the philosophers. Ot was intersting to see their words related to Beauty, one of the three "big topics" we were told were discussed in philosophy (along with Truth and Good). I feel that a few of the ideas broached in this paper were things we have talked about class, about how beauty can rely on function, is in the eye of the beholder, and that there are cultural paradigms that govern beauty.
The "No more Miss America essay" struck me because these are issues still being brought up about the contest 37 years later. Women now still see the Miss America contest as degrading, racist, and rigged, and really except for certain dated terms ("It should be a groovy day on the boardwalk in the sun with our sisters" p.1) this is something I would not be surprised to find handed out on the streets or circulated around the internet today.
The final "beauty and the beast" essay was very much like the book my group read for class, Survival of the Prettiest: the science of beauty. The author brought up many familar points about the historical differences in what is percieved as beautiful and also the differences between beauty in a man and in a woman. This is something I find to be very interesting, and I think it would be thought-provoking to take some sort of history class that covered these issues.

Ideal Beauty
Name: Rachel Usala (
Date: 03/27/2005 16:08
Link to this Comment: 14058

Someone earlier in the forum asked if the obsession by women to be beautiful is motivated by a desire to attract men. I find it interesting that this is asked because if you think about this question in relation to other animals, the answer would be no. In many (if not most) animal species it is the MALE that tries to attract the female, not the other way around. Male non-human animals are brightly colored to attract females, fight each other for the female attention, and do the bizarre dances to prove their fitness. For this reason I think there must be other reasons why human women strive for the ideal beauty; we are animals too after all and should theoretically follow other animal behavior.
My guess is that women strive to be beautiful because, despite the social advancements, women are still taught to feel unequal to men, or at least at a disadvantage. Women are the ones who sacrifice their careers to rear children. Women are, according to one Harvard academic, not as competent as men in certain intellect pursuits. Women are not as physically robust.
Female non-human animals don't have these social ideas to contend with and don't feel "inadequate." So it is my uneducated guess that beauty is the ideal striven for by women as a form of compensation. Because society has taught women they are not as intelligent, useful, or strong, women strive for beauty instead. I don't think women are trying to attract men; they are trying to equal them by overcompensating with curlers, make-up, and wax.

Beauty as shackles
Name: Katy (
Date: 03/27/2005 18:12
Link to this Comment: 14065

Beauty has throughout the ages been one of the only bargaining tools for women. Nearly every culture on the planet, for as long as humanity has been around and even up to the present day, has in varying degrees enslaved, abused, belittled women. The one method that existed for women to turn the tables on men has been their beauty. The patriarchy still exists in this country and even in more liberated countries such as Great Britain. Beauty is considered a woman's only ticket to doing what the patriarchy insists is the only thing women are good for--i.e. bearing offspring. Women have over the ages been enslaved by their biological functions. Since women tend to be smaller and more delicate physically, men have been able to take advantage of them. Since women are the ones who give birth, they have been expected to do so by the patriarchies of the world. In such a world where women's lives are so bleak, their only way to one-up men has generally been their physical beauty. And men fall for it hook, line, and sinker. No wonder so many women then fall for society's unreasonable standards of feminine beauty.
Only in really the last forty years have women--and enlightened men--truly begun to act and push for greater equality. Unlike the women's movement of the early twentieth century, the women's movement of the '60s and '70s sought--and continues to seek--equality in every aspect of the social world. We still have a long way to go. For every independent, intelligent woman portrayed in the media, you have 15 Jessica Simpsons. Many men and fellow women may increasingly respect and admire the former, yet it is still the latter that is considered "beautiful" in our society. And the real kicker of it is that these standards of beauty are so relative and inevitably subject to change. Why is the prototypical beautiful woman a bleach-blond, petite, garishly made-up, broomstick-thin individual? Is there anything intrinsically aesthetic about being twenty pounds underweight? I would argue that there's not, that it's instead an arbitrary standard of beauty devised by the patriarchy and is bound to change when men tire of it.

You're so SKINNY!!
Name: Malorie (
Date: 03/27/2005 18:17
Link to this Comment: 14066

I found all these articles really interesting. One thing that really shocked me was the facts about contestants and winners of the Miss America pageant, epically the facts about the races of the contestants. Itıs amazing to me to think about how much as been said and done about standards of beauty with little to no change. Even award such as the Academy Awards, which we think of as being less associated with beauty and more with performance (not to say that Hollywood is not obsessed with beauty), had itıs first African American woman, Halle Berry, win for Leading Actress just 4 years ago.

What really got my attention was Amyıs comment about beauty here at Bryn Mawr. I agree with what she about us respecting each other because of our intellects, but we are not blind to beauty. Donıt we all occasionally walk around campus and think things like ³Wow, she is so pretty. I wish I could look like that² even though we know we are being superficial? We all are aware that the standard of beauty is twisted, but it is something we cannot escape. I personally have been confronted by both men and women at Bryn Mawr and off campus about how I look, specifically about my weight and waist size. I am a naturally small person. I have a really fast metabolism which allows me to eat whatever I want and maintain the same weight. Itıs funny how people approach me about it. They donıt say to me ³You look great!² , they say ³Youıre so skinny!² I never know what to say when someone says that to me. ³Thank you² isnıt right because they are not really complementing me on being thin, in fact some people say it almost as an insult- as if to say ³How dare you be so skinny². I feel like apologizing to the person for being so thin. I donıt know what they want me to say. My usual repose is ³yeah² or a shrug. Some times that is enough for people, and sometimes they keep driving the point, saying ³No, you really are skinny. I can almost wrap both hands around your waist!² Really!? You know I never realized that I was thin until you just brought it up!

We always talk about the ³ideal² being thin. Yet I believe there is a point when people can become ³to thin², or skinny. Skinny is really a negative word, I think. When people tell me I am skinny, it is not to congratulate me on reaching an ³ideal of beauty³, it is to condemn me for it. I cannot say why people feel the need to point my own body size out to me, but I think that part of it is because they may feel uncomfortable with their own weight and size. I am not saying that I am not insecure about my body. In fact, I am insecure about how thin I am- I dread people telling me that Iıve lost weight. I also am very small breasted, and although I do joke about it a lot and consider myself pretty comfortable about it, there are times where I wish I was better endowed.

Maybe you are rolling your eyes at this thinking ³What has she got to complain about?² but I felt that it is really important to bring up the fact that beauty is a double standard and even if you seem to embody one aspect of the ideal, you are still being judged. Please feel free to respond to what I have said.

Name: Flora (
Date: 03/28/2005 00:15
Link to this Comment: 14073

Over Spring Break, I was going out with some girls and some gay men. When I was getting ready, one of my friends said, "It's not like you have to change your shoes or anything. They're gay. They don't care." My immediate response was that I'd care more about what I wore going out with friends who would be discriminating about clothes than if I was just going out with my boyfriend. My boyfriend is not metrosexual enough to make fun of my pumas, but I guarantee that one of my friends would point out that I looked too casual for a swanky wine bar.

I can definitely say that I think women try to become beautiful for more reasons than to just be attractive to men (especially if you're queer). Beauty is definitely equated with power, as the Beast article points out. Being beautiful, fulfilling social standards of beauty in clothes, make-up, shoes and body, all of that gives you power. And with that power, comes just about whatever you want, or that's what we've been taught to think.

Many women in Miss America pageants do it for the scholarship money. It's a lot of money gained by the power of beauty!!! It's pretty sick that competing to see who can produce the most unhealthy body image can win tens of thousands of dollars, but it's survived protests like the one we read about.

Unfortunately, I don't know that we've moved that far beyond Plato and Hume. As Saltzberg and Chrisler suggests, beauty is associated with better character traits than ugly. Beautiful people are often more successful because they have power. Just look at Bryn Mawr. There are almost no critically obese or physically disabled students here. Why is that?

Name: Alice Kaufman (
Date: 03/28/2005 12:01
Link to this Comment: 14081

I agree with Flora, in that attracting men isn't the only motivation for trying to look 'pretty.' And with what Amy said; that being surrounded by other women can actually make one more beauty conscious than before.

Women dress up for other women. I know that the surface reason for a het female to get fancied before going out with a guy is to please him, to conform to his expectations of societal beauty. But other women are the watchdogs of fashion and makeup. Because of other women, I won't wear blue tights with black shoes. (This is going with the unfair generalisation that straight men don't notice/care about fashion or style, dictated by the media. Please bear with me on this stereotype, because it's basically true. Why SHOULD they care, or have to notice?) I'm reminded of another class, where certain women characters were called 'handmaidens of the patriarchy,' sustaining hurtful roles because they believe they can gain (pseudo) power from it.

Only some of my relationships at Bryn Mawr make me put more than minimal effort into getting ready; the ones that are, I don't mind much. We're conditioned, and probably wired, to initially judge people physically. Dinky fashion rules dictated by other women don't oppress me; unlike the oppressive, completely male-powered world of the 1970s, these women are my friends, and would still appreciate me if I broke out, if my shirt gets stains on it, if I gained 10 pounds.

The readings mainly made me want to hug and thank my mom.

Madonna-Whore Combination
Name: Muska (
Date: 03/28/2005 12:02
Link to this Comment: 14082

I guess my question is broad and a tad bit off topic because it's not specifically related to gender roles or beauty, but more generally on the notion of rebellion. (I guess it's not that off topic after all).

I think one thing that was made clear in the selections for this week is that there are obviously societal ideals of beauty, which are dominated by male concepts of the perfect face, body, etc. These ideals are so interwoven into our lives and psyches that it's almost impossible to escape society's scrutiny.

The only appropriate (and sane) option a modern woman has is to rebel against these ideals and unapologetically develop her own definition of beauty.

However, even if a woman actively opposes and rebels against the male-dominated notions of beauty, she is still allowing the male opinion to dictate her behavior. Whether a woman complies or resists, the woman is still is being categorized through her relationship with male ideals.

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense.

I guess the question I'm asking is whether the rebel can ever be identified independently, without the association with the institution which he/she is opposing?

The Evils of Miss America
Name: Megan Monahan (
Date: 03/28/2005 13:51
Link to this Comment: 14085

I am amazed that we still have beauty pagents in today's world of feminism and gender equality. These displays of objectification have hardly been changed since the protest in 1968 to which the article refers despite certain superficial measures. Though today we have had minorities represented as Miss America and there is a talent portion of the pagent that is supposed to even out the results there is no possible way that a talented yet plain woman would ever make it to the Miss America pagent. The talent portion seems like something they just added on in order to get feminists off their back and to further test the potential Miss America's on their well-roundedness and force them to seek an even higher and more unattainable level of perfection. Also Miss America perpetuates the idea that women must be virtuous or they are worthless. Those entered in the pagent are not supposed to be married nor are they supposed to have children, the implication being that they ought to be virgins. As mention in the article, the Madonna-Whore complex is always at work. Woman are supposed to balance the fine line between all-American wholesomeness and sexiness.

Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America in 1984 but she had a huge scandal and lost the title when it was revealed she had posed for nude pictures. She went on to be an accomplished actress as well as singer but her percieved lack of wholesomeness kept her from being Miss America despite her obvious talents. This only further supports my assertion that the Miss America pagent is a horrible institition. In this case a woman's past actions that had no bearing on her talent or her merit as a human being were brought up to drag her character through the mud. This would never be done to a man because they are not held to the same standard of perfection as woman. I could rant more about how much pagents make my blood boil but I'd like to ask if people think it's ethical to use one's beauty to gain power. One could argue that this is a way to fight in a man's world but is it actually more hurtful?

our notion of beauty
Name: Alice S (
Date: 03/28/2005 15:31
Link to this Comment: 14091

First of all, I have to say that Christine Koggel's article is the most interesting we have read this semester. I found it very interesting to actually read about theories of the origin of beauty.

I have to say that reading the "No More Miss America" really mad me mad, mostly because so many of these ideals are still in place. At first, I was not sure that I agreed with Koggel's statement that our notion of beauty is still based on a man's perspective. As I read it, I thought to myself that there has to be some kind of universality that goes beyond just the universality of what men think, or else our standards of beauty would have changed. But, after thinking about it, I realized that Koggel is correct, that even the pressures that women put on each other today are really still the pressures men put on women. It is just that some women embrace it and it has become engrained in our society.

This notion of Miss America and the ideal women actually relates to a conversation I had this weekend. I am not trying to go on a political tangent, but I think Hilary Clinton is a perfect example of a woman who has been scrutinized for trying to defy the social norm for a woman, particularly for a First Lady. My friend told me had heard people say they wouldn't ever vote for her because she is "too manly" in the role she takes. I think it is interesting that we will only elect men as presidents, but we don't want a woman to take that role, and if she does, she is scrutinized for doing so.

Sorry if this was a little bit of a tangemt, but I just think it is very relevant to this article. I just think it is unbelievable that we still live by these standards. I still believe that there is some combination of universality and subjectivity in terms of certain things that are beautiful, but it is the standards of human beauty that I think need some revision.

The People vs Miss America, Round II
Name: Liz Newbury (
Date: 03/28/2005 16:07
Link to this Comment: 14093

Now I've never been a particular Miss America fan. When I was yonder, I never wanted to watch it because it seemed to superficial. I'd rather go play G.I. Joe's with my brothers then sit and watch a bunch of over-primped, plastic girls parading around -- even if by the time I was born they were all parading around for college scholarships. But at the same time, I feel like it's an American icon, a part of our heritage as a nation that, whether we like it or not, is there and universally recognized as being connected to the US.

What I found interesting, in relation to the Miss American pagent, was that the moment the pageant -tried- to adhere to at least some feminist standards, ratings went down the hole. Was it because events like the 'No More Miss America!' rally grabbed the mediaıs attention, and we felt guilty for supporting the beauty pagent because of what it stood for? Or was the pageant changing from this event that supported a cookie-cutter Barbi-doll image of beauty, and evolving into an event that at least did lipservice to supporting the image of a multi-racial, intellectual ideal of feminine beauty not to the public's taste? Was it because the public did not truly want to be confronted with a realistic perspective of beauty? Perhaps it's a combination of both.

As far as feminist standards about beauty, I cannot help but feel pride in my gender for pushing for a broader definition of beauty. But I am a little confused -- aren't the feminist standards of beauty, described by Koggel, a continuation of relativist/subjectivist ideals? "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and the beholder up until now has been men, and since the standards of beauty have always adhered, in our culture, to the standards of the male gender, therefore what the feminists are arguing is for us to widen the eye that views beauty so that it includes a feminine perspective. But looking at the other theories that seem to involve beauty, that Koggel brings up.. I'm wondering if this is the proper way to view beauty. Does beauty have to have a gender on it?

Out of all of the theories, I think I find Plato and Hume's accounts the most pleasing to my tastes. That the things we see are just fractions of a true Form, of a true Beauty, and we are but trying to see the true form as best we can through our inferior human senses.

It is Ok to see beauty in physical beauty
Name: Catie Davidson (
Date: 03/28/2005 16:13
Link to this Comment: 14094

OK, I hope I didn't miss anything in the articles...
This discussion over the physical ideal of beauty is very interesting as, if you remember, my group read a book called Survival of the Prettiest and the author very thoroughy explores the idea of beauty and women and society.

At the end of the article, the authors begin to address the issues I'm going to bring up...

What is wrong with being beautiful? The Beauty is the Beast article is very controversial... which, I suspect, is why it was chosen for this class...although most people so far have agreed with the arguments the author is making, I want to know why? I understand the societal pressures on women to be beautiful and that sometimes women do obsess unhealthfully over their bodies, looks, etc. But, it seems to me, that the author is making a direct argument against beauty, period. Why is it wrong to spend money on cosmetics or work out programs if it helps one feel better about themselves. It could be argued that cosmetics, work out programs, etc. are used as a tool to conform to the beauty ideal, but I dont believe that is always the case.

It is important to be healthy. Healthy doesnt mean anorexic, and it does not mean overweight. There is a balance and it is only when taken to the extreme that anything becomes dangerous and unhealthy. It feels good to maintain a healthy diet and work out. We should not use a person's desire to be healthy against her. If this leads to a more attractive physical look according to society, than so be it. It is possible to enjoy the things in life that enhance physical beauty without always striving for society's ideal.

Also, I think sales from cosmetics, belonging to a gym, etc is good for the economy... who is going to complain about that?
Anorexia and bulimia are very sad and dangrous conditions. One of my close friends has been suffering from an eating disorder since we were 13. It isn't a joke but it must be recognized that these eating problems often times stem from other problems lead to a feeling of not being able to control the events in one's life. They cannot be always be blamed on body image problems. A deep insecurity or depression often times sets in beacuse of these problems and the woman, or man believes the only way they can control their life is eating, etc... it is not only a beauty issue.

Many people base their self-worth on what society thinks of them, whether it be their weight or their intelligence, or their economic or social status... people are just self conscious, period. We are all given different gifts, use them. If you are beautiful, dont be ashamed. If you want to be beautiful, work at it. If you dont want to be beautiful, and aren't, don't bother those that do want to strive for beauty. It is true that models are portrayed as the ideal of beauty, in magazines, etc.. but i have noticed a great effort by manufacturers (not including high fashion that most of us dont wear anyway) to diversify the looks of their models.

We cant forget either that we evolved as social creatures as a survival tool (see Survival of the Prettiest). The authors even accept the fact that it is natural for people to paint their bodies and to make them more appealing to others, "...have been decorating their bodies since prehistoric times" (2). We search for societal approval in many ways, we blame society for many things, beauty just happens to be one of them. Do not forget that beauty is not alone in many of the categories Saltzberg and Chrisler place it.

What do we do about the extremely beautiful woman who has a very low self image because she wants to achieve a high level of success but can't because she is not very intelligent or resourceful?

I think the important point Saltzberg and Chrisler were trying to make is that women are, and should not be sacrificing their health for physical beauty. I agree, but I think it is also important to pay attention to how we approach the discussion of this topic. We should not criticize physical beauty. We should focus on the health issues dealing with extreme self-consciousness.

Reaching the Paradigm of Beauty
Name: Jaya Vasudevan (
Date: 03/28/2005 16:45
Link to this Comment: 14097

I actually enjoyed reading Christine Koggel's essay- she did bring up the different layers of questions that one needs to answer before defining something as beautiful, ones that I've never thought about myself, which definitely opens up more realms in our discussion. One of the points that she brings up that I particularly found intriguing is the one about how women of different cultures and generations (even our own) are taught to go through great lengths to meet "the cultural paradigms of feminine beauty." What's more interesting is that being expected to reach these ideals is oppressive and only leads to superficial beauty, yet a vast majority of us go through with these rituals anyway... I admit, even I'm guilty of it. Furthmore, it was important that she did mention that ideals towards beauty vary greatly culture to culture... although I personally think that because of globalization and migration, ideals of beauty are becoming more universal. It's something I've definitely seen everytime I go to India, as the women in billboards are moving out of the traditional South Indian ideal of beauty and are definitely adopting what would be defined as a "Western look."

Finally, the Miss America article compared the pageant to a dog or pet show, and at first I thought the idea was a little radical. But after giving it considerable thought, these feminists do have a point, a point that's really hard to dispute. It's also really appalling that there was a ban on letting people of color into the pageant, as if any race other than white wasn't considered to be beautiful at one time.

Reaction to this Wk's Readings
Name: Krystal Madkins (
Date: 03/28/2005 16:53
Link to this Comment: 14098

While I enjoyed all the articles this week I think that the Beauty is the Beast article was the most interesting. I'm so excited to read about the beauty and women's continuous struggles to acheive it. I thought it was interesting to read about things that I pointed out in my most recent paper. I thought the Renoir's "The Spring" and "Caryatides" were beautiful. They were nudes of voluptous young women. I commented that it is interesting to see how ideals of beauty change over time. I questioned whether or not today's ideal of beauty (tall, thin, big breasts) would look as good as Renoir's nudes. I thought that it would not. The funny this is that I do find models and their awkward poses in magazines to be beautiful. Maybe model thinness is better when covered up?

It was also fun to see this week's readings tying in with 'real life'. :) Yesterday I spent at least two hours on a site about the good and awful plastic surgeries that celebrities have had. I found it amazing that so many people ended up making themselves look worse than they naturally looked. In most cases, they looked fine before the plastic surgery but as the person who runs these websites said "pretty is not good enough in Hollywood". You have to fit in with the impossible standards of beauty. I was also surprised to see how many models have had surgery. I know that it's naive but I thought that most models were modeling because of a natural beauty. Turns out that isn't so. At least five or six of today's top supermodels have had some type of plastic surgery...breast implants, lip injections, cheek implants. A former Miss America was also featured on the sight. She's had extensive work done since her days as Miss America. She had been a struggling actress for a number of years after her reign (which made me think of the 'No More Miss America' article which points out how the winner is used up and then discarded...another example of women's objectification). She is finally on a soap opera now but only after years of struggling and much plastic surgery. It's really frightening to see how much of what people look up to is fake.

Women and Beauty
Name: Kara Rosania (
Date: 03/28/2005 16:53
Link to this Comment: 14099

I found these readings really interesting,mostly because I tend to be oblivious to all of these pressures that women feel to reach an ideal of beauty. I see girls around me wishing they looked different, or wearing really uncomfortable clothes that they were told would make them more attractive, and I think its just completely ridiculous. Something these articles made me consider, though, was the fact that men aren't neccessarily the ones who put pressure on women to look a certain way. Often, woman place these pressures on each other. Still, men are still the root cause of these behaviors. Women feel insecure about the way they look and the way they are percieved by men, so they turn to comparisons with other women to make themselves feel better. As a woman, I constantly find myself being surveyed by other women. Sometimes I take it as a compliment and sometimes I feel self-conscious. My response to other women's looks completely depend on how I'm feeling about myself; if I think I look nice, then I assume I'm being given a dirty look for that reason, and it doesn't bother me. That is the problem though, because many women do not feel good about themselves for whatever reason, and completely depend on the opinions of others to dictate how they should view themselves. So when these women are given dirty looks by other women, they assume its because they look horrible and begin to feel bad about themselves. Then these women, with their inscure feelings, begin to prey on other women to make themselves feel better, and the viscious cycle continues. Somehow, there needs to be a way for women to be responsible for their own feelings about themselves, and make sure they know they're beautiful regardless of external pressures. I liked to think that in this day, we had many different definitions for a beautiful woman. Its very sad to me that so many are still embracing the unrealistic concept of beauty that has existed in our society for centuries, but is only genetically possible for a small percentage of women.

Mirror, Mirror
Name: Amanda G. (
Date: 03/28/2005 17:05
Link to this Comment: 14101

In our society, the ideal of beauty, is, as Naomi Wolf put it in her talk at UPenn on February 27th, to be "young, skinny, with big boobs and no personality, white, blonde, tall, and smiling." Wolf described this woman as "Nazi Barbie." Koggel reviews a few theories of beauty including Kant and Plato. She makes a strong point, "The question I want to ask, one not asked by Wittgenstein, is who gets to judge things as beautiful, who gets to challenge what counts as beautifulo, and what does this mean for different people in particular communities." Who gets to say that the beauty ideal has to be "Nazi Barbie" and does Wolf have the right to challenge this?
Women go through a lot of trouble to fit into the cultural standards of beauty. Not only going to the gym or eating well, but having eating and exercising disordeers or surgery, women torture themselves to fit in. Part of this is because beauty is an integral part of a woman's life. Beauty and femininity are historically correlated. Wendy Chapkis wrote in "Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Apperance" that "Appearance talks, making statements about gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. In a sexually, racially and economically divided society all those visual statements add up to an evaluation of power." This draw pulls women. But, as Koggel asks, is this truly beautiful. Society can fight it with protests of Miss America and more, but to change beauty standards, it will take a societal revolution.

Getting Worked Over Nothing
Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 03/28/2005 18:00
Link to this Comment: 14103

Based on some of the responses, it seems that these articles are getting everyone worked up for a cause that has an absolutely unobtainable solution. The aim of Chirsler and Saltzbergıs essay seemed to be presenting a number of incredible and interesting facts in order to shock the reader towards denouncing superficiality. I totally agreed with what she was saying about the pressures placed on women to be this ideal image of beauty. And it is not fair that society continues to change those ideals in order to make this desired image forever unattainable. Itıs as if weıre chasing a car weıll never catch; youıll get tired, but the car will never slow down. However, reading through changes of ideal beauty throughout history has brought me to the conclusion that is it obvious that these ideals will always be there. The ideals of ³truth and goodness² are everlasting, therefore beauty is too. Therefore, the authorsı call to action at the end stating we must ³take a stand against continued enslavement to the elusive beauty idealŠlive life more freely and experience the world more genuinely² seems so flowery and unrealistic. We can never lessen societies restrictions on our image, but we can individually choose to follow them or not. These societal expectations are not law. Also, asking people to go against societal norms is just as bad as society molding people into these norms. If implant and heels make someone happy, by all means, let them follow that road. And the health problems she related to some of the measures women take in the beautification process seemed to be over-exaggerations. ³Unsanitary instruments leading to infections,Š long hair and dangling earrings caught in machinery,Š high heels and tight skirts prevent women from running from danger, all seem like ridiculous excuses not to wear or carry out those activities. These warnings seem like nothing in this perilous world of earthquakes, traffic accidents, etc. It did not dissuade me the least bit from wearing earrings or high heels; rather it just reiterated how clumsy and careless some people can be. Lastly, the statement, ³Imagine a society where bodies are decorated for fun and to express creativity rather than for self-control and self-worth² is not as farfetched as it was intended because thatıs our society today. Freedom of expression baby.

Also, after revisiting the timeline of societal ideals, forever changing like a race with no end line, I realized that these societal implications make up a nationıs culture, and culture is a positive thing. Flappers and hippies were figures in history that we look back upon with pride; they were outspoken and free-spirited, so I find it ironic that their dress and appearance were used to exemplify restrictions. This prompted me to wonder if we have sacrifice our individuality and self-image to promote culture.

Ok, to sum up what I had initially wanted to say before I tangented off was that we seem as a group to get worked up and upset about having to fit this ideal image, but honestly we have two options. We can choose to follow it and maybe life will treat us a little better because truthfully, beautiful people get life handed to them in a basket. Or we can choose not to follow it to whatever degree, and accept the consequences that result. I wonıt shave my legs, and it does limit the number of men attracted to me, but Iıve decided that those men are most likely not the men I want anyways. The consequences do not outweigh the stress of shaving for me so I continue not to do it.

Ok, now to tie a little bit of Plato in. If "It is the Philosopher with special capacities and a particular sort of education who is better able to glimpse the Form of Beauty than are ordinary citizens,² do we blame the Philosophers for setting these societal standards of beauty? I believe beauty is both relative and subjective. However in different situations itıs more one over the other, and cultural norms adds more in terms of relative beauty. But it is the subjectivity of prominent figures, i.e. celebrities, philosophers, intellects, who decide that cultural norm of beauty. Itıs essentially a paradox.

Last, to comment on the Miss America protest, I thought it was a great idea and an awesome attempt, but still ineffective. Weıll still are and will continue to be fitted into our image by society.

Beauty is an Inside Job
Name: Annabella (
Date: 03/28/2005 18:19
Link to this Comment: 14105

I was interested in not only our reading assignment for class, but also in your responses, and in reading them I am not disappointed.
In both the readings and responses, a major theme emerged:"The standard of beauty is imposed from outside the object (woman) and she pays if she doesn't measure up."
I would like to go back to Plato's description of beauty, that beauty is inherent in the object. To this I say "right on."
It is up to us as individuals, whether we are male or female, so find our inherent beauty. Then as outsiders judge us as beautiful or not, we will know that it is only an opinion that they hold and are sharing it with us. A nice response to "You are beautiful." could be, "Thank you for sharing." And a nice response to "You're too skinny" would be, "Thank you for sharing." No matter what the expressed opinion, it is only that.
When someone is aware of their own beauty, why would they care if other people are capable of recognizing it or not? Why do we want to get the compliment? So that we can feel beautiful. We already feel beautiful when we are in touch with our inherent beauty. So if we don't get their compliment, we feel beautiful, and if we do get the compliment, we get a bonus.
Let's take it a step further. How do you feel when you are angry at society or "men" for setting up this society in which 99% of the women are victims (i.e. not matching the strict standards of beauty) including you? How does your face look while you are explaining how awful it is that "they" do this? Do you feel beautiful at these times? I sure don't. My face is all screwed up, my wrinkles are at full-mast, and my skin color turns a brighter shade of red. Not my picture of beauty.
How do you feel when someone is opening up to you and sharing their opinions with you, giving you their idea of beauty. I know for myself that when I am sharing ideas with friends, I feel very beautiful and blessed to have friends that would share with me. This is how I choose to receive information from others. They are trusting me with their opinion. I am grateful for their trust. And I don't have to agree, disagree or change their minds.
As far as the Miss America Pageant, it seems to be something that persists, and it takes female participants to make it happen. Each participant is getting something for thier participation or she wouldn't be there, and it must be worth it, because the participants keep showing up, year after year. It isn't society's fault that the pageant is still going on despite all its flaws. It couldn't take place if the women didn't enter. It must be serving a purpose.
So rather than focusing on the "terribleness-for-women" of something that women keep in place, hold your own beauty pageant every day. Be the most beautiful you you can be, whether that include painting your face, or finding and sharing your inate beauty. You are the only you this world has. Show her off!
Whatever it takes for you to feel beautiful, do it. Then you won't even care what other people's opinions about your beauty are. Yours is the one you live with. Believe that one.

Name: eebs (
Date: 03/28/2005 20:37
Link to this Comment: 14111

id like to comment on the miss america article. although feminists constantly protest the degrading nature of a beauty pageant, they are forgetting that under a different light, displaying femininity is empowering. yes, some of the contestants for the beauty pageant may appear to be nothing more than a living barbie-doll.. but that is why many pageants now conduct "interviews" to see who, i suppose, is the best specimen. if you think about it, a beauty pageant is not much different from a college requiring photos on their applications. of course they schools may claim that their requesting a photo is unbiased, but if anyone had a choice, wouldnt they choose someone who would represent their school/company/country the best.. as in, someone most pleasing to look at? and in terms of woman, who is most 'capable' in portraying femininity than someone who posesses the boobs, and the curves? our breasts and our curves are physical characteristics that separates us from the male gender physically. this is not to say that someone will smaller breast is not considered a woman, but physically speaking, the breasts, (not hair cut, not skin color) screams, "i am a woman!"

concerning the topic of racism, that is something that the general population of the unites states needs to work on. in koggel's essay, she explains how "beauty is dependent on function and usefulness". with this said, you cannot expect a tight-knit predominately- caucasian community to accept a person of a different racial background to be beautiful if their encounter with the other races have been minimal. there is a point where "different" can be seen as strange/ugly, then maybe exotic in the next level, then finally.. beautiful. it is all about how accustomed one is to seeing the 'other'. i am not trying to justify the miss america winners for the past 50 or so years, i am saying that there are reasons to why it was like that, because lack of exposure. another thing that affects EVERYONE'S perception of beauty is now, the mass media. before the 1990's i believe, there werent as many magazines telling women, "whats hot, and whats not". now with cosmo, us weekly, people, marie claire (which are predominantly read by caucasians), to name a few, the media is trying to portray a sense of beauty to the minds of women across america. and because the largest portion of the population who read these magazines are caucasian women, the beauty standard is fixed to fit their perception: long blond hair, blues eyes, and being a size 3. now about the issue of size, we are shaped by the time/era we live in, the NOW. back in the middle ages, chubbier women were considered the ideal beauty. with the times changing, the criterion for idea beauty has also changed, just like a trend. there is no telling how long the trend will last, but beauty is becomming more and more a person thing. but yes, its true, there are standards shaped by the community we live in (not necesarrily the place we were born). but a lot of the trend is because of the media/celebrities that implant a specific form of beauty (that they posess) into our minds. i think that as long as there is such a thing as a celebrity.. or at least someone who could pose as an idol figure, the idea of beauty will always be skewed..

Yes, but...
Name: Lauren Sweeney (
Date: 03/28/2005 21:34
Link to this Comment: 14117

Being the good mawrtyr that I am, of course I believe that the stereotypes of beauty to which women in our society hold themselves (myself included) I can't help but think that there must be something to them. We have already discussed the idea that there are certain elements that are (generally) accepted as being universally beautiful in a human face, such as symmetry. The fact that there have been studies done which prove that overall, most people agree that people with symmetrical features have more aesthetically pleasing faces than those that don't is something to be taken into consideration. Is this merely an extension of the human preference for symmetry and balance in all things. I think that for the most part, one might also safetly say that people who look HEALTHY are generally considered to be more beautiful than those who look sick or in any way unwell. (And my extension I feel that nobody finds someone who distinctly looks like she has anorexia or some other eating disorder, attractive) I also don't think that this is just an aesthetic thing; I believe that this might be a human tendency to take note of elements which are generally signs of overall well-being. Contrary to being shallow or superficial, I think that this is a natural, undeniable tendency which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Granted, there is a lot more to gauging human beauty than just its physical aspect, but this is the one that I have chosen to address because it is the one that seems to interest/upset most people.

I like high heels
Name: Rebecca Donatelli (
Date: 03/28/2005 23:24
Link to this Comment: 14123

The part about these articles that I found the most interesting was the briefly mentioned section about how women are not necessarily victims of beauty- although I think that it is the small minority of women that want to be beautiful for themselves. When I was reading the article about the protest of Miss. America in Antlantic City it strck me that often times objects such as bras can be seen from two entirely different viewpoints. Attending Bryn Mawr I am well aware of the bra being a symbol of oppression; an article of clothing that binds women into a form that men/society find to be desirable. However, I like bras and I am extremely comfortable in them. When I think of bras I think of femininity and in a positive way. Many of the objects that were thrown into the trash can be either positive or negative for women depending on whether or not women use them for themselves or to make others happy.

A Choice
Name: Lauren (
Date: 03/29/2005 17:01
Link to this Comment: 14142

Given the subject and context of our conversation this morning, I found that I was still brimming with things to say as I walked out of the classroom. I keep coming back to the point that for me, if you can do something beautiful you should, and in my life, making the decision to do something which MIGHT be beautiful carries huge weight in my decision-making process. This system of belief and practice extends to the decisions I make when I wake up in the morning and decide how I am going to present myself to the world for that particular day. Given the choice (or the time, which is generally the ultimate deciding factor,)why not choose to make myself presentable, or what most people would perceive to be as "more beautiful?" It makes me feel better, it makes other people look at me differently and in turn, it generally positively affects my performance for the day. I (and I think most of you would agree with me,) feel more confident and consequently all-around better when I know I look better than usual--is this wrong? Is this anti-feminist? I honestly don't think so, but then again, I think that we need to address the issue that there is a real difference between feminists and non-conformists. In terms of physical appearance especially, these two groups are extremely different due to the source of their motivations.
Another point that I wanted to bring up in class has to do with the ethics of beauty and my own personal experience in the workplace. I have worked as a hostess in the same restaurant for almost two years, and I have come to accept that mine is a role which is mainly decorative. My former manager (a man) even half-jokingly admitted to me, "I only hired you because of the way you look." While I know this is wrong, I was so taken aback by his blunt honesty that I laughed. I also didn't quite believe him until a little while later. I have come to realize that all of the restaurant business is about presentation, not only the tables and chairs and atmosphere of the building itself, but the presentation of the food on the plate and of the waitstaff and management. Everything is about maintaining an image, and I have been sucked into this superficial world. As bad as I know it is ethically, I feel that this is one of few businesses which is very open about its superfical nature, but is not unique in this respect. I also don't believe that these pracices are to be commended, but it does make things interesting for me. Comparing the situations of where I work and where I attend school is an occupation unto itself which fascinates me. As for those of you who are sick of being "appreciated for your mind" all the time and crave a little objectification, if you are considering finding work in a Main Line restaurant, I suggest that you take the word of my misogynistic manager and "just make sure you're really hot-lookin'" when you go to your interview.

Survival of the Prettiest--or Getting Ahead?
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/29/2005 22:48
Link to this Comment: 14151

Many, many thanks to Christine Koggel for coming to class today and helping us think through the costs and benefits of meeting the standard ideal of feminine beauty. We'll continue discussing this in our small groups on Thursday; in preparation, read the Introduction and Conclusion to Teresa Riordan's Inventing Beauty, which I handed out in class today (extra copies may be picked up from the box outside my office).

What interested me the most, in today's discussion, was the constant--always implicit, sometimes explicit--comparison between beauty and intelligence. Is it as "unfair/unethical" to use one's innate intelligence to advantage, as it is to use as-unfairly-distributed innate beauty? The "culture of beauty" can be dangerous/destructive; so too can the "culture of intellect"--each operates as a kind of "social capital" that can be expended, that has a "production function" in economic terms. In either realm, how willing are we to "conform to move ahead"? How much/how might we contribute to constructing a diversity of standards, in both realms, so that women might be valued for a range of appearances, and a range of ways of knowing/being in the world? I wrote about this @ length in the forum for the Beauty Symposium last winter, and repeat just some of my questions then here:

Does thinking about beauty as a cluster of "resemblances" simply expand the range of "what counts" as beautiful? Or does it get us out of the category altogether, replacing it w/ the sort of "anti-pleasure" aesthetic some feminists advocated @ one point in time...?

Beauty evokes pleasure. So: Beauty has power. We can acquire (be "socialized" into) a "second order" appreciation of it, but it is, first, a visceral experience, that which "moves" us--an experience most/all of us want to enjoy. Some of us don't feel the need to manipulate or change what is beautiful (the way we appear to others); some of us very much want to participate in its production (= i.e., to "make something beautiful" or to "be beautiful" ourselves).

So: What are the political consequences of this desire? Is the "real problem" that beauty is exclusive, that whoever "has" it (I'm thinking now of beautiful women) has the power? And/or that whoever gets to define it (I'm thinking now of the male gaze) exercises power?

Looking forward to hearing more of your thinking here, and in class on Thursday--


comment on tuesdays discussion
Name: eebs (
Date: 03/30/2005 02:08
Link to this Comment: 14156

i personally think that the word "unfair" cannot apply to this argument. first of all, everything is unfair (whether we choose to believe this fact or not), especially if you think of one child being born into a family of 11 compared to a single child born with a so-called 'silver spoon'. perhaps the most fitted word would be 'ethics'. however, concerning ethics, using what is given to you for your own benefit is not a crime/unethical. in fact, the opportunity should be used wisely. if one is lacking a stable financial background, why should beauty stop them from obtaining somthing better? beauty should be thought of as a gift or a talent that can be used for ones benefit. if this becomes a reality, the standard of beauty may be raised because of beautiful people taking advantage of their looks, and people who are dealing with body images may be putting their bodies in (further) danger. but we cannot act to protect everyone; there ARE people out there whose job is to seek and help out those with body issues. we cannot be responsible for EVERYONE else. i personally do not find someone's act of trying to be more beauty as selfish. beauty is power. beauty can determine who is hired when everyone is equally qualified for a job. why would any company want to hire an individual that may lower the companies workers/representatives? as cruel as it may sound, looks play an important role in the business world. you look at someone and if they are more beautiful/groomed, you tend to subconsciously think that they are the better bet.

what i do not understand about the feminists' arguments is that beauty confines women. i actually think it is the opposite. i think beauty empowers women. wanting to move ahead (through beauty)is a sign of an ambitious female.. i dont understand why feminists cannot see beauty through that light.

tanya and i were talking after class about how the feminists who are anti-beauty tend to be not as attractive. does anyone else think that these feminists are trying to downplay beauty because they lack it?? i think so.. to a certain extent at least.

liking what we see?
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/31/2005 13:06
Link to this Comment: 14193

Some of the most striking observations--to me--from our discussion, upstairs, this morning:

"What I learned is that, to me, paintings are not beautiful. Objects are not beautiful. What is beautiful is my experience. My interaction."

"What does a painting DO? Is what it 'does' what it looks like?"

"It is not useful to look without knowledge, in the natural state of not thinking. I don't trust myself to see things on my own. I have a responsibility to not be tricked."

"But if I do research on what I'm seeing, I'm not taking it for what it is; my experience will be tainted."

"There is spontaneous beauty, and there is constructed beauty: we must (or should not?) attend to the labor involved in the latter."

"Knowledge may increase or diminish my experience of beauty, but I must/should take the risk of seeing which happens. To refuse to take the risk is also to refuse the possibility of expanding my sense of beauty."

"You can't force the experience."

"Remember the poem, 'The Doorway'--which celebrates keeping the innocence, before knowledge comes in?"

"There's nothing wrong with making oneself attractive, or with being attracted by others' appearance. This is an undeniable source of pleasure."

"Beauty is not liberation, not power. It is a deception."

"Beauty is not the enemy. The enemy is the narrowing to a particular standard."

I also mentioned a number of suggestions for further reading:
Judith Butler on "reading as 'taking down'"
Laura Mulvey on "the anti-pleasure aesthetic"
John Berger on Ways of Seeing
--as well as my learning, in the Emergence group, more about the difference between "science" and "art"--here are those ruminations ...

We'll meet again in our large group on Tuesday. Please read both the web notes for Paul Grobstein's talk on Biology, Brains and Beauty and Ted Chiang's short story, "Liking What You See: A Documentary." Post your responses to both--as well as your further thoughts/suggestions regarding our re-working/re-presenting/having a party for the beauty survey--here by 5 p.m. on Monday.

The Song of the Bird
Name: Annabella (
Date: 03/31/2005 15:45
Link to this Comment: 14194

This is a little off the current subject, but right on with the subject in general, and I thought it worth posting:

The Song of the Bird
İ1982 by Anthony De Millo

The disciples were full of questions about God.
Said the master, ³God is the Unknown and the Unknowable. Every statement about him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the truth.²
The disciples looked bewildered. ³Then why do you speak of Him at all?²
³Why does the bird sing?² said the master.
Not because it has a statement but because it has a song.
The words of the scholar are to be understood. The words of the master are not to be understood. They are to be listened to as one would listen to the wind in the trees and the sound of the river and the song of the bird. They will awaken something within the heart that is beyond all knowledge.

When I read this I felt it was all about beauty. I could replace the word ³God² or ³master² with ³beauty² and it fit perfectly what we have been running into all semester in class.
It also spoke to the question, ³Why do some people say Truth is Beauty and Beauty, Truth?²
I am one who says that. I believe it. Truth is something that can not be defined, though it is profoundly simple. But in its simplicity, it is something that can never be defined at all. For every definition falls short, every attempt to define it constricts that which can not have confines, and is therefore an impossibility.
Beauty is the same way, as we have so clearly demonstrated all semester. I do believe that truth and beauty are synonomous.
But I run into some problems here. For we do not find all things beautiful, and yet there can be nothing in this world that is not truth.
This appearant discrepancy comes up because we believe things that are not true; our thoughts. When we see something and think it is not beautiful, that is because we believe our thoughts about it and our belief in those thoughts make it appear not beautiful. If we could see it without believing our thoughts about it, we would see it as beautiful, for it is truth, and truth is beauty...and both are undefinable.

Name: Kat McCormick (
Date: 03/31/2005 20:06
Link to this Comment: 14196

Annabella, although I do not agree with you that truth and beauty one and the same, I found myself strangely attracted to your theory that we would find ALL things beautiful if we did not believe (or have) our own thoughts about them. I can believe this of myself- although "beautiful" is not a word I often use to descibe experiences/objects, I often am profoundly affected by it's absoluteness (that it is so much itself)- which is I guess what you are calling truth.

This juxtaposes interestingly with the discussion we were having in class today of the purposeful deception which takes place everyday through the guise of beauty- I guess I should say the standard of beauty. I guess in your argument, people (and objects in nature also...i keep thinking of the scene in Finding Nemo where Dory is so attracted to the bright light that is actually lureing her into the dangerous jaws of another fish) use standards of beauty in order to cover something that they fear is flawed or unattractive, where what is actually beautiful in the situation is the act of deception.

funny thing in a magazine
Name: Amy (
Date: 03/31/2005 20:32
Link to this Comment: 14197

Hi Guys,
So I randomly picked up an old issue of Self Magazine from my HA'S box and it had a blurb that I found truly ironic.
In its -Beauty Flash- section, "Real Women, Real Beauty - Got an opinion about what beauty truly means ( in other words, not flawless skin or a size 0 body)? Then click on Dove's to join discussion groups, read essays and get inspired on topics such as body image and aging. he idea is striking a cord: In the site's first month, nearly 17,000 women logged on and participated in the dialogue. Now, that's a beautiful thing."
December 2004 issue of Self Magazine, p. 62

I just found it ironic that a beauty magazine, writing about a website that from what some would call a beauty product's company about trying to expand feminine ideals of beauty while it has Heather Locklear on the cover of the magazine and is all about losing weight...Interesting phenomenoa- though this isn't to bash fashion magazines- as I said in class I have a perhaps obessive love of them.

"everything can be a museum piece....?"
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 03/31/2005 22:01
Link to this Comment: 14198

Like Amy, I have a report from the media. This one comes from a special section of The New York Times (3/30/05) on "Museums." The lead article, Holland Cotter's "Outside In," begins

Art museums are our most conservative cultural institutions. How can they not be? Their first job is to collect fragile objects and preserve them from harm. But the conservatism is ideological too. Those objects, most of us are taught, represent humanity at its best, its most heroic or refined. Museums preserve that vision, which many of us have a big stake in holding on to. That's why they are stoutly built, like temples and banks. It's the look of Classical. Unassailable. Forever.

...Whose vision of culture are we talking about, anyway? Yours? Mine? Ours? Theirs?...who really deserves to own these magnetic objects...? Who can rightly assign values to them: good, bad; major, minor; worthy, unworthy?...On the one hand, these cornucopian institutions are an homage to the richness of the human past. At the same time, they are advertisements for power in the present: the power of wealth, the power of possession, the power to enforce particular perspectives on the way history was and is....

Another article, "Online, Anything and Everything Can Be a Museum Piece," suggests some alternatives, and put me in mind of our (upstairs) discussion of the possibility of re-doing the Beauty Survey as a multi-sensory/hands-on/unranked experience; see The Museum of Online Museums for a sense of some of the possibilities!

Online Museums
Name: Marissa (
Date: 04/02/2005 13:01
Link to this Comment: 14210

I found the link Anne put in her post about online museums very interesting. They had what I "expected"- the Museum of Modern art in new york, the musee d'orsee in France, but they also had unexpected artwork. I found myself drawn to a collection of art that was grocery lists that had been found by the man who ran the site. Nothing special or dramatic about them, simply papers with needed grocery items written on them, yet I found most intriguing the commonality between all of the lists. Though there were a few items each had individually, most of them shared common items, eggs, milk, toilet paper, items that everyone uses, giving a communal sense to the site.
I also enjoyed the museum of temporary art, full of different types of artwork that (I believe) anyone can submit to the website. Most of what I saw was 3D, artwork made from common household items (there is that commonality theme again) but taken in a different way, for example there was a piece entitled "A childs nightmare" that was a hollow plastic doll's leg that was filled with porcupine quills. Interesting...

Chiang and other comments
Name: Rachel Usala (
Date: 04/02/2005 13:19
Link to this Comment: 14211

I was very disappointed by the Chiang story. It began very interesting and original but by the end I was disgusted by the author's apparent approval of "calli."
"Calli" is not a resolution to the problem. It merely masks the issue. If such an invention did exist and "lookism" was eliminated, the type of discrimination would merely shift. Maybe, for example, family name would gain importance in society if people could no longer discriminate based on physical beauty. "Calli" would not resolve the societal problems.
Chiang's opinion is that "beauty is providing its possessors with an advantage." This is no doubt true, but Chiang is placing responsibility where it does not belong. Beauty is not the culprit; we have spent enough time looking at beauty and admiring beauty in art, science, theatre, psychoanalysis, etc. over the last couple of weeks that I have come to the conclusion that beauty is a good thing or at the very least a benign phenomenon. Why would beauty's inherent goodness or benignness change when applied to people? It doesn't. Rather there's something about society that manipulates and distorts human beauty. If we took away human beauty, the current key to power, we would leave behind the door to discrimination and power. And people are cunning locksmiths; with the beauty key gone we would simply find a new file to pry open the door.
There was also a more minor theme in Chiang relating to the competition between the spirit and physical beauty and the political implications of this. Chiang claims that conservative religious groups and monotheistic faiths like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity would be proponents of ³calli² and would use ³calli² as a way to suppress the body and itıs wicked tendencies to be ³bewitched² and ³charmed² by beauty. I guess I cannot speak from a Jewish or Islamic perspective, but as a Christian I donıt think Chiang has got this completely accurate. Take for example the Popeıs deteriorating physical condition. The Catholic culture has not been repulsed by the Popeıs physical suffering and apparent imprisonment by his body. Rather it has applauded his physical suffering. This is not, in my opinion, an example of ³following theŠtradition of deprecating the physical.² The same argument can be applied to the Terry Schiavo case. It was a sect of the conservative, monotheistic culture that was fighting for the physical, that is Terryıs life, even though, in the minds of many people, Terry was in a vegetative state without the capacity to exist as a spiritual being. This is not the monotheistic tradition ³which devalues the body in favor of the soul² that Chiang describes. Iım not arguing that Terryıs feeding tube should or should not have been removed or that it was unchristian to remove the feeding tube; rather Iım pointing out how I see the themes of our class discussions reverberating in the news. Please, I am not intending to inflame, anger, or offend anyone.
I know this discussion of monotheistic culture and its permeation in global and American culture is not completely on topic with ³beauty² and the Chiang story, but it struck me that this is how the political implications of beauty are playing out in two of the hottest news stories right now. Are we a culture that celebrates physical beauty and the body?

Ted Chang
Name: marissa (
Date: 04/02/2005 13:20
Link to this Comment: 14212

Huh...I just finished the "Liking what you see" reading. I found myself twisting back and forth during the story, pro or con calli. At some points I could see that it was taking away a vital choice from people, but then I also understood the benefits it could have. I dont know if after reading it I have any final belief about whether calli would be a good idea. The futuristic would the characters lived in seemed so wild yet so believable. I could see the world eventually moving toward 3D advertising and voice and visual alteration in order to present some sort of "better" self. At first I felt anti-calli. It seemed like it would be excessive in todays world. Yet I realized that this isn't taking place in "today". The girl who took her nose off, how Tamara was able to use a video phone function that made her look as if she was wearing makeup--this was a far more intense beauty-concerned society than today with many more opportunities to alter appearances.
The study brought up in the notes about the college application left in the airport was brought up in "Survival of the Prettiest" and I find it very interesting that the author took this idea (and more, I'm sure) to fashion a story in the way that he did. Before this story I dont know if I would have been able to imagine things going so far beyond what I experience day to day.

Name: Brittany ()
Date: 04/02/2005 15:28
Link to this Comment: 14214

Like Marissa, I spent most of "Liking What You See" ping-ponging back and forth between approval and disapproval of calli. But by the end of the article, I found myself---and I was surpised at this---pretty solidly on the side of the anti-calli camp.

It's not that I don't like the notion of judging people via character instead of appearance. But I agree with what one of the "students" in the article said: we can't let something artificial make that call for us. The ability to see *past* someone's physical appearance is a sign of maturity and an aspect of personal responsibility. Just "switching off" our ability to distinguish between beautiful/non-beautiful faces also "switches off" the moral imperative need to *learn* to do so. Yes, calli would "get rid" of the problem of beauty-discrimination (at least, supposing everyone chose to get it---that's another problem that I won't address here), but it wouldn't eliminate it in any conductive way. It would just hide the problem instead of force humanity to face it and make a conscious effort to overcome it. In a sense, calli is a form of moral laziness. It prevents parents and educators from having to *teach* kids that "appearance doesn't matter" by chucking the problem altogether. It's irresponsible, and I don't think that's a real solution. (It's also dangerous, should people like Tamera decide to get calli removed after a lifetime of having it. She immediately, though unconsciously, used her beauty to try and manipulate her way back to a boyfriend. She grew up in a society where "looks don't matter" was a default, not a responsibility, and when she was removed from that world, she felt no moral imperative to *try* and be objective).

I think of it this way... calli wouldn't eliminate the categories of "beautiful/ugly," nor would it eliminate the discrimination associated with them. People with calli would still be aware of the distinction, and ugliness would still carry an emotional stigma---they just wouldn't be able to *percieve* that stigma. Calli would not eliminate "lookism," as the article puts it, because it wouldn't do anything proactive to combat the attitudes that lie at the heart of the prejudice. It would just ignore them. Ignorance is not bliss!

My final problem with calli is that it *does* have an effect, mo matter how insignificant, on the way one views the rest of the world. Even if the difference were as slight as, say, a high-class reproduction of a real painting vs. the painting itself, I don't like even the possibility of having to give up some of my ability to see beauty.

I want to end with a video I found on a flash website. I'm not entirely sure what bearing it has to the "calli" discussion, but it's definitely relevant. It's also one of the most offensive things I've ever seen:

Now imagine you're looking at this video through calli. *You* can't "get the joke" in a physiological sense (you have no emotional response to the relative beauty of the video's subjects), so you don't "get the point" of the video. In a way I guess this is good for you, but it's a goodness, an innocence that borders on ignorance. You walk away from it without recognizing the stereotype it presents, and so feel no moral obligation to reject that stereotype.

Name: Liz Paterek (
Date: 04/02/2005 20:51
Link to this Comment: 14218

I don't understand the link between beauty and emotion. I have never felt emotion with beauty. I also feel my comments last class were misinterpreted. I don't want people to be ignorant background details behind a painting or book or something are fine, what I don't what is an analysis of why I find something beautiful, etc. I am a nihlist I suppose, in that I do not believe in truth, pyscholoanalysis or any internal analysis seems like we're trying to fit our patterns into some set little formula that is entirely comprehensible. If a formula exists, I think it is too complicated for us to understand, almost like an absolute truth. Museums are fine, it is the painters that are the problem. I like physical experiences moreso than staring at something that isn't particularly intellectually inspiring, which is why I like Dali but not Renoir.
Now I should talk about the story I suppose. Like I said at the top, this story links emotion with beauty and my response to beauty is nearly entirely intellectual if not 100%. I can make my brain make me find somthing more beautiful and trick myself. As for getting rid of beauty, let people do what they want. In my mind the beauty response is likely evolutionary, if any element was removed or altered likely it would make people mentally unstable. We use beauty to make us happy. I would keep all parts of me unaltered. I disliked the notion of building a world without something that is intrinsically human. It kind of reminds me of all those future science world of doom stories where they talk away free will, emotion, etc and all goes tragically wrong. If we took away beauty something bad would probably happen and yes fine so we wouldn't judge people on beauty or whatever but who cares. We have the choice to care about beauty, we have the choice to create our own standards when we dislike the convention. Most people buy into the convention because they're trained to or its in their nature but pretty much what I've learned is tha we can be taught to find most things beautiful in someway provided a few general norms are followed. I guess I like the notion that I can shock and defy, without the convention I would lose that ability. I would also lose my power to break with the education that has been thrust upon me, making me feel like some of my free will has faded.

thanks for inviting me
Name: Christine Koggel (
Date: 04/03/2005 08:01
Link to this Comment: 14227

Sorry this is late. It feels like the discussion is already moving ahead to new topics - and I'm finding it difficult to keep up!

I wanted to say that I am most impressed - with the discussion in the forum prior to my coming to class last Tuesday, with the very lively and engaging discussion in class, and with the postings about the readings and the class that have appeared since. I just want to react to one thread that will bring out the ethicist in me.

The idea that beauty and being beautiful either makes one feel good or gets one what one wants or needs to get ahead in life has been mentioned by some. The question for ethicists even after observations and descriptions are made of what is the case for some individuals or in a particular society is whether these choices are morally right - in the sense of should choices be made in terms of what makes me feel good or what is good for me? The point of a critical analysis of beauty is not to say that we should be anti beauty but that we should question the norms that are in place that constrain or limit some people's choices. The analysis has us think critically about the choices we make that support a system that has a differantial impact on members of particular groups - even if and when it is beneficial to some individuals.

Just some thoughts from a moral philosopher who wants to maintain the distinction between the descriptive and the normative - between describing what society and individuals are like with beauty norms in place and what society and individuals could/should be like in challenging and thinking critically about those norms.

Thanks again for a very engaging discussion. I learned lots.

Scary Science Fiction!
Name: Alanna (
Date: 04/03/2005 15:55
Link to this Comment: 14240

While I was reading Chiang's "Liking What You See," I kept asking myself if it would be possible to one day do this, and if so, would I agree to it? I actually would not be very surprised if someday in the future calliagnosia was made possible by technology interfering with our human brain functions. With the incredible speed at which our scientific technology advances, the idea of "calliagnosia" could be a very likely prospect. However, the idea of tweaking our brains in order to not judge people by physical appearances scares me quite a bit.

I understand that the intentions of calli are meant for take away the pain and ugliness that beauty can cause. Yet, I strongly feel that to have calli would be denying ourselves of a basic human feature -- the ability to appreciate beauty, and possibly the ability to differentiate people, animals, and objects. With calli, people would be "dumbed down" and made less human in a sense. True, it would be wonderful to live in a society where people didn't discriminate based on looks. But what if you found yourself in a situation where you HAD to discriminate based on looks? For example, what if you were a police officer and you had to keep an eye out for a wanted criminal among masses of people? Calli wouldn't do you any good then. What if you were looking for a missing child?

Here's another scenario: the interaction between a mother and her baby. Mothers typically delight in the beauty of their babies, and vice-versa. Beauty is a strong factor in creating the loving bond between mother and baby. If calli were instituted in both mother and child, would it take away from the loving bond that they would normally share? Would babies no longer smile at their mothers b/c they couldn't "see" the beauty of their mother, b/c they couldn't delight in the comfort of seeing their mom's familiar face? Would a mother no longer have special feelings for her child, as opposed to other children? Would she be less inclined to care for her baby?

I can't answer these questions with any certainty. What I can say with certainty is that having calli would somehow stunt people's mental development and our way of perceiving the world.

The answer to getting rid of the ugliness and wrongful discrimination caused by beauty isn't about getting our callies turned on or off. The answer isn't trying to get rid of beauty altogether. The answer should lie in changing our attitudes towards beauty. We can have and appreciate beauty, but we shouldn't obsess over it. Others shouldn't be made to feel worthless or less than because of beauty. Beauty should be used to further good in this world, not detract from it. Beauty is inherently good, but we as people possess the uncanny ability to turn it into something bad.

So how do we change our attitudes towards beauty? Perhaps by having the confidence and the discernment to not feel utterly belittled by the beauty messages that the media throws in our faces on a daily basis. We cannot let the media determine whether or not we are beautiful; we cannot let others determine whether or not we are beautiful. We must determine for ourselves that we are beautiful, without taking others' judgement into account. I think that if we actually took the time to examine our own beauty in this way, we would actually find that each of us is beautiful. Once we've accomplished this, we will be able to view beauty in a more healthy way. And, we would not even have to consider the idea of calliagnosia.

(Additionally -- I wonder if all of the issues surrounding beauty, with regards to Chiang's essay, aren't really about the beauty. I'm seriously thinking that it is an issue of CONFIDENCE. Would working on our level of confidence for our physical appearance ultimately solve the many problems that we have with beauty????)

Name: Amy Martin (
Date: 04/03/2005 16:34
Link to this Comment: 14243

Throughout Chang's article I ,like most of the postings, found myself thinking that if I lived in this society I would also be calli opposed. But what disturbed me the most about the article had nothing to do with the ideas of judging beauty. I just found myself continually terrifed with the notion of playing G-d and changing our everyday receptors of reality- and then I questioned myself because I realized I am so checked into the status quo of my own experience of reality that the change is what is really frightening. I think I also came across this conclusion in our group discussion on Thurs. when people were saying that today we consider the work done by braces normal and that in the future people will consider having plastic surgery to enhance their looks normal. Like my disgust at calli, I felt disgusted at the notion that one day we will all be modified versions of ourselves. But then again as Annabella made me question in discussion, aren't our natural versions of our self just as fake as the beauty we buy ourselves?

I think the manipulation of your own physical beauty (as in plastic surgery) and the manipulation of seeing beauty (as in calli) both stem from the same idea- that we can somehow mask over our "impurities" whatever they may be percieved to be and live in a utopian like ideal of either ourselves, our perceptions of the world, our society etc. It's this dismissal of everything that doesn't fit perfectly into the box we'd like our lives to be like that scares me.

Calli reading
Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 04/03/2005 17:35
Link to this Comment: 14248

It has definitely been a interesting journey discussing the implications of beauty and whether I buy into them. Yesterday I was fortunate to attend a conference in NYC with powerful, smart, rich and educated women who work on Wall Street. While they were talking about their experiences from college students to where they were, I couldnt help but be drawn to them and make judgements and think positive things because they were attractive and had so many other qualities that embodied perfection.
This callignosia topic is ridiculous, to think that people can "numb" their judgements to become a better and more aware human is a total contradiction. I understand that sometimes ugly peope feel shunned by society, but it is through certain experiences- good ones and bad that they can gain the self-esteem to push themselves and not get hung up on how they feel ugly.
I feel like the reading was advocation for a product like Proactive "take a risk-free trial for 30 days, if you don't like it we can reverse the procedure, no harm done just screw with your BRAIN!!"
I agree 100% with Jeff Winthrop that maturity helps you see that differences dont matter but personality and education do. Each of us must have gone through an awkward stage with braces, acne, bad haircuts, disproportioned bodies and look at all of us today- we are all beautiful, brilliant women who are have the dual ability of judging beauty objectively and subjectively. It is the awkward process that makes us reach the stage where we can judge in a positive manner.
I appreciated Tamara Lyons point of view and first hand account but I realized that she become more engrossed with her own beauty and expectations after her calli was turned off and that can ruin her self-esteem. Her obsession with making sure Garrett felt beautiful I think occured as a by-process of undergoing the neural changes, and now she doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin so out of fear she reverts back to getting calli.
When we see we are using all of our senses to experience that sight and make a judgement. There will always be more beautiful, smart, put-together women myself and I will judge them, but doing it in a state of awarness. The state of awareness allows me to judge but not let it interfere with my self-esteem and positive outlook.
Calli is a cover for people who cannot handle the real world and are in constant fear that others might judge and then the calli individuals judge and it becomes a cycle. But it's those judgements that make your decisions important and help you get through life. You cannot be "numb" to these judgements because people are more beautiful than you, it's more important to come to terms with the beauty problem than hide from it.

Devil's Advocate
Name: Liz Newbury (enewbury at brynmawr dot edu)
Date: 04/03/2005 20:13
Link to this Comment: 14251

I think this reading has to be my favorite thus far out of our course readings. So, looking back over the postings, I think I'll play devil's advocate. I'd like to preface this post by saying I'm sitting on the fence, but I think it's necessary to have both points of view presented.


"Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don't matter." (pg 293)
I would argue that no human being could ever be that mature. We don't live long enough, we aren't programmed naturally to -not- discriminate. It takes you less then a second to see a person and determine which stereotype they fit into. In other words, it takes you less then a second to form a prejudice, to discriminate, against somehow. ("The Nature of Prejudice" by Gordon Allport) It's just the way we work. It helped us discriminate between good mate and bad predators in our early days as a species, and it helps us discriminate today in much the same way. And yes, I'm leaning on Darwin's shoulders here. Natural selection is inevitable.
And I think that the questions that this article brings up hit on that. -Should- we still support natural selection? It thwarts us from ever having 'equality' amongst people. At the same time, it helps us distinguish between Mona Lisa and what my first-grade cousin drew in class. I guess we have to pick our poison.

Other things this article brings up: The conflict with feminism, for one -- should women be judged by their appearances (their use of makeup), or should they be judged from the way they present themselves to the world? How far should the media be able to push their manipulation of a model's appearance in order to sell a product? Should beauty be simply another characteristic, like height?
I think this last idea is what appealed to me the most. Maybe I'm intrigued because I can remember back to the critical learning period in elementary school, middle school, and high school. How many of you were teased for how you looked, for things that you couldn't necessarily control? How many of you felt ashamed over your appearance, self-conscious because you were comparing yourselves to your classmates, to the ideals of beauty presented by society? I'm sure I wasn't the only one, and I doubt I'm the only one that struggles with it even today.
One argue that these experiences make us stronger. I think it took away more then it gave me. If there is one thing I could have changed about high school, it would be been the constantly obsession with 'how overweight am I?', or what clothing I wear, or how much acne I have. The experiences in high school still remind me of my faults rather than my strengths. And while it'd be nice to think that once I hit college everything was rosy and people wouldn't judge me based on my appearance, I know this isn't the case. I think I -am- better off because I go to an all woman's college, then my friends that go to co-ed institutions. But beauty is still a prized commodity, even here.

"[calli] prevents parents and educators from having to *teach* kids that 'appearance doesn't matter' by chucking the problem altogether."
So we have to address 'lookism' directly? Isn't that what we're already doing? How effective is it for your parents/teachers to tell you that 'beauty is on the inside', and then lead you out into the world where these standards are clearly -not- being met? Wouldn't it be better to simply demonstrate, in the classroom, that there -is- more then beauty, instead of simply telling a child these qualities exist? I keep thinking of the scene where the parents are describing how a classroom was electing a burn victim for president. They weren't electing her because she was 'struggling against the odds'. They didn't feel sorry for her, or because they knew they'd get a pat on the head for doing the 'right thing', or because it was politically correct. They were electing her for what she could -do-, because they weren't constantly absorbing, via the media or other sources, the ideal image of beauty, and how she -didn't- meet those standards.

One last thing I'd like to hit on is that this isn't an issue about ugly people vs pretty people. I think it was made clear in the article that beautiful people and ugly people were equally affected by calli, both good and bad. It's not about making people look bland, or bringing beautiful people down, or ugly people up. "Calli doesn't blind you to anything...calli let's you see."


Again, this was just a devil's advocate approach. I'm not sure which way I would stand on the issue. But I do believe one thing: we are addicted to beauty. The question is whether it's an addiction that keeps us alive, or an addiction that brings us down.

No, thank you
Name: ()
Date: 04/03/2005 21:11
Link to this Comment: 14254

I really cannot ever imagine a society in which people have willingly agreed to screen out the ability to perceive physical attractiveness in others, and due to this particular limitation on my own imagination, I am all the more impressed with the alternate reality which Chiang has to convincingly created. As far as the short story goes as a work of fiction, I think that it was *beautifully* written and so intriguing in the ways in which the author presents such differing and realist points of view on the topic of calliagnosia. Reading this story was a thoughroughly pleasurable experience for me, and in that respect, I am sensitive to the beauty of the work.

As far as realistic application goes, what would be the point? What if this were true? What difference would it make? Would people really want to be able to "turn off" their ability to perceive physical beauty in others? Where would a scientific endeavor like this get funding for research and development? Would there really be that kind of demand for it? I don't think so. Like the character Joseph Weingartner stated, "I enjoy seeing a pretty face." I tend to agree. Given the choice between seeing as I do now and altering my thought process so that my ability to perceive beauty is in ANY way weakened, I would definately refuse the opportunity. I know that my perception of beauty influences my choices and how I live, but this is how I have come to function as a human being and quite frankly, I like it.

creepy Madison Avenue and my prejudices
Name: Alice Kaufman (
Date: 04/03/2005 22:44
Link to this Comment: 14263

I really enjoyed this reading. I don't want calli, I want legal restrictions on advertising. I notice it now; ads are getting more and more sophisticated at manipulation. The 'super ads' in the story don't seem far fetched. We have collective experience in dealing with beauty. There isn't an inborn cynicism towards technologically improved, dynamic, powerful speakers. That was the most powerful part of the story to me. I like the idea of being able to turn off my inborn prejudices wired in my brain, though. I just wouldn't want to never see beauty.

Some people are beautiful, no matter how technically funny their features. I learned this from Roald Dahl's book The Twits when I was little. I always thought this was true. If someone is scowling, I think they look ugly; if someone is smiling sincerely, eyes crinkley and all, I think they're nice looking. This only works after a person is older, or if I know them, for some reason. Maybe I just trust the faces people earn after a third of a lifetime more than a younger random stranger. But I don't know; I don't make conscious value judgements of people I see on the street, and I don't think I make sub-conscious judgements either unless someone is exceptional. Most people, if they're not grinning or scowling, are just average, afterall. I'm still trying to work out my definitions of 'likeable' and 'beautiful,' because they definitely affect each other. If a person isn't likeable, they are not beautiful, no matter how pretty their face.

Again, I really liked this reading; it was well written and made me think.

Name: eebs (
Date: 04/04/2005 08:59
Link to this Comment: 14270

ted chiang said in his interview how "evolution doesnt necessarily reflect on our intentions". it seems to me that people (in the US) evolved into thinking that equality is the best answer. to some extent this is true; equality is beautiful. but this does not necessarily mean that looking the same, or hiding imperfections if going to be answer to all of the world's social problems. in theory, calli might sound like the perfect solution to the problem, but theories always sound beautiful... in reality, nothing ever comes close to the theoretical utopia. i think what we are trying to do right now by accepting diversity is the best its ever going to be. ignoring the entire aspect of appearance and beauty is never going to solve anything. eventually, the same problem (or a modified/new version of it) will (re)appear... similar to the effects of drug abuse. calli might be a temporary escape, but in truth, the problem will come up again.

in this aspect, i agree with people when they say beauty is an addiction, a game we cant really win at. but whatever the case is, beauty is inevitable, and like meera said, "calli is a cover for people who cannot handle the real world in constant fear that others might judge them". if we think of beauty like that, it seems possible that if we downplay the role of beauty in our lives the fear of being judged would dissapear. but it seems just as likely that something else will come up to take the place of beauty by which people will be judged by/against once again. it seems to me that it is human nature to judge others and that beauty isnt the culpit of all that is evil or whatnot.

beauty is not everlasting (in humans). even those who seem flawless will one day find themselves in a position where their beauty will 'let them down' (in a sense). but women may feel that while/when they still posess beauty that they should make the most of it to gain whatever power or influence they desire. and is that necessarily a bad thing? the women who use their beauty are focused on what they want. maybe beauty is all they have, then do we have a right to deny her from her only "gift"? i just think that some things are there for the better not worse. if beauty is the one thing that brings an individual happiness, you shouldnt try to take that away from them. besides, almost everyone's goal in life is to be happy.. why take that away from them?

Name: Katy McGinness (
Date: 04/04/2005 11:10
Link to this Comment: 14271

I found the Ted Chiang piece fascinating. While I was annoyed by the vacuousness of Tamera Lyons, I greatly enjoyed reading all the different viewpoints about this most interesting procedure. I had never even heard of calliagnosia before reading this article. On the whole, I don't know whether I endorse calli or oppose it. I probably fall somewhere between.

It is mentioned by various individuals in the article that calli does not rob one of her/his sense of "real" beauty (ala "inner beauty"), but rather merely blunts one's perceptions of the beauty of faces that may lead to unfair judgment or low self-esteem. However, who does not get an emotional high when viewing what she/he considers a beautiful person? It is fun and emotionally meaningful to see a beautiful face. It moves us. I'm as liberal as they come, but even I can't shake the feeling that calli is p.c.-ness at the very extreme. Educating people is a natural way to expose people to the unfairness of beauty and get them to realize that being beautiful does not necessarily entail personal worth, but messing with people's neurological systems? What if something goes terribly wrong, and that person is never able to experience the emotions of subjective beauty again? There is undeniably an Orwellian aspect to calliagnosia that I find unsettling, even though I'm sure it was developed with the best intent.

That being said, I can also see a positive side to calli. It is only a temporary condition that one can turn on or off. It is a choice, not a requirement. Whether or not we are mature enough to admit it, we judge people by their personal appearances all the time, and this judging has destroyed many a friendship and has had disastrous political/social consequences. Young women particularly are hurt by society's standards of beauty. With calli, they don't have to experience this pain. In the context of interpersonal relationships, people are able to look beyond the surface of each other's appearances and see each other for who they really are. For all of calli's drawbacks, it has distict positive aspects that cannot be overlooked.

Name: Malorie (
Date: 04/04/2005 13:10
Link to this Comment: 14272

I really enjoyed the reading this week. I found that it got to the issue of beauty in an original and exciting way. I especially liked how it was set up like a documentary instead of a narrative. That way, we were able to hear opinions from multiple charters with out a bias. I was especially intrigued by Tameraıs comments. It was interesting to see how she reacted to have the calli turned off. Her parents said that they had the calli on her because they wanted her to not have to worry about looks while she was going adolescence so she could focus on school. Though when she got it off, she got all the same reactions. Instead of being used to seeing beautiful people in adds she was memorized by it. She also tried to impress her ex boyfriend with her good looks when she found out that he was not particularly attractive. She was even going to go see him to help him out- show people that he had a cool attractive friend. Even after not being aware of it, she still was affected by beauty. Having the calli on didnıt teach her anything. It actually hurt her ex, he became so self conscious he had it turned back on so he didnıt have to see himself. At first I liked the idea, that it would be good to not judge on beauty. As I read, I realized that it would be nice but using a machine is not the answer. I really like what the character Jeff Winthrop said on page 293 -³Maturity means seeing the differences, but not realizing they donıt matter. Thereıs no technological shortcut.² We should not judge people on their looks, but forcing our mines to not notice it is not the way.

A world without beautiful people
Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 04/04/2005 14:36
Link to this Comment: 14275

First of all I would like to note that I know this is a fictitious piece of technology and therefore my posting may seem like Iım ridiculously arguing over something that is not even a real issue, but Iım going to express it anyways because it still applies to the issue of lookism, which is very real issue.

Initially the idea of calliagnosia sounds idealistic and nice, but I find myself siding with the group against it for a number of reasons. First of all, I am quite disturbed with the idea of a society where different personal features are noted, but cannot be evaluated. I love being awed by amazing looking humans. Most of the time I do not even speak to these people, nor am I prompted to by their looks; I merely look and admire the same way you do a sunset or a picturesque landscape. I find a vast majority of people to be beautiful and having that ability revoked would make my life dull and a little empty. It would be a disability not an improvement.

This leads to my next point that a world lacking beauty within a species would be an incomplete. ³All animals have criteria for evaluating the reproductive potential of prospective mates, and theyıve evolved neural Œcircuitryı to recognize those criteria²(283). Therefore, humans are meant to have discriminating tastes. Whoever created us gave us this ability for a reason. The justification that ³supernormal stimuli² caused by makeup and airbrushing are ³more stimulation than [our receptors] were evolved to handle,² and ³causes ³beauty to ruin our lives² is unsubstantial (296). My life is not ruined; it is enhanced. What about traditional makeup or the colorful and elaborate dress of other cultures? Is that not ³supernormal stimuli.²

I agree totally with the excerpt from Alex Biblescu on page 303 explaining how the controversy arises from religion, which ³devalues the body in favor of the soul.² It seems that we always run back to religion as a means of justification for anything controversial - racism, homosexuality, technological advances ­ yet we always misconstrue the bible to argue one way or the other. From a religion standpoint, we were created to sin, the sin in this case - judge by appearances. We cannot forcibly change that with technology.

Overall, the real reason it bothers me so much is the thought of programming our minds. Technology reaching the point where it tells us how to react or think is a little scary.
Reading Tameraıs experience made me think of parents who are so overprotective that the essentially shelter there children from the world. In the long run, the kids end up losing more from the upbringing than gaining. They do not have the opportunity to learn from experience. They do not grow and strengthen from overcoming adversity. People need to deal with these issues. You canıt protect people forever. They'll have to face it eventually.

Despite it all, the documentary was thoroughly innovative and entertaining. He presented all sides of the issue and the idea seemed so plausible that I initially thought it all real.

Beauty and Science
Name: Krystal Madkins (
Date: 04/04/2005 15:38
Link to this Comment: 14283

This week I found the Chiang reading the most intriguing. I thought the story was a very interesting and intriguing one. At first I was confused. I was like what is calli? Is this real? I eventually figured out the answers to both questions. I thought the reading brought up some very interesting points; nature v. man made, value of beauty v. harm of beauty, and the big business of beauty. While reading this I thought of a movie (but of course!), Stanley Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange', which dealt with issues of altering the mind and whether or not good behavior is still laudable if it is not voluntary. That is one problem I would have with calli too. As someone pointed out, how do you fight something if you are blind to it. And although the very action of getting calli is voluntary and shows some 'admirable' quality, the very use of calli does not seem to allow for people to recognize beauty and choose like mature people whether or not paying too much attention to beauty in certain circumstances is harmful. The new calli that would allow for calli to be turned on and off more easily would probably address some of these problems. Another reason that I think I don't particularly agree that calli should be mandatory is because of issues with naturalness and goodness. Although I know that natural does not always equal good (for example diseases and natural disasters can be quite harmful) I still have the tendency to believe that the natural way is the best way in most cases. Another issue that arose for me, and was mentioned in the article, is the idea that beauty is a negative thing. As was alluded to in the reading and mentioned in class that are other qualities, like intelligence and athletic skill, that can cause discrimination or harm people unintentionally but there is no work being done to block those things. I still liked the reading a lot and the storyline was really intriguing although some of the storylines were predictable.

turning off beauty
Name: Alice S (
Date: 04/04/2005 15:43
Link to this Comment: 14284

I thought this story was really cool. It was fun to read, but it really resonated with me. I initially though that it would be a cool idea to be able to turn off our perception of beauty, but then, I started to think about it more, and I don't see a problem with being able to see a beautiful face. Granted, some people in this story enjoyed having the calli because it made them forget about their own looks if they were unhappy with them. But, there was a comment in the story that I agreed with; it is education that needs to be changed. I think this applies within the story as well as in the real world. It would be very difficult, if not almost impossible, to change our standards, but it is worth a try. As one of the speakers says in the story, "if you want to fight discrimination, keep your eyes open." I think this is a key point; to fight discrimination, you have to fight it, not just ignore it.

On another note, i really enjoyed this story, not just for the provocative subject, but just because the author presented every side of the debate. The one question I have would be, if you go from having your calli turned off to back on, wouldn't you still remember, even if you couldn't see, who is attractive?

Name: Kara Rosania (
Date: 04/04/2005 15:44
Link to this Comment: 14285

I have to say, I was really annoyed in last weeks discussion at the suggestion that women have a responsibility for others' feelings about their own beauty. I think its ridiculous that a woman can't make herself as beautiful as she wants to because it might make other women feel bad about themselves. In general, I felt that the discussion was much too accepting of the fact that women feel negatively about themselves if they are not seen by society as beautiful. That instinct is what needs to be addressed and remedied, not catered to. The standards of beauty themselves are not what needs to be changed. Somehow we need to change society's standard of the fact that physical beauty is such an important quality on a woman. We need to open ourselves up to other qualities such as intelligence and humor and kindness to give women value. If we could do that, we wouldn't need to alter society's standards of beauty, because it just wouldn't matter that much.
This idea was mostly what drove my comments about plastic surgery in the small group discussion on Thursday. Many suggested that it was fine for women to alter themselves surgically, because as long as it made them feel better about themselves, it was a positive thing. I agree that it's important for women to feel good about themselves, but it's ridiculous to suggest that the only way to do this is to remove the offensive feature all together. For example, if a woman dislikes herself because she has small breasts, certainly getting implants would fix the problem and make her feel better about herself. However, this course of action requires several health risks, a large amount of money, and a few weeks dedicated to recover. It is also very likely that this person simply has low self-esteem, so now that she doesn't have tiny breasts to complain about, she will simply find another feature of her physical appearance to hate and make her feel unattractive. Instead, if this woman would address the real issue underlying her insecurities about her breasts, and actively look for other qualities she has to make her feel good about herself, as well as surround herself with positive influences that remind her she is beautiful in many other ways, she woud certainly feel better about herself without the surgery.
This is my point: the problem with the concept of physical beauty in women is that its importance is grossly exaggerated. Women obsess about acheiving the ideal appearance instead of improving themselves in other ways, thus lowering the number of qualities they have to feel good about themselves, and in turn, their self-esteem. That is when "beauty" becomes harmful.

Trying to turn off Lookism
Name: Jaya (
Date: 04/04/2005 15:47
Link to this Comment: 14286

Even though I found the documtary really fascinating, as open as I tried to be to it I couldn't help but think that the whole idea was outrageous as a whole. I really want to believe that humans don't have to resort to this kind of procedure, something that seems so unnatural and almost drastic, that would alter an innate ability that humans have had for ages.

I liked the point that the neurologist in the documentary made about how even if you have your calli turned off, you can still pick up a general idea of beauty by reading about what people "should" look like in magazines, ads, or other people. Even if calli is turned off, formulating a beauty ideal is almost inevitable, because society will instill one in you. Besides, technology is never perfect, and this kind of procedcure can actually have more effects on the brain than one in the long run.

The idea of having non-calli schools is interesting, but my problem is that it's keeping the children away from the sad facts of the real world: in the same way that cosmetics and plastic surgery are deceptive, these schools in a way are deceiving these children to believe that people in the outside world do not judge by appearance, as awful as that may sound. Also, even if one person does get the procedure done, they'd be a minority among a majority with the Agnosia, so there's really no getting around discriminating faces.

It almost feels like people are blaming our genes/nerve makeup on this lack of inequality and rampant injustice- why is no one trying to or attempting to figure out ways to fix society? People taking this procedure must think then that society is a lost cause. Even if a person gets rid of their calli, these underlying problems- people's obsession with reaching a paradigm of beauty- will still be there. I just don't think turning off a localized area of your brain steam will get rid of this problem, but would instead cover it up/give people a false sense of reality and what's really there.

Comments for Last Week-Koggel
Name: ()
Date: 04/04/2005 16:14
Link to this Comment: 14287

I forgot to post last monday, so this post is about last week's materials.

I found the Koggel article interesting because, as many others have pointed out, the article very concisely went through the philiosophical history of the theories of beauty. I liked thinking about whether objects have inherent beauty or if "all we have are subjective and pleasurable preferences linked to non rational/emotional reactions and are variable from one individual to the next. I tend to lean towards the latter because I find that my opinion of what is beautiful is usually quite far from what my peers say is beautiful. I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, BUT the eye of most people is steered and glazed by common media and other affecting outside sources. I think that though people have varying tastes and DO have agency in deciding what they find beautiful, there are societal forces (advertising, Hollywood, models of beauty, etc.) that do affect what people will say is beautiful. There are "common" or "clear" cases of beauty that are accepted as such by a community, but who can say where these established cases of beauty were started and from who/what. Communities are constantl evolving in what they find beautiful; the standard of beauty changes. But who is the catalyst for such change? Who controls the change? I do not know. But I do believe that if an individual wishes to, he/she can take that power to change it on an individual micro level. They have the capacity to change what they perceive is beautiful and apply their own theories of beauty in the way they live their life. This is not to say that their theory or the resulting way they live their life will change the whole of society and this is also not to say that they will be free from whatever pressures/discriminations/obstacles from the societal standard/theory/establishment of beauty. They will still be a member of the community, but the individual still has a choice. They still have agency and the capacity to make up their own mind.

I was also interested in Koggel's statement about the way that women are set up on a pedestal of beauty, almost like setting the standard of beauty, but that the majority of women do not meet this standard set for female beauty.

Though there may be a standard of beauty that some may find oppressive, I would rather use whatever resources I may have been given, read the game as accurately as I can, find a strategy and use it to get into the system in a fashion that I set as morally and ethically comfortable for me. This is not to say that I intend on dressing up in clear plastic heels for my next job interview (not that there is anything wrong with that) or performing sexual favors or anything else that I would find uncomfortable for myself, but I do not intend on purposely dressing in a rebellious non-standardized feminine way. I will probably not wear my sweat pants or draw in bigger bags underneath my eyes in protest. But most people would not. Most, even if they are people who are angry abou the standard of beauty forced upon women to live up to, would control their actions in order to come off a certain way. No one wants to slouch or burp or fart in an interview. These are all exterior qualities/mannerisms/behaviors that society has deemed inappropriate, yet this is not perceived as oppressive. I will work with what I perceive is the standard of beauty and look at the best strategy to use that standard to my advantage if there is any--to use an "oppressive" standard to realize my own goals. Some may say then that I have given in to being subjected and objectified and judged by my exterior qualities or mannerisms, but so what? As long as I am fully aware of what is happening and have the personal agency to control my actions, what have I lost?

Last comment was mine-Mo Rhim
Name: Mo Rhim ()
Date: 04/04/2005 16:15
Link to this Comment: 14288

Name: Katy McGinness (
Date: 04/04/2005 16:23
Link to this Comment: 14289

Well, having just found out that this story was a work of science fiction (it really, really had me though!)changes my perceptions a little. Instead of taking a position for or against a procedure that does not (yet) even exist, I'm now able to see Chiang's story for what it really is--a wake-up call for those of us who build our lives around the concept of superficial beauty. Many posters find the idea of turning on and off one's perceptions of subjective beauty absurd, if not downright fascistic and terrifying; but has anyone here ever wondered if perhaps the way that Madison Avenue and the rest of society has forced the concept of beauty onto women is every bit as absurd and potentially catastrophic as calliagnosia?

This week--Ted Chiang
Name: Mo Rhim ()
Date: 04/04/2005 16:37
Link to this Comment: 14290

Ted Chiang's "documentary" was interesting in the questions and different sides to the argument about beauty standards but I did not struggle with any internal debate over the subject. I found the concept of calli and other agnosias completely ridiculous. One I think that something like calli would dull everything because one's ability to take in what they see and then formulate a personal "reading" or "experience/judgement" (as we discussed last class period in small groups I am equating judgements with experiences) would be impaired. The indiviaul on calli would only be able to see things. They would not be capable of finishing the rest of the experience. I know that they could experience other things that have to do with personality/character but a big chunk of experience would still be lost in not being able to experience someone else's physical beauty. I also think that anything that would inhibit individual agency and capacity to choose/experience/judge is not beneficial and limiting. It is taking away a person's right to make individual choices, whether or not those are effected by outside sources. Every person should be able to experience all of their natural senses and reactions.

I also find it ridiculous to think that people would want to simply take a drug, a quick chemical fix to theoretically make this world a better place. How lazy. All calli does is take away the rights of the individual while it stunts their growth as a moral human who makes decisions. Calli takes away the opportunity for each individual to make a moral/ethical code for themselves. If there are parts or aspects of the standard of beauty that are "wrong" then it should be up to the individual to learn that and then apply it in his/her life. Calli shortcuts the individual's creation of his/her own ethics and sense of right and wrong. "Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don't matter" (Chiang 293). This student in Chiang's documentary was making a statement that calli should not be used, but rather education was the only way to create a society where people are not judged by their appearances. I agree with this sentiment. I think that if there is something wrong with the standard, whatever it may be, then education and the individual's agency to decide for him or herself that they will not use the standard to unfairly judge/discriminate against another person is the only fair and ultimately effective way to instill social and personal change. There cannot be any shortcut.

Even in this society where we may not have the option of calli, the only way to change social institutions and standards is through education and personal change. Taking down all of the billboards in Time Square or banning ads that use "attractive" models will not create ideological and deep change--it would also be undemocratic in my opinion and thus would be more damaging to forcefully control the media in terms of national spirit and the foundation of freedom of speech, which in turn is like freedom to advertise (speech to me is advertisement in some form).

I hope this makes sense
Name: Catie Davidson (
Date: 04/04/2005 16:41
Link to this Comment: 14291

Chiang does an amazing job organizing the beauty debate by presenting both sides around this sci-fi condition "calliagnosia", and eventually being able to turn off and on one's perception of physical beauty.

We are the artists of the beauty around us. Every action we take can either do or undo someone's aesthetic appreciation of the given situation. Dewey tells us that perception involves full interaction with an object to create an experience. Perception is active. Dewey says
that the artist will create that experience so that it is satisfying, or beautiful to him.

So, calli was created by people to take away the emphasis placed on physical beauty, and the societal consequences thereof.For some, calli did enhance the quality of life. For those with bad appearences it improved their social status because it put them on the same level with everyone else. For others with good looks, it didnt affect their social status necessarily but it took away the power they may have had in society. As Tamera Lyons pointed out to us at one part in the text, it could also be argued that by having calli, people could not fully experience the beauty of life, of eachother because they cannot see the physical beauty in eachother. However, for others taking away calli may result in a strong development of one of our other senses and enhance another way of experiencing beauty.

Lets look at the implications of manditorizing calli.

Does it make it fair to take away someone's asset to compensate for another's weakness?

Although we are affected every day by what people do, we can choose whether or not to let it truly affect us. Most of the time we have this control. In the case of calli, some wanted calli to be mandatory which would impose on one's right to create their own beautiful experience. Others supported the idea of creating a device that would allow people to switch calli on and off.

Whenever "mandatory" comes into play, it involves taking away something from someone and giving something to another. The debate Chiang outlines could be applied to many societal issues. Take from the rich, give to the poor,etc. Redistributing power so the strong have less and the weak have more. The tension between the power and the powerless allows a sort of beautiful equation to exist that keeps society from moving too far to the power side of the spectrum, and not too far to the powerless side of the spectrum.

If the calli people fight for mandatory calli, they are fighting to take away peoples' rights to create their own experience, and taking away a natural gift to those who are physically attractive,
if the non-calli people fight for no calli at all, they are first of all giving more power to the corporations (makeup) mentioned in the text,but they too are also taking away someone's creation of their own beautiful experience.
Its a tough call and I guess I like the idea of being able to switch calli on or off at will.

Name: Kat McCormick (
Date: 04/04/2005 17:04
Link to this Comment: 14292

I guess my reading of Chiang's story only further emphasized a point that I was trying to make in last week's discussion: I claimed that beauty is not the enemy, or as one anti-calli studets says, "elininating beauty is not the answer; you can't liberate people by narrowing the scope of their experiences." Meaning, I suppose, that the narrowing of beauty standards that has taken place as a result of mass media is what needs to be changed.

Although Chiang also makes the point of using technology to fight technology, he puts a good example of the type of technological beauty arms race that can result in his short story.

So I find myself in an interesting position: I hope that nothing like calli ever becomes comercially available. But I also kow that if it did, I would want to try it.

Nothing wrong with beauty
Name: Megan Monahan (
Date: 04/04/2005 18:57
Link to this Comment: 14294

I agree with the comment made in Biology, Brains, and Beauty that it would be unwise do dismiss the category of beauty. We have evolved this way and there must have been some reason for it. It is so intrinsic in how our brains work that the essay even says it would be unlikely to be abolishable without either 1) universal very-difficult-perhaps-impossible brain surgery or 2) universal very-difficult-perhaps-impossible psychotherapy. Given that thia is this is true it seems like an overreaction to want to not use beuaty as a discriminating quality. We all judge on beauty, but that is not the real problem. What should actually change is our perception of beauty. I don't think there is anything wrong with judgements because you will make them no matter what and killing yourself about it will not change that certain attributes inspire certain responses in you. I think it would just be most beneficial to everyone if we could learn to see more things as beautiful instead of just the things that are so hard to attain. Beauty chould not be a unimportant quality to obtain, just not always in the traditional ways.

Loss of Discernment of Beautiful Faces
Name: Annabella (
Date: 04/04/2005 19:36
Link to this Comment: 14295

What a loss that would be! I love to see beautiful people. Sometimes when I am down, just seeing a beautiful face, whether or not I know the person who wears it, can pick me up. It is such a pleasure to me.
But I also know that what I see as a beautiful face would not necessarily meet with agreement of others. It is beautiful to me. What would be hard would be to discern what part of my exhileration is from the face and how much is from the stories I tell about the person.
I like to think that beautiful people have good lives. It makes me happy. Why would I want to give that up?
And I liked it that Chaing followed through with the idea, where will this kind of thing lead, and end?
If we really find beauty to be such a distraction, Good for Us! I couldn't imaging anything I would rather be distracted with. Of course, if we did dull our ability to feel beauty as the cocaine user loses their natural ability to feel joy, that would be a very sad thing, indeed. Fortunately, I feel that as long as we stay away from stuff like calli, we will not be faced with this unfortunate possibility.
With the overwhelming majority of the students speaking out against the idea of calli, I wanted to stand up for it, but I just couldn't find it in myself to do so. I can't find ANY reason to want to do such a thing.
I am not proposing that life is not different for those who are not beautiful than for those who are. But that all falls into diversity. We are not all born to have the same lives,...thank God.
I don't think the "All men are created equal" thing translates to "all people are to be looked upon as the same." These are very different ideas.
I like it that we have such a wide variety of everything here in life. The more we try to homogenize it, the more we deprive ourselves of its richness.
Life simply isn't fair. It isn't designed that way. Not everyone is beautiful. Not everyone is smart. Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is trusted or to be trusted. Not everyone will give you the benefit of the doubt.
But in its lack of fairness is tremendous beauty. It is in the navigation of the unfairness that each of us has the opportunity to show off and use to our advantage that which we are unfairly endowed with, whatever that may be.
Long live the unfair, unequal playing field of life!

Name: Lauren (
Date: 04/06/2005 21:19
Link to this Comment: 14360

I had a meeting this afternoon with Anne, and I have been thinking about it since. The things that we talked about have been racing through my head to the point where I have become completely confused about what I believed. As usual, I got a pencil to pierce through my ideas, sort them out and pin them down to a piece of paper before they escaped me entirely. (As I told Anne, I am a writer and use writing as a tool to manage my own mental health. I really did write these things down on a piece of paper before typing them here, so you can be sure how seriously I am taking this posting.)
All right. Here's what I've come up with so far:
We still don't have a clear definition of beauty, and yet, we're using this word all the time. How do we know what we're really talking about if we can't even define the word? A few weeks ago, we discussed the question, does beauty have to make you cry, and though the general consensus was "no, it doesn't" I think that beauty does affect us in a very specific way. Can beauty be considered a *feeling* toward something? I think that it would be more accurate to say that it is whatever thing or event which causes this feeling (which then leads to smiles, tears, anger or enlightenment) is beautiful. People who cry from experiencing beauty are the ones who are taken back to percieving beauty on a visceral level; they are so overwhelmed by whatever emotion this beauty inspires in them that they cannot help but cry. (Keep in mind, this is all my personal opinion and I maintain the right to alter these statements, but seeing as how the one thing about beauty that we can all seem to agree upon is that it is subjective, here I am, supplying my subjective opinion.)
As far as the physical appearances of humans go, after last week's classes, I don't know if it's fair to the ideals of beauty that we have tentatively established to apply the term in this sense. There's a lot more to a beautiful person than just a pretty face; physical attractiveness and beauty are not the same thing and we need to stop treating them like they are. I really feel that "beauty" is one of those words that's just gotten thrown around too casually and we've lost the sense of what the word really means.
A beautiful experience is one which inspires a change of perception--a beautiful thing is something which inspires this change. I am finding it much easier to say what beauty isn't rather than what it is, other than a galvanizing force which affects us whether we like it or not.

And to Anne: I am going to have to take back what I said earlier about not needing an audience for my writing, otherwise I never would have posted the above statements. I want people to read this to validate my statements and to see if anyone agrees or disagrees and mostly to make sure that I'm not crazy, though what I have written probably won't mean as much to anyone else as it does to me. A patient can't analyze herself now, can she?

what the bipartite brain gets us...
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 04/06/2005 23:25
Link to this Comment: 14363

Whether we need an audience is of course central to this question of whether/how we use beauty (or a beautiful appearance)--only works if someone's watching, right?

What seemed important to me, in Sharon's presentation on Tuesday, was--aside from her very useful distinction between "beauty" and "appearance"--two other key ideas: that


that however women have used/been used by beauty in the past...

if we don't like what we see, we can see/think/do differently, if we wish....

so where are we?
Name: Sharon (
Date: 04/07/2005 13:27
Link to this Comment: 14371

Lauren, we got to thinking along the same lines as you towards the end of our small group discussion today. One member felt that all this talk about beauty left her frustrated because the talk, the descriptions, always fell short of the experience. Another felt that the shared discussion and awareness of differences of how and where others perceived beauty left her feeling more alone. Another took the view that realizing no one would (could?) share her experience of beauty freed her from depending on another person's validation of her beauty experience. I hope members of my group will pipe up now and expand on my short summaries here. I don't wish to attempt a more complete paraphrase as I have a (nearly pathological!) fear of mis-quoting someone, especially regarding these highly personal and hard-to-articulate views of beauty!

Freedom from Validation
Name: Annabella (
Date: 04/07/2005 17:46
Link to this Comment: 14374

I'll take up your offer to write, Sharon.
Since taking this class I have given up all hope that anyone will be able to share a beautiful experience with me through my description of it. The only possible way to share a beautiful experience is if we both experience it together and both find it beautiful. I haven't given up hope of this happening, it does. But I won't expect it anymore. It will be a bonus, not a requirement in my life.
After all, if I have enjoyed a beautiful experience, why would I need validation anyway? Would it make it more beautiful? I don't think so. And learning in class how very differently we experience beauty and what is beautiful, I will no longer feel that someone has to agree with my opinion that something is beautiful in order to feel connected with them. If we are getting along, great. That's the connection. If we agree something is beautiful or not, so what? The odds that we would agree on what is beautiful seem very small at this point. I never saw it that way before.
So I am letting the people in my life off the hook as far as agreeing with me that some specific something is beautiful. Our disagreement about this will not diminish my opinion of them, whereas before, it may have.
Great class, ladies.

more on what the bipartite brain gets us....
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 04/07/2005 19:08
Link to this Comment: 14376

so I am letting the people in my life off the hook as far as agreeing with me that some specific something is beautiful

Can I extend that suggestion...that each of us could also let ourselves off the hook, as far as agreeing with ourselves that some specific something is beautiful....?

Here's more, in other words, on what the bipartite brain gets us... It arose from a pretty amazing discussion we had upstairs (inside!) today, that came from comparing

Edouard Manet's Olympia with a student-made print I have hanging in my office, in which the nude on the bed climbs out the window, and we watch her doing so from the perspective of the maidservant (who stands in the background in the original, and was not mentioned in our discussion of the "undue importance and power of appearances" on Tuesday). Here's what we came up with:

FreudFoucaultBergerGilliganafter GilliganGrobsteinGrobstein extended.......and extended
father (super-ego)panopticonsurveyormalepowerfulneocortexstory-tellerobserver
child (id)prisonersurveyedfemalepowerlessfrog brainmodel-builderactor

What happens in the course of this "evolution" is that we turned what Freud-Foucault-Berger-Gilligan-and-the-theorists-following her saw as a limitation on self-expression into a neurobiological understanding that having a "storyteller"/squeezer/abstractor/neocortex may actually enable us to break out of/act differently than we are instructed to do, by the sensory imputs that come--and are fed back-- into the "model-builder" that we call the unconscious.

I REALLY like that revised story, myself--thanks to all who helped it to emerge.

"Giving up Teeth to Fulfill a Notion of Beauty""
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 04/07/2005 22:13
Link to this Comment: 14377

We were also talking today about wanting to learn more about different cultural notions of beauty--so I was most interested (and thought you might be, too) to read a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/01/05) about a Sudanese

tradition of extracting as many as six bottom front teeth and two top front teeth from young boys and girls, a practice that often leaves them with permanently sunken chins and gap-toothed grins. That look is considered handsome in their home country....One young man [said], "If I don't have my teeth taken out, then I look like a jackal"....Children from the Dinka and Nuer tribes appealed to each other's vanity. "People convince you it's bad to have lower teeth...and that you look like a cannibal who could eat people"....No one is sure how the practice originated..."Some say the Dinka pulled teeth because they like to hear hissing sounds when they speak...." Regardless of how the practice of yanking teeth began, the collapsed lower lip and sunken jaw that resulted became the preferred profile in that culture....

(the punch line)...

...the teeth-removal process is no different, fundamentally, from the lengths to which many people in the United States go to conform to an American ideal of beauty...Americans extract our teeth for all kinds of unnecessary reasons...and now we're bleaching them until the enamel wears off, just to conform with what we think is beautiful.

A change in perception...? Or that which lasts...?
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 04/07/2005 22:32
Link to this Comment: 14378

One more bit, and then I'll quit. We also discussed, in class today, Lauren's proposed definition, above, of beauty:

a change of perception...a galvanizing force which affects us whether we like it or not.

That seemed to work for many of us, including one who asked about "that which is lasting." Lauren's definition highlights the temporal, the fleeting, the new, the momentary. But what of the things we find beautiful --like the love of a mother for her child--because they endure, unchanging? As Adrienne Rich (who will read @ BMC on April 21) advised younger poets,

If you are troubled by the cruelty and violence and lovelessness you see around you....if you want to live in your time....if you've seen people around you pushed around or crushed...
If you love langauge and see it being betrayed, if you feel a huge gap between what you're told is going on and what you actually see and feel on your nerves--then this is the material of your art, there's no escaping it.
The question then is, how do you make enduring beauty and form out of such materials?
And that will be the question of a lifetime.

saying "no" to the gaze (and/or "yes" to....?)
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 04/08/2005 16:57
Link to this Comment: 14385

The scanning wasn't entirely successful (many thanks to Helen Rehl for manful efforts, many MANY apologies to the printmaker for gaps...), but I thought those of you who didn't see this pairing on Thursday (as well as those of you who did) might be interested in seeing it anew/again (through the eyes of the servant woman?):

Name: ()
Date: 04/08/2005 16:58
Link to this Comment: 14386

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