Archive of Week Thirteen Forum
On the Diverse Forms of Beauty

Current Forum and Forum Archives

mathematical ideal? or cultural variety?
Name: Anne Dalke (
Date: 04/14/2005 22:46
Link to this Comment: 14574

Welcome (again) to the last of our "beauty" forums. This week we will be exploring a variety of forms of beauty. Prepare for our next class by reviewing three websites Eebs suggested to us:

Compare the description, in those pages, of a universal preference for an ideal face, with the multiple cultural varieties of beauty Julian Robinson traces in The Quest for Human Beauty, pp. 9-56 (there are extra copies of those handouts in the box outside my office, if you didn't pick up one in class today). Post your responses here by 5 p.m. on Monday.

We'll meet in the Lecture Hall on Tuesday morning, to watch a part of the videorecording The Gods Must Be Crazy, and to discuss these texts.

"Perfect Faces, Perfect Beauty?"
Name: Alanna Albano (
Date: 04/16/2005 16:34
Link to this Comment: 14614

Well, I took a look at the sites that discuss the "Golden Ratio" and its relation to the "Perfect Face Mask." Very interesting material -- I had briefly heard of the golden ratio, but I was not really aware how commonplace this number is in various human, animal, and architectural structures. The article also directed me to a link that allowed me to take the "Perfect Mask" and apply it to a picture of my own face and see how I measure up in terms of beauty. Seemed pretty cool (although I didn't try it), but upon reading a thought crossed my mind. What happens if my face doesn't measure up, doesn't fit the "Perfect Mask?" What about all of the other people out there whose face will not fit the perfect mask? Does it mean that we just don't have perfect faces? That we aren't beautiful? That we're "doomed forever" to be society's misfits? I don't think that's very fair. Not all of us are blessed to be born with the golden ratio in our faces -- that's something we have no control over. But just because some of us lack the golden ratio doesn't mean we can't still be beautiful. I believe that beauty can be found in flaws, imperfections, and asymmetry. True, it may be much more difficult to see the beauty in imperfection, but it can be found. For example, in wondering around the perfect mask site, I came across an article in which a woman commented that she found the scar above her boyfriend's lip to be "sexy" (I think I can equate beautiful with "sexy" in this case). Need I say more?

That's why I found Robinson's essay to be much more appealing and realistic (as well as eye-opening at times) in terms of beauty. The definition of beauty highly varies across cultures and countries, and it has been constantly modified over different time periods throughout history. The variance is very surprising...I think of our society where thin is in, and then I read Robinson's words describing how some cultures will send their young women to "fattening houses" so that these women will be deemed beautiful, socially acceptable, and attractive to potential husbands. My gosh! I can't even envision that kind of beauty perspective here in the US!! And then in some other cultures, the male body is considered more beautiful than the female! So it seems that the willingness to modify and/or cause suffering in order to achieve a certain look of beauty really is a universal thing. On one hand this relieves me, but on the other hand it doesn't. After reading the essay I felt like there was more of a burden/pressure on myself to conform to my own society's standards of beauty -- and if I don't do this, then I feel I'm not being fully human, and I'm not portraying a good representation of my culture. Arrrrrrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

the quest for human beauty
Name: Amy Martin (
Date: 04/16/2005 19:34
Link to this Comment: 14618

I liked Robinson's article for the ways that it showed how culturally universal the idea of a beauty ideal is, and how all beauty standards lead to some suppression/opression of the physical attributes that we are all born with. I also liked how he equated the beauty standard with the uniquely human trait of creativity/imagination etc. One of his most interesting points was, to me, the difference he assigned to the commerical aspect of the Western beauty standard and how he equated that, not the actual beauty standard itself, with what has "corrupted" us in a sense. As he writes..."We had begun to judge beauty not objectively or aesthetically, but by its sales potential and cost. If something was expensive and exclusive, like haute couture, then it was by its very nature seen as intrinsically more beautifull and desirable than items that were cheaper and more readily available." To me, this idea relates back to our discussions that we value the rare- and had me thinking that perhaps the widespread commericiality of beauty has upped the antie, upped the standard and made our new beauty standards inherently more oppresive than they may have been before. Yet, as Robinson proves- societies do not need this capitalistic view of beauty for their to be an emphasis on certain beauty standards, or on rare specimens of that culture's interpretation of beauty.

The other thing that struck me was Robinson's emphasis on how beauty is all about sex and appearing attractive to those you want to have sex with. I remember when Christine Koggel was visiting I tried to bring up this point in class and Anne kinda dismissed it...I wonder how the class felt about Robinson's focus on sex as a driving force behind the efforts behind beauty?

Golden Ratio and other stuff
Name: Rachel Usala (
Date: 04/16/2005 19:50
Link to this Comment: 14619

First off I wanted to thank everyone who performed on Thursday. You guys are beautiful.

I looked at the Golden Ratio site, and I can't say I am particularly surprised that there is a standard of beauty (or maybe just symmetry) that transcends race. We would be a very unsuccessful species if we did not find other races beautiful; we would not vary the gene pool very much if we were only attracted to races outside of our own.

"The Quest For Human Beauty" has made me realize how complicated human beauty issues are. Some beautiful things seem to transcend culture like nature, symmetry, and color but human-constructed beauty is so subjective. I almost think this article was less about beauty and more about sexuality. I don't think beauty is only a product of sexual impulse. Why is a flower, a waterfall, music, or a butterfly considered beautiful if beauty is so related to sexuality? Paul Grobstein, if I understood him correctly, argued that more primitive creatures don't have beautiful experiences because they lack the higher brain function and the conscious, and I agree with him. However, if sexuality is central to beauty, don't more primitive species have beautiful experiences, perhaps more beautiful than we experience? Sexuality is beautiful, and many beautiful human interactions are rooted in sexuality. Nevertheless, to say that sexuality and beauty are one in the same is an oversimplification.

It was amazing to hear what extremes people take and what pain they endure in order to achieve the standard of aesthetics upheld in their society. I can't decide if pain is necessary for the aesthetic experience. I know that some of my most intense beautiful experiences have followed intense periods of emotional pain. We have tossed around the idea that beauty brings power. Well, maybe vulnerability is also related to beauty then? Are we more receptive toward beauty when we are vulnerable? It would make sense from a Darwinian perspective if you think about it. If we are vulnerable we should seek things that give us strength, like beauty. So maybe causing ourselves pain is a way of making ourselves vulnerable so we can be receptive to beauty? I donıt know, itıs an abstract idea, but the pain related to beauty concept keeps coming up, and it makes me wonderŠ.

Sex and Beauty
Name: Meera Jain (
Date: 04/16/2005 20:11
Link to this Comment: 14620

Gosh.. i just deleted everything I wrote. =(

Okay so thank you to all the performers on Thursday.. it was a beautiful way to start my day!

So reading and visitng the websites I realized that Robbins said a point that has been repeated over and over again in class. Beauty is determined by the societal views and the culture that person is in. WE ALL GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO WANT TO BE BEAUTIFUL. All of us shave, pluck eyebrows, wear lip gloss and so on.. But our beauty is linked to the culture we are in and Robbins states that: "Human beauty is undoubtedly culturally determined and each cultural group has invented the ideals and symbols it needs to reflect its natural peculiarities"

Robbins was an effective writer because he writes from a unbiased viewpoint and manages to cover each culture or the general idea of them. He does make an interesting point that Amy touches on, we are attracted to people who we want to have sex with..I really think this is true, but in my culture it is NEVER a topic of discussion. Sex, pornography and nudity are a hush-hush topic...although the gods are depicted naked in some statues it is NOT in a compromising position.

I found it interesting that women in certain cultures are fed very high fat diets and then shown off wearing jewelry and garments that display wealth but across the world women are complete opposites.

Being an Indian woman by heritage it was finally interesting to hear Robbin's view of our culture and the way our women perceived beauty. One important point he makes is that in countries with certain beautiful attributes that becomes the norm in that country and attaining that is the highest level of beauty. For indian women, our outfits of saris and lengas usually show the stomach and back and they are considered beautiful regardless of the size but because they are now the norm. Although our culture does have a problem with public display of nude bodies- it's not just western culture that has a phobia of it. We tend to show off parts of our bodies that are accepted such as the stomach and back in our clothing.

Visitng the websites featured I wanted to see if I had the "perfect golden ratio" but probably would have felt bad if I didn't so I didnt bother. But just today, a friend and I were bored and found a website called that shows celebrities that had HUGE changes in their face/body.

Name: Liz Paterek (
Date: 04/17/2005 13:45
Link to this Comment: 14629

So I know we've been talking a lot about female beauty, etc but one of the things that annoyed me mildly about Robinson's paper were the sexist undertones. Mostly in terms of the reasons that females are build as they are. First off, females have greater endurandance and better oxygen consumpition than males; higher body fat means that we survive better during periods of hardship, for that we sacrifice some speed and strength but in general it always appeared to me that women are built for the long haul. Perhaps fat deposits in the butt and breasts were actually healthier than those in the mid-section (it is shown that women who gain eight in the mid-section have higher risks for certain diseases) and perhaps the fat deposites in these areas allowed women to better carry out their daily tasks. Then there is an assumption that women had to attract male aid. However, there are monogamous species. Chimp live in a very patriarchial societal structure which is perhaps where this notion comes from. However the bono (this is what I believe it is called) are much smarter, less agressive and I believe more closely related to humans, live in a much more female oriented society where everyone cares for the offspring. Anyway of the rant of why male non-scientists should be more careful writing these articles.
I like the notion that women and men select for traits that are defining of themselves. certainly I've noticed myself being attracted to individuals who I can relate to through dress or more that I can be initially repulsed by a tanned muscular guy and name brand clothes, although I still make an effort to overcome that. It seemed like beauty was in a sense this external pulmage and that sort of bothered me. I always felt clothes enhance the person but a naked person who is beautiful will be beautiful no matter what and clothes will not make an unattractive person attractive. I thought it was odd that the undecoorated body was considered animalistic and therefore ugly. Perhaps the societal norms of clothing and hiding prevalent in the western world have made me feel that we need to rebel. Piercings and tattoos and scars don't make you less animalistic to me. I thought that a funnny notion actually because animals are often full of battle scars. I suppose the intent makes them humans. However, I understand the beauty of these modifications more than the beauty of some removable external plumage. Eventually it comes off and we are all naked. Therefore it is a transicent fleeting beauty and I suppose thats why I don't care much about it.

Name: Marissa (mpatters)
Date: 04/17/2005 17:03
Link to this Comment: 14646

I found the websites very interesting and I agree with the comment that "what if your face does not conform?". Though I see its applications in nature and to a certain number of faces, many of which are beautiful, I would assume that for every beautiful conforming face there is another one considered just as beautiful that does not fit the golden ratio.
I really enjoyed the "quest for human beauty" reading. I think that it just emphasizes what we've been talking about all semester, that sometimes there are things that "everyone" finds beautiful but there is also a wide range of beauty as well. In America there seems to be a trend towards thin women but the reading mentioned "fattening houses" that take a completely different view towards weigh and its relation to what is beautiful.
There was an interesting connection between it all that the author made however. He wrote that "all of our different forms of 'beauty' speak eloquently of health and vigor and fertility and of the promise of the survival of any genes invested" (42). It did appear that many of the different things that were emphasized as beautiful were things that did just that.
I wish that we could have seen the pictures better though. It seemed like there were so many images of different types of beauty displayed in the margins of the reading but unfortunately they did not copy very well so it was hard to identify exactly what sort of beauty was in each of the photographs.

Evolution applied to Beauty
Name: Rebecca Donatelli (
Date: 04/17/2005 21:12
Link to this Comment: 14658

To begin, this week's material has been the most interesting thus far. The reading "The Quest for Human Beauty" and the website about the golden ratio are more along the lines of what I thought the class would be like. Evolutionary biology has always been one of my favorite topics and it was interesting to have it applied to beauty. In my last conference with Professor Dalke she asked me if I was comfortable considering that there was a genetic or biological influence on what people find attractive. Without hesitation I said yes and it took a second for me to realize that others might find this idea quite upsetting. I actually find it assuring because it is just one more way in which nature takes care of itself. In today's society beauty is not something that we need to survive and maybe even considered an impediment or distraction. However, these biological influences to select "beautiful" mates may be the reason why the human species is the way it is and that is amazing and nothing to be made uncomfortable by.

There has got to be more to life than being really really really ridiculously good-looking...
Name: Brittany ()
Date: 04/17/2005 23:38
Link to this Comment: 14661

After checking out all three "Golden Ratio"-type sites, I have to say I'm not overly impressed. Sure, a lot of beautiful faces fit the "grid" that Dr. Marquardt and his team have come up with, but a lot of them *don't.* And the websites in question only published the material that supported their theories. I'm sure they had to sift through lots of celebrities before discovering that Pierce Brosnan had the "ideal" male face. And hey, I agree, he's hot---but I wouldn't call him "ideal." I'd take Owen Wilson over him any day, and I just *know* Owen's nose wouldn't fit on that chart.

I would hesitate to call anything "ideal," in fact. Just biologically, the idea of a "standard human face" doesn't make sense to me. Don't species need biological diversity to survive? Wouldn't humans be pigeon-holing themselves if they all searched for the exact same mate-traits? I remember reading somewhere that one of the reasons the human species made it in the first place was that we were versatile; we weren't all the same; we didn't adapt so specifically to a certain environment that we were *all* of one "type"---and so we weren't wiped out when said environment changed. I can understand biologically built-in preferences based on the appearance of health, but I think that with human beauty---just like non-human beauty---it's all about personal preference. And personal preference is heavily influenced by culture, a la Julian Robinson. Though I have some problems with his argument (he's a little too optimistic about Western culture's enthusiasm or "acceptance" of other beauty standards, etc.), I agree with his basic premise. Each culture has different beauty standards, determined jointly by inherent body-type, environment, heritage, technology, and social patterns. Good thing, too. The world would be really boring if everyone looked like Paris Hilton---or tried to.

One more bit about the Golden Ratio. Maybe this is irrelevent, but... does it strike anyone else as odd that the image which these groups are proposing as the "perfect face" is essentially a cold, angular, non-human piece of trigonometry? And that it's actually really creepy looking, when viewed independently of a *real* human face? Seems metaphoric, almost. That's the thing about ideals: they're essentially inhuman. Even if you CGI'd that "perfect" face into reality, a la The Polar Express (the movie, not the book), I doubt it would look attractive. It'd be too flawless---inhumanly so. Even Perfect Pierce deviates slightly from the geometric model (his eyebrows, bless him, are a bit too flat). I'd argue that those little "deviations" are what really make faces memorable, beautiful.

Name: Katy (
Date: 04/18/2005 00:43
Link to this Comment: 14663

If you ask me, Dr. Marquardt is a hack. There may be some logic to what he's saying, but it's lost on me. I disagree with nearly everything he has to say, from beauty being a necessarily "human" trait to the idea that a mask with certain very-specific proportions will help a face become "beautiful." Beauty is subjective. I believe that, beyond a certain point, there are no standards of beauty--many people may come to a consensus that individual A is beautiful (based on a shared appreciation of certain features), but no matter how many people feel that individual B, one still cannot objectively state that individual B is, in fact, ugly.

Take, for example, certain "beautiful" celebrities. Tom Cruise is a classic example--most people would consider him a phenomenally beautiful person, and Marquardt would certainly approve. To some, however, Mr. Cruise may in fact be almost TOO beautiful, to the point of being unreal and inaccessible. When we ascribe rigid standards of beauty to persons, places, and things, the result often works against these objects of beauty and sometimes actually makes them seem unappealing. There may be some meric in attempting to explain the phenomenon of beauty by scrutinizing it in terms of esoteric irrational numbers and proportions, but I for one find it far too technical and needlessly complicated.

Name: eebs (elchan)
Date: 04/18/2005 08:35
Link to this Comment: 14666

while i was reading "the quest for human beauty" i wondered if "to improve social and sexual appeal"(13) implied that maybe some things (like scars)are not aesthetically pleasing but socially accepted so... there is a sexual appeal to it. or maybe scars are aesthetically pleasing, but i wonder if a scraped knee would be 'more beautiful' than a normal kneww.. 'less beautiful' than a 'planned-scar'.

i realized how western cultures are more infleunced/affected by temporary methods of beauty: makeup/clothes/hair/nails, where "beauty of clothing is accepted as a substitute for beauty of the body" (27). however,it seemed to me that other cultures, according to robinson, seemed to be more focused on long term beauty modification. and when i mean other cultures, i mean cultures that still have not been affected by globalization. im getting the feeling that as countries get more access to the media of the first world countries, their perception of beauty changes to accept the beauty standard of the US, or any other western first world nations.

if you think of it in this way, maybe beauty is "conditioned". is it because we see so much of a certain type of beauty that we think it? i personaly think that hollywood is the culprit.without the celebrities and their creating a standard of beauty, no one would be affected by their hm... perfectness(?), but then again, could we ever be free from the influences of the media, or some outside force that is not our own idea of beauty? is that even possible? how do trends/behavior start (or change) anyway?

beauty is considered in terms of feminine beauty. both the robinson article and the beauty analysis website tells us this (not that either of them are in a position to be absolutelycorrect). females are the more beautiful gender, and (i think) i see how good looking men look somewhat feminine. this is not to say that women with more masculine features are considered not as beautiful. but im sure that the feauture that makes them less femininet stands out to everyone. i dont know if i beieve in an absolut beauty mask, but im sure to some extent this holds true. but i know for myself, when i see someone with a huge browridge,for exmaple, i will notice it and i will think, that thats detracts from their overall beauty.

another thing i wanted to randomly throw out. there IS a difference between real life beauty and a photograph. imagine how many beauty people there are who arent photogenic.

Leave me and my non-traditional face
Name: Alice Kaufman (
Date: 04/18/2005 11:39
Link to this Comment: 14667

The former plastic surgeon propagates this magical form that is universal, perfect, and beautiful. Let's go back to former plastic surgeon. This is a person who profits from people feeling unbeautiful as they are, with human abnormalities and deviations, and who want to have an easy, standardized form of beauty. Yuck. I adore the golden ratio in the nautilus--it is beautifu to me in theory and in form. But in humans, and shilling the ratio to humans, it is creepy and alien. Perhaps it's because I'll never want to have sex with a sea shell, but I accept that balanced mathematical relationship much more readily than android-like blank faces. I agree that the mask, with or without a face underneath it, looks ugly. I believe that there are universal traits that humans find beautiful; but I wouldn't ascribe proportions to them. I think it's basically clear, colorful (I can't think of a better word, but I mean vibrant and healthy, not determined by any racial thing) skin and basically symetric features. But there are deviations from this that are beautiful!!

The more I think about the websites, the angrier I feel. What vultures, what jerks. Exploring the basic links in the first 2 websites (the last wouldn't open for me) I only saw pictures of women. There is no humanity, there is nothing to inspire my admiration or delight in these plastic looking faces. Gah.

On a side note, in response to another posting, I don't think Tom Cruise is attractive at all; maybe it is the 'too-perfect' face, but he's just not dynamic looking. Of course, his apparent fakeness is probably connected to the fact that I've only seen him in 2-D form, like the models in the websites.

Multi-Cultural Beauty
Name: Muska (
Date: 04/18/2005 13:15
Link to this Comment: 14671

What I found so disturbing about the entire notion of the golden ratio is how it was presented as a unifying principle, when really all it did was elimate any possibility for a diverse range of beauty to be recognized as aesthetically pleasing. The ratio was applied to everything from nature, to human faces, and even to classical art pieces, therefore giving a universal feel to the validity of Marquardt's "golden ratio." However, where the theory of the golden ratio breaks down is when Marquardt states that his mathematical ratio crosses racial boundaries. In one of the links on his website, a text box reads "Regardless of race, the mask fits attractive faces." Then below the text box are pictures of four differnet women--two white women, one Asian woman and one African-American woman. It is true, the mask appears to fit all these women--however what Marquardt doesn't take into consideration is that all these women still have predominantly white features. Therefore, the real message is "Regardless of race, the mask fits if your face corresponds to white features of attractive faces."

It always comes down to sex
Name: Tanya Corder (
Date: 04/18/2005 13:24
Link to this Comment: 14672

I find myself agreeing with Robinson in response to a number of points. First, the search of beauty in humans is predominately sex driven. What I found so interesting was how universal this idea was. I did not know that so many cultural ideals of beauty were so sexual. What I found a little troubling, but not necessarily incorrect, was that the more sexually stimulating someone was, the more beautiful and sought after they are. That almost promotes promiscuity and immodesty. Our society today definitely promotes immodest behavior in the media. The sluttier we dress, the more beautiful we are. Iıve even noticed it in the terms we use to characterize beautiful people. We have moved from calling people pretty and beautiful to hot, fine and PHAT. However, we canıt dress beautiful all the time; otherwise nothing would get done in our society. That is why we stress conservative dress in the workplace, but not in the disco club where you are trying to meet a guy.

Another controversial idea she presented was that beautification tends to be a painful process universally and that is alright. It came back to the idea that acquiring beauty required work and strife. Ultimately nothing in this world comes easy, so working at beauty is a pretty acceptable idea and it doesnıt trouble me as much when I know that it is universal and not just Western culture that pressure painful beautification methods. However, although society bombards us with the ideal characteristics of beautiful, beauty is also very individual. People have their own preferences so those who do not fit societyıs standards (or canıt afford the means of acquiring those features) can still be found beautiful and can choose not to take the painful route.

One thing that I did find myself disagreeing with was that we seek beauty in order to pass our genes on to the next generation. IF beauty is truly sex driven, it is not because we want to proliferate, but more because we enjoy the pleasure of sex. A lot of people today do not wan to have children, but everyone still wants to have sex.

Just b/c you can doesn't mean you should.
Name: Malorie Garrett (
Date: 04/18/2005 13:30
Link to this Comment: 14674

The mathematician in me is really excited by Phi and the golden ratio. It is exciting to be able to rationalized things such as the human face in terms of numbers and shapes. Like how you can calculate the derivative at different points of a shell. The other part of me is disgusted. This is just another standard of beauty. Just because we can calculate the ³perfect² face doesnıt mean we should. Phi is described as a natural occurrence of symmetry in nature, which is part of makes a flower for example beautiful. If this is a natural occurrence, why do people think that they can change themselves to fit this? Iıd really like to do more research about the mathematics behind this concept so that I can understand it more.

Adorning the Body
Name: Annabella (
Date: 04/18/2005 14:38
Link to this Comment: 14675

Wonderful postings, ladies. I really enjoyed them, thank you.
I am in the corner with those who found the whole PHI thing a turn-off. I simply don't agree with what they are saying. If there is one thing we have proven by life experiment in our class, it is that none of us agree on what is beautiful.
For example, take Cher. Some consider her very beautiful, but I doubt she has the proportions of the "Golden Triangle." Likewise with Barbara Striesdan, and countless others. So I think the whole point put forth in the websites is moot, and it is just a way for someone to make money off of other's insecurities.
I loved the Robinson reading. I particularly enjoyed the idea put forth with the example of the society where he "offended local custom by wearing shorts and a T-shirt." What an idea. How twisted is our thinking about the human body in our society where we go to jail for walking around if we don't cover our bodies with clothes?
No wonder there is so much violence and upheaval in America today. We hate everything about ourselves, right down to the very vessel which is devoted totally to our service. It give us the five senses, it carries us from place to place, and without it we couldn't experience life at all, yet we are so disgusted by it that we have written laws against letting J. Q. Public see the whole thing in its entirety, and ensuring that we won't see J. Q. And if J. Q. shows it to us we become terrified. This is definitely a symptom of some major confusion.
Too bad no one who was there in the 60's remembers it. I think they were on the right track!

my thoughts on the reading
Name: Kara Rosania (
Date: 04/18/2005 14:45
Link to this Comment: 14676

After spending a great deal of time exploring Dr. Marquardt's theories on universal beauty, I still had many qualms with it. For example, what does it mean to have features that are "most human"? Does that mean that if you have eyes that are slightly close together, your face is suddenly more reminiscent of a different species than a humans? He's also suggesting that attractiveness is something that everyone can agree upon, but I know of lots of cases where my friends will all think some guy is gorgeous and I just won't be able to see it. Does that mean that "human" receptors are off from other people's?
I really just hated this man's whole hypothesis, even though on the surface he managed to make it pretty PC. He managed to include both sexes and all races in his "beautiful face" design, and defined beauty in such a way that made it seem like what we find beautiful is just a natural, instinctual reaction that we shouldn't question. But I have to question someone who is forcing a theory that one can only be beautiful if they have the exact facial structure of every other beautiful person in the world. I can't speak for this guy, but I think the most beautiful people are so because of the uniqueness of their features. I think having large eyes, or a defined chin, or very full lips can all work towards making a face exceptionally beautiful, but none of these features would match a line on the mask. The mask only accounts for the placement of the eyes, the chin, the mouth, not their shape or size, and so it misses one of the key ways that a person's face can be beautiful. It also discounts color, which is just ridiculous because I know of a very beautiful woman with the most striking blue eyes, without which her face might otherwise seem very plain.
I also prefer to believe that everyone in the world is found to be beautiful by somebody. Perhaps that is idealistic, but I can think of countless examples of it happening. If people are really honest with themselves and manage to drown out what they are being told is attractiveness, they will all have very different definitions of what makes a person beautiful. It's almost an insult to human perception that someone would take it upon themselves to create a model of an attractive face, just in case we couldn't tell on our own whether someone was attractive or not.
All of that said, I did think it was pretty cool that so many ratios in the human face and body are all consistent with this one "golden ratio." It makes sense that it would work for all people, since we all have the same parts in basically the same places, but the fact that they are all the exact same ratio is really fascinating. I wonder why that is.

Why wear a mask?
Name: Megan Monahan (
Date: 04/18/2005 15:11
Link to this Comment: 14679

I find the whole idea of the "golden ratio" to be quite fascinating but I'm not entirely convinced of its truth. While I will agree that most beautiful faces will fit the mask (though the mask itself looks rather grotesque); I think there is probably still room for other features to be beautiful. Maybe they wouldn't be as universally beautiful but to say that there is only one standard by which we judge beauty seems preposterous.

What I found most disturbing and yet oddly comforting was the page where they showed a beautiful face, an atractive one, an average one, an unattractive face, and a very unattractive face. The fact that the faces could be rated on this scale just based on the mask was frightening and yet somewhat nonsensical to me because I could find very little difference between the way the beautiful face matched up to the mask and the way the attractive one did, though I was able to percieve that one was less beautiful than the other. The mask did not explain this phenomenon to me. What was reassuring to me was that both the unattractive face and the very unattractive face looked almost deformed to me and based on the system set up by the mask I think almost everyone would range somewhere from beautiful to average. I was disapointed in myself for putting enough importance on these theories to find comfort in them, but I guess it is always human nature to want to look attractive.

Name: Alice S (
Date: 04/18/2005 15:22
Link to this Comment: 14680

I found the Robinson reading very intriguing. I agree with a comment Tanya made in her post that our media promotes promiscuity, but at the same time we do call women who are promiscuous "sluts." Being promiscuous in Western culture has very negative connotations. That is why I found it so interesting that Robinson described the practice of one culture in which women were supposed to display her tokens of love by her many suitors, and that the more tokens she had to display, the more desirable she is. I found it an interesting contrast to our society. Our society tells us to be sexy, but not to have sex. I just really appreciate the fact that other cultures do not see sexuality as being so taboo.

Name: Catie Davidson (
Date: 04/18/2005 15:42
Link to this Comment: 14681

The Robinson article was definitely interesting... like most of the stuff we read for this class..and I found myself really trying to put together the overlap in the argument Robinson was making and those of other authors we have read.

I like how in the preface, Robinson explained his argument in terms of moving away from the argument that aesthetic appeal stems from beauty in terms of perfect symmetry and argued for the influence of culture and tradition on one's perception of beauty. He emphasizes the idea that the ideal of beauty has undergone such extreme changes over time that the history, the story behind the evolution of this beauty is very important. He does not argue against symmetry as a determinant of what is far as I can tell... but places less of an emphasis on it, and through his explanation of the diversity of beauty leads one to recognize that it is probably necessary to experience, or be a part of a culture in order to appreciate the beauty ideal (example: a culture that sees beauty in the human form and whose people do not wear clothes compared to a culture that goes as far as to put into place laws that prohibit public nudity).

Robinson says that the quest for beauty is "part of our genetic make up... an inborn human trait" which goes back to the idea that beauty is key to survival. This search for beauty is hugely influenced by society, especially in the western world where "...our aesthetic sensibilities had become closely linked to commercial interests, with the mass media..."- every culture has developed a different ideal of beauty, but that this ideal is "incluenced by our subliminal sexual instincts". So, in class we discussed the ethics and social and political implications of beauty... when we rebel against society's ideal of beauty, are we going against human nature? What is the difference between the form of beauty seen in western society and that ideal formed in an isolated community untouched by western culture... where people walk around naked and swell their genitals for the sake of beauty?

Robinson argued that human beauty is determined by the respective culture as an means of expressing creativity. One culture may share preference for qualities with another culture, but is individual in creating its human beauty ideal. Those that are best able to reach this ideal become more desirable, will have more potential mates, and higher quality mates. However, to complicate matters a bit.... in order for survival, reproduction must occur. So, if the achievement of beauty is not used for the purposes of reproduction, and survival is why the quest for human beauty began, is our beauty search for the right reasons? Do we really need beauty if we dont plan on reproducing?

Also, because people are increasingly experimenting with fashion from around the world, the beauty ideal is ever changing, and it is through the adoption of different styles that groups, even within one given culture, distinguish themselves to attract people with a similar style- Robinson supports this especially through saying that the way one dresses himself/herself is a means if internal expression. So, as people open up to different cultures, there is a greater diversity of style but as a result, these styles are more defined than ever before.

Beauty In the Round
Name: Liz Newbury (
Date: 04/18/2005 16:45
Link to this Comment: 14685

After reading both the websites concerning the golden ratio, and the Quest for Beauty packet, it seems that there is at least one commonality between them: beauty is being human. With the golden ratio, it seems that we're searching for the face that is the -most- human, the one that fits the golden ratio the best. We hold all other faces up to this subconscious ideal.
But the question that comes to mind is whether this is a -universal- ideal. It would seem that based on both of the readings that there are common trends in beauty. Robinson illustrates that as a species we have always been trying to find new ways to adorn ourselves, to distinguish ourself and add onto our natural beauty. Robinson is arguing for cultural realtivism, in a round-about way. Or at least, I think he is. He spends a lot of time going back and forth about how cultures do or don't appreciate the naked human form, and how fashion trends have varied over time. He brings up a lot of Darwin and Weber based theories, using natural selection as a basis for why we feel the need to distinguish ourselves (Darwin), as well as modes of production being another source of how we go about beautifying ourselves (Weber).
Another interesting point that Robinson brings up is that, cross-culturally, our sense of beauty pertains to those characteristics that our culture/society is most endowed with. For instance, Western women tend to be curvier and bustier, so historically these are the assets that have been reported as more beautiful. In another culture, it may be beautiful for a woman to be flat. This seems to counter the golden ratio theory, since the golden ratio seems to be arguing for one, universal standard of beauty -- not for cultural relativism.
At the same time, Robinson brings up the issue of globalization, which leads me to wonder how this is affecting our standards of beauty. Are we all striving towards one standard? My instinct says that we aren't, since, based on my observations, we seem to be more for embracing our diversity than trying to make everyone fit to one cookie cutter image. We are looking around us and at other cultures and integrating many different schemas for beauty into our own culture, but I don't feel that we will ever have a universal standard of measurement, one perfect person.

Beauty across Cultures
Name: Krystal Madkins (
Date: 04/18/2005 16:55
Link to this Comment: 14686

I thought this week's readings were very interesting. I think they were some of the best material that we've covered. I really liked reading about the different views of beauty in other countries. It was interesting how the various ways of making oneself beauty were in some cases the polar opposites of one another but still seemed to work towards the same goal of impressing someone and making them desire you as a mate. I also thought interesting the point that Julian Robinson bought up about people being more willing to declare something beautiful if they're possess that quality. While I can see this happening I don't know if it applies to everyone. In my opinion it seems like many people want what they don't have. Everyone envys what the other person has. For example, many girls with curly or wavy hair may wish for straight hair while girls with straight hair complain and express their desire to have wavy hair. Another example is some African American's having problems with their full lips and brown skin at the same time as others are going out to get lip injections for fuller lips or sitting in tanning booths and risking their health to have tan skin.

Also, I may going off on a tangent here, but I thought it was interesting how many risks people are willing to take in order to make themselves appealing to the opposite sex (or same sex or both sexes if you please). It made me think of another class I'm currently in which deals with sports role in society. We read articles about male athletes feeling the need to give their all during games even if there is danger of injury or worsening a pre existening injury because they have to prove that they are real men. I think there are some parrallels between this and the pursuit of beauty. Risking extreme pain and possibly death to prove to others just how much of an attractive man or woman you are. I may be stretching it but :sigh: I just like when my classes end up blending together in terms of certain

Also in regards to the golden ratio...I find it interesting but I agree with Muska that many of the women used as examples still seemed to fit in pretty close with the mainstream, "white" images of beauty. Also, it does seem as if it does not allow much leeway for little oddities or quirks that a person may have. Sometimes the more interesting faces turn out to be the most attractive ones in the end. That's just my opinion. I thought that many of the faces used as examples all pretty much fit into conventional ideals of beuaty. I know that people across cultures can find the same faces (or other things) beautiful but I wonder how much the golden ratio plays into that.

Ratios and Art
Name: Amanda G. (
Date: 04/18/2005 16:57
Link to this Comment: 14687

As someone who has done a lot of art, I was very impressed about the Golden Ratio. I took a lot of art classes throughout high school (until I was told I was too much of a perfectionist and thus too slow!). In ninth grade, we had an assignment to go home and do as self-portrait. Our teacher had told us that the eyes were about 1/3 of the way down the face and other proportions like that. Even then it amazed me (though I'm not sure why) that our faces and bodies were made up so evenly. I sat in front of my mirror at home and sketched myself trying to use the divisions that he had taught us about in class. The drawing did not come out as well as I would have liked.
About a year later, I had another assignment, an in school one. We were supposed to choose an object, any object, and draw it in pencil. I chose a silver teapot from home. The challenge with this would not only be to draw the teapot, but to draw the reflections in it, including myself. While it took me a while to finish this piece, I ended up with something that I loved and ended up having framed. The person in the teapot looks a lot more like me, even though it's distorted, than the self-portrait did. It may be because I had time to expand my skills, but I personally think it was because I was not worrying about ratios. It became a lot more beautiful as a piece.
I love the idea of the Golden Ratio but worry if that is what people think about all the time. It's interesting and it explains why we find certain people more beautiful to others but just I don't like the idea of putting it at the forefront of people's minds. We already have enough to struggle with in attempting to be beautiful in this world. TO worry that you're not up to par with a number does not help.

Human Beauty
Name: Jaya ()
Date: 04/18/2005 17:13
Link to this Comment: 14689

Ahhh allergy season >:|...

The websites that we were to take a look at weren't unfamiliar to me- I've watched movies and read articles about them in high school, but this time I didn't buy into them like I did before. As interesting as they are and although they provide mathmatical/scientific backing along with examples, I really don't like to think that the beauty we find human faces can be that simplified. The idea that an individual's perception of beauty is culturally and socially based has resonated throughout this class and makes me skeptical towards the idea that beauty can be defined by a system involving universal proportions. I really don't deny the fact though, however, that proportion does play a part in judging a 'beautiful' face. Phi has to be a cultural/religious construct itself because I surely never heard of it and I don't consider it divine.

I did like Robinson's article (despite the fact that it did cover a lot of the points that we've discussed many times in class) mainly because it covered a much broader range of beauty i.e. beauty OUTSIDE the Western world (thank you!!!) It also made the suffering that we all (ok, many of us) go through to reach the beauty ideal more natural, because it points out that in many cultures people try to alter themselves in some way in order to attract a mate- something that a handful of developed animals do within the animal kingdom (although i doubt they've taken it to extremes like we have.) I also liked that the article was more of a celebration of beauty rather than a bashing of it, which is something I've felt like we've done a lot of (how beauty is deceptive, how it can be oppressive to women, etc. etc.) I'll also admit that I enjoyed the pictures. I found myself making weird faces towards some of them, but it's interesting to think that somewhere in the world someone considers that person in the picture beautiful according to their own standards.
Someone (I forgot who it was) did mention an attack Robinson made on the women's body- I just wanted to agree with them and say that the extra deposits around the hips are partly there for childbearing, and it's also true that women have FAR more endurance that men do- men may be stronger, but they definitely would not last carrying a baby for 9 months, which is an amazing feat all mothers go through if you think about it.

I do not think it means what you think it means...
Name: Lauren (
Date: 04/18/2005 18:40
Link to this Comment: 14695

As fascinated as I was by the idea of phi and the Golden Ratio when I first read about it in the da Vinci code, this is not about beauty. I was on these websites for an inordinate amount of time looking at the mathematical ways in which I might determine the symmetry of my physiognomy but I still have a hard time calling this idea "beauty." Yes, i agree that these faces which adhere to the ratio are physically attractive, yes, they are aesthetically pleasing, yes they are pleasant to look at, but again I maintain, there is more to beauty than visual pleasure. There are plenty of things that are symmetrical that I don't/can't consider beautiful. As we discussed earlier, a circle is the closest thing that we can get to a perfectly symmetrical shape, but I would never think to call a circle beautiful. It's a shape. It's flat. It doesn't move me. It doesn't represent anything other than what it is and it doesn't hide any underlying meaning, summon emotion or call up feelings of nostalgia. Math might be able to map a pattern among things that are considered aesthetically pleasing, but I cannot believe that there is any way you can find a formula to explain why the feeling I get when I'm dancing is so ineffably exhilarating in the most beautiful way.

Name: Lauren ()
Date: 04/18/2005 18:47
Link to this Comment: 14696

Bye the way; did anyone else note that these websites were claiming to present the perfect "human" face but 50% of the world's human population was lacking a representative? Where were the men?!

There's a first time for everything
Name: ()
Date: 04/19/2005 00:40
Link to this Comment: 14717

Name: nancy (nevans@bmc)
Date: 04/19/2005 00:57
Link to this Comment: 14719

I felt particularly creeped out by the MBA site. It seemed like a scene out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or one of the twenty other movies (I heart huckabees, vanilla sky...) that take something nebulous (beauty, sanity, memory) and commodify it, making it seem very sterile along the way so as to convey a sense of security for anyone thinking of subjecting themselves to the product/procedure.

I saw the TLC "golden ratio" thing when it was on TV a couple years ago (I think...). I don't buy it. I know our bodies are constructed with innumerable patterns and that beauty may depend on proportion etc, but you can't take out the air of subjectivity. For example, TLC found that the (fairly public and well known) person who matched best with the weird face thing was Elizabeth Hurley of "I was with Hugh Grant once" fame. To me, if there was much truth in the ratio, it would follow that most people would see the person as the most beautiful person they know. I don't think she is particularly attractive and-- even though I don't tend to boil things down to individual experience-- this is telling, I think.

Name: Marissa (mpatters)
Date: 04/21/2005 23:19
Link to this Comment: 14780

A link that showed up on aol today for an article entitled "Good Looks May Mean Better Pay, Analysis Says"--something interesting to read!

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