The use of the phrase “alternative beauty” already demarcates essential forms of self-expression from what we come to know and recognize socially, culturally and historically as “normal” forms of beauty: in that they are widely accepted and hailed. Expressions of beauty as a form of self-expression is neither normal or abnormal. Rather, it should be “anormal”. All forms of beauty should be celebrated.
People often exercise the phrase “alternative beauty”, to distinguish it from normal form of beauty that has been recognized socially, culturally and historically. Beauty and its recognition has always been a contention to people, whether it is objective or subjective. Beauty standards around the world change with respect to culture, believes and trend. For example, “in New Zealand, the Maori people consider people with tattooed lips and chins to be the most beautiful whereas, Mauritanian women are lauded for gaining weight” (Burton).
Regardless of these standards, all forms of beauty should be celebrated because if we do not, then people would start defining beauty and it would create standards of it which will accept those who would fit in it and reject those who do not and eventually would compel the victims to achieve those standards and give rise to alternative beauty i.e. bodily and facial modifications and extraneous use of make-up, which would be harmful for their self-acceptance and authenticity. Beauty is an abstract concept but if one start defining it, it would create standards of beauty. For an instance, many writers and poets tried to describe beauty and when they did, it created a standard in the minds of people. According to Yates:
“In a recent essay in New York, the novelist Lionel Shriver argued that “fiction writers’ biggest mistake is to create so many characters who are casually beautiful.” What this amounts to, in practice, is that many male characters have strikingly attractive female love interests who also possess a host of other characteristics that make them appealing. Their good looks are like a convenient afterthought” (qtd. In Waldman).
Essentially, writers present their characters aesthetically that it becomes hard to resist their sketch drawn in mind. For an instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” as:
“My cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright, passionate mouth—but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion” (Fitzgerald, 12).
These words leave a profound impact on one’s imagination, simultaneously creating a standard or a scale of the beauty of sound. At the same time, it raises questions in mind like “Can only low and thrilling voices sound appealing”? If this is to be true, then rock bands like halestorm would have received no applause, which is not the case. Taste for beauty consistently varies with respect to the era and place. Many have celebrated long and silky hair whilst, astonishing as it may seem to some, others find a bald head beautiful and a source of acclaim.
For example: “In U.S “the bald is beautiful convention” takes place annually in Morehead City, NC. There are many contests, prizes and awards given out for titles like Sexiest Bald Head, Most Distinguished Bald Head, as well as “a Montel Williams look alike award!””(Kington). Shifting our focus, many people appreciate the beauty of nature while others prefer the beauty of physical human form. Byron, in his poem, says:
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent! (Quoted in Palgrave)
Unconsciously, these readings narrow our standard for beauty to a very small range. Whereas, each book in the libraries around the world have different views and perspectives about beauty. It is not necessary to find beauty in blue eyes, pale skin or a melodious voice to a name a few widely celebrated qualities, but rather it is just as likely that it is found in dark skin, black eyes and short height.
Putting beauty in a box ends up creating standards that serve the purpose of excluding alternative perceptions of beauty; those people who do not fit in are left out. “In contexts where women are valued mainly for their fertility—their ability to bear and nurture children—often full-bodied women with broad hips and ample breasts are considered the most beautiful” (Bradley University: Body & Beauty), whereas, for being a model, lean tone body and pale skin are the fundamental standards. These vacillating measurements of beauty renders a lack of general consensus towards recognition of beauty. It is not hard to assume that despite strenuous effort, it would still be hard to reach an agreement on what beauty really means. Yates writes:
“It nagged him, in particular, that none of the girls he’d known so far had given him a sense of unalloyed triumph. One had been very pretty except for unpardonably thick ankles, and one had been intelligent, though possessed of an annoying tendency to mother him, but he had to admit that none had been first-rate. Nor was he ever in doubt about what he meant by a first-rate girl, though he’d never yet come close enough to one “. (Quoted in Waldman)
In order to achieve societal standards, people are either compelled by the society or by themselves to achieve those standards and, willingly or unwillingly, are asked to put on the cloak of perfection and for that they go through facial surgeries, body modifications and extraneous use of make-up, and spend millions on it. These practices not only annihilate one’s self-acceptance, but time and money. “According to the research conducted by “T Magazine” ,$2,475,908,568 was spent on Botox in 2014 “(Euse, “Here’s a Look…”).while according to other research conducted by “American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery”, “In 2013, more than 2.5 billion dollars were spent on injectable alone. In addition, nearly 1.9 billion was spent on skin rejuvenation, a fast-growing sector of the aesthetic non-surgical industry” (2014,”The American Society for Aesthetic”). Just in order to rid oneself of imperfections, people ironically take each step towards it. Pete Burn, English singer and founder of band “dead and alive”, had a lip surgery in 2000 which went drastically wrong and ended up having 300 operations over the years to fix botched procedure (Pete Burns reveals).
More often, straying from originality captures one in an unsatisfied endeavor and one end in a never ending puzzle. Alternative beauty is venomous and deadly. It causes un-satisfaction that could lead one to depression, drug addiction, and suicide even. When asked upon how you define beauty? Grace Neutral, a tattoo artist and activist, replied, “Being 100% of yourself, there’s nothing more beautiful than the person you meet is exactly comfortable with who they are, own yourself completely”(“Grace Neutral on Beauty”). Because they are force to adopt methods of alternative beauty, which doesn’t make looks appealing or accepted but it tends to manipulate oneself and others as well. According to Darren Brown, “ultimate truth is be yourself and have confidence in who you are” (Dating Techniques – Science of Attraction).
On the contrary, few among many support alternative means to acquire beauty in an appropriate way because they believe that it enhances beauty, their confidence and hide their insecurities. According to Victoria Karlinsky, “To age gracefully does not mean that one should do nothing. The products available in the market today, if utilized appropriately, truly help to keep us looking younger, healthier and, most important, more confident” (Karlinsky, “When It Comes to Cosmetic Surgery) If means of alternative beauty enhance confidence or make one prettier, then one should use these means. However, imagine a day when due to any circumstances, one could not use those means. Then, would he feel insecure or repulsive? Counting looks and confidence on alternative means of beauty makes people dependent on them and less self-accepting. Relying on temporary means of beauty can make one look prettier and more confident for the time being but hence it is not the permanent solution. The permanent solution of it is to accept the way one really is, regardless of the standards set by the society.
Beauty has stretched its boundaries from objectivity to subjectivity and made itself more accepting. If we do not accept people like who they are, then they would resort to alternative means of beauty which may gather them applause from people but they would be less self-accepting. Nothing is more beautiful than who one really is, regardless of imperfections. If imperfection means being yourself, then it is more than beautiful. “There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty” (Maraboli). Obtaining alternative beauty standards may for the time being hide imperfections but if one is not accepting of then how could he expect others to accept them. That is the credible truth of life.
- “Pete Burns Reveals He’s Had 300 Operations to Fix Botched …” Celebrity Surgery Facts.6 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2016. <http://www.celebritysurgeryfacts.com/pete-burns-tragedy-of-plastic-surgery/>.
- Burton, Natasha. “Beauty Standards Around the World – Beauty in Different …” Cosmopolitan. Hearst Communications, 06 June 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/g3279/weird-beauty/>.
- “Bradley University: Body & Beauty Standards.” Bradley University. Bradley University, 24 Oct. 2016. <https://bradley.edu/sites/bodyproject/standards/>.
- Dating Techniques – Science of Attraction. Perf. Derren Brown, Kat Akingbade and Charlie McDonnell. Dating Techniques – Science of Attraction.4 Nov. 2010. 23 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcovKsjvVgM>.
- Euse, Erica. “Here’s a Look at How Much Americans Are Spending on …” Complex.15 July 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. <http://www.complex.com/style/2015/07/how-much-americans-spend-on-plasitic-surgery>.
- Fitzgerald, Francis Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 1925. Print.
- Grace Neutral on Beauty. Dir. Grace Neutral. YouTube.10 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoD8AGzpqUE>.
- Karlinsky, Victoria. “When It Comes to Cosmetic Surgery, Looking Different Is …” The New York Times.23 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/10/22/keeping-up-appearances-at-any-cost/when-it-comes-to-cosmetic-surgery-looking-different-is-not-a-bad-thing>.
- Kington, Ani. “Top 10 Most Unusual U.S. Festivals.” Interexchange.21 June 2012. 23 Oct. 2016. <https://www.interexchange.org/articles/career-training-usa/2012/06/21/top-10-most-unusual-u-s-festivals/>.
- Maraboli, Steve. Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience. Port Washington, NY: Better Today, 2013. Print. <https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/25086973-unapologetically-you-reflections-on-life-and-the-human-experience>.
- Palgrave, Francis Turner, and Maxfield Parrish. A Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics. New York: Duffield, 1911. Print.
- “The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Reports …” Surgery.20 Mar. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. <http://www.surgery.org/media/news-releases/the-american-society-for-aesthetic-plastic-surgery-reports-americans-spent-largest-amount-on-cosmetic-surger>.
- Waldman, Adelle. ““A First-Rate Girl”: The Problem of Female Beauty – The …” Newyorker.2 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. <http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-first-rate-girl-the-problem-of-female-beauty>.