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Screw weight loss. I want to be able to benchpress a bear.
April 8, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe

16 neato burrito body positive illustrations. (Some are NFSW). (slBustMagazine)
posted by Kitteh (175 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
burrito?

Ah. nevermind. I missed the rhyme.
Great drawings.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:43 PM on April 8


The preemptive "fuck off" makes it less confident and more vulnerable, which doesn't seem to be the intent but hey whatevs.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:52 PM on April 8 [9 favorites]


"BODY POSITIVE, BITCH!"

Uh, yeah. Sounds it.
posted by Pecinpah at 1:53 PM on April 8


By an interesting coincidence, the shape of my body is largely the result of burritos.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:57 PM on April 8 [42 favorites]


I'm afraid the neato burrito framing is going to doom this thread, because I too clicked through and wondered where all the interesting illustrations of burritos were.
posted by Curious Artificer at 2:02 PM on April 8 [49 favorites]


It's either a good or bad thing you didn't say "neato mosquito".
posted by Shepherd at 2:03 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Neato every-body-type-can-wear-a-Speedo.
posted by Pistache at 2:08 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]


So, um, anyone want to take a shot at drawing the body-positive burrito illustrations that I didn't know I needed until just now?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:08 PM on April 8 [26 favorites]


My favorite is:

How to get a bikini body:
Put a bikini on a body.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:11 PM on April 8 [28 favorites]


/r/xxfitness has links to lift a cat and lift a bear, for what it's worth.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:12 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


That is an overhead press, not a bench press. A bench press is traditionally performed lying down on, well, a bench. /exercise pedant
posted by rbellon at 2:13 PM on April 8 [14 favorites]


I always resent the overlap between these sorts of things and "white people dreadlocks are awesome and counterculture!". It's never far away.
posted by emptythought at 2:16 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


yeah if you can overhead press any of the listed bears, you're doing A-okay.
posted by SharkParty at 2:18 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


If I could benchpress a big, hairy guy, I'd be feeling pretty awesome.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:30 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


The standard body types are banana, apple, pear, hourglass, and burrito. I am glad to finally see something burrito-body positive.
posted by idiopath at 2:31 PM on April 8 [11 favorites]


Neato every-body-type-can-wear-a-Speedo.

My body (and what's left of my pride) vehemently disagrees.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:36 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


I like that it's not just curvy/thin, it's also big boobs/small hips and small boobs/big hips and all combos in between.

The preemptive "fuck off" makes it less confident and more vulnerable, which doesn't seem to be the intent but hey whatevs.

Shuuuuuuttttt upppppppppppp
posted by stoneandstar at 2:37 PM on April 8 [35 favorites]


Artistically, I really rather like the row of women towards the end of the list, but I'm rather disturbed by the figure on the far left.

I'm also really hoping Strom (from the comments) isn't a mefite. Because he's a fuckwit.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 2:38 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


The standard body types are banana...

Man, you're playing right into Kirk Cameron's hands!
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:38 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Not much love for women who aren't young, white, and able-bodied, but that's Bust for you.
posted by gingerest at 2:41 PM on April 8 [17 favorites]


Not much love for women who aren't young, white, and able-bodied, but that's Bust for you.

Maybe not in the illustrations themselves, but I like this body positive article about a WOC.
posted by Kitteh at 2:44 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I loved that Strom Thurmond was posting all sorts of body positive comments below the article. He had to die before he could really live.
posted by bpm140 at 2:53 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


I get the general intent. But I agree that this kind of hostility is not really body positive. I thought Madonna showing off her new mom curves at one of the red carpet events (Possibly this.) was a lot more body positive than this "don't tread on me" type stuff.

I think one of our issues, culturally, is that the camera is relatively recent. It's only in the last 100 years or so that we have lots of still photographs and stills really don't capture what a person looks like in three dimensions, while moving, etc. I think a lot of us wind up mentally comparing ourselves to the stills in magazines and trying to look like some perfect still photograph and it's just crazy. It can't be done.

Over the years, I have tried to unplug from that type of imagery. I have tried to understand why I get positive responses from actual people, IRL, when I know I do not look like a picture in a magazine. That has turned into something much more body positive than pieces like this. Pieces like this are still just ..stills.

I have poise and balance and a smell and my hair moves when I move and there are just so many other things going on beyond what I look like compared to a still photo. And I have come to like myself a lot more and to appreciate it that there are people who genuinely like and enjoy how I look and also enjoy more about me than can be captured in a still photo.
posted by Michele in California at 2:53 PM on April 8 [18 favorites]


I think there are more fun/light-hearted illustrations here than "don't tread on me" images, though the title (F*ck Your Beauty Standards) does come out swinging, though you make a very good point about photos capturing an odd moment and point of view from a life lived in motion and 3D. There weren't compilations of Best Sports Fails in the time before the mass proliferation of cameras capturing a split second in time.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:02 PM on April 8


HOW TO GET A BURRITO BODY:

But a burrito on your body.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:16 PM on April 8 [28 favorites]


Why:

every body is beautiful (which isn't true)

Rather than:

Beauty is overrated as a property of human beings

Which is true.

?
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:19 PM on April 8 [23 favorites]


Fists O'Fury
Why:
every body is beautiful (which isn't true)
Rather than:
Beauty is overrated as a property of human beings
Which is true.


Well, for one thing, it's WAY easier to teach "every body is beautiful" to a four year old than it is to explain what a property of an intangible concept ('no, darling, property is not a house, well.. it is, but that's a differen.. no darling, put your sister down NOT ON THE CAT')
posted by coriolisdave at 3:25 PM on April 8 [13 favorites]


My favorite is:

How to get a bikini body:
Put a bikini on a body.


Me too, and it's something I'm trying to remind myself of in the wake of buying my first bikini in something like 7 years. This is OK. I am OK. I am a person. Wearing a thing. A thing that means I can go in the pool. That is all. Nobody is staring. Probably.
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


"I think one of our issues, culturally, is that the camera is relatively recent. It's only in the last 100 years or so that we have lots of still photographs and stills really don't capture what a person looks like in three dimensions, while moving, etc. I think a lot of us wind up mentally comparing ourselves to the stills in magazines and trying to look like some perfect still photograph and it's just crazy. It can't be done."

/art history nerd

Nope. We've had cameras for coming up on 200 years, and prior to that we had realistic portraiture that provided hundreds of years of ideal body types to compare to. You can argue about relative preponderance and mass media, but the basic thesis is wrong.

Sorry, it's a lack of burritos making me contrary.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on April 8 [14 favorites]


I don't think that rebuts anything I said. I did not say "we have only had CAMERAS for 100 years." I said It's only in the last 100 years or so that we have lots of still photographs.. Printing was quite expensive at one time. Portraiture was mostly reserved for the upper classes. Two hundred years ago, we did not have magazine stands on every corner, facebook filled with pics and so on.

Also, when is someone here going to start with the sexual innuendo part of comments about eating tacos and burritos? Or is that already going on but I just missed it? {bats eyeslashes}
posted by Michele in California at 3:37 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Well, for one thing, it's WAY easier to teach "every body is beautiful" to a four year old than it is to explain what a property of an intangible concept ('no, darling, property is not a house, well.. it is, but that's a differen.. no darling, put your sister down NOT ON THE CAT')

Yeah, I think I can understand that...

...but we're all adults here, right? I mean, pushing some idealistic-but-obviously-false point about everyone being beautiful seems like a fool's game... The real point may not be as gratifying...but in the end, it's the one that we ought to be pushing, right? Nobody's ever going to believe that we're all beautiful...inspiring though that fiction is... But I think everybody can see that physical beauty--as breathtaking as it can be--is superficial...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:41 PM on April 8 [15 favorites]


I don't really understand why we all need to accept the idea that some people are inherently ugly as axiomatic.

I can get behind "every body is beautiful". It's not untrue, and it's a lot less damaging than the alternative.
posted by Sara C. at 3:49 PM on April 8 [28 favorites]


To hell with bikinis, anyway. I only shave above the knee to get paid or get laid. For swimming purposes, I'm all about surf trunks and a rashguard. Less apt to fail too during front flips into the pool or bodysurfing.
posted by nacho fries at 3:50 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Some of the most important audiences for this kind of body positivity definitely are not all adults. Just as a point of interest, the girl in the Oasis t-shirt in the fourth image is the main character of My Mad Fat Diary, a British tv show about dealing with this issue and many others that face young people, especially young women.
posted by Corinth at 3:52 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


I actually do think that most, if not all, bodies are beautiful. The curves and rolls, stretch marks, &c. of the human body are pretty beautiful. I've never been particularly grossed out by acne or whatever else we're supposed to find deeply unattractive. I don't see why that is so pernicious.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:53 PM on April 8 [10 favorites]


This might be the year that I buy my first (!) bathing suit as an adult. I don't think I've worn one since high school maybe?

Being busty, I've suffered from a lack of confidence to rock any bathing suit, but I'm starting to be like, "You know what? Fuck it. I would like to wear a bathing suit."

I am sorry these illustrations aren't more inclusive body types of people who aren't white women, truly. I just liked that they were more "be true to you" than most images I see regarding body love. I realize that there is a lot to unpack about that alone, though.
posted by Kitteh at 3:54 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Isn't beauty though defined in part by its rareness?
posted by nacho fries at 3:56 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Also, a lot of these seem to be from Tumblr, so it's very likely that some of these artists may be currently in the process of learning this message and applying it to themselves, and will probably eventually move on to the more sophisticated version. But this way it's very easy to approach and engage with, which I think is pretty helpful to a lot of people who need the help sooner rather than later.
posted by Corinth at 3:56 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Isn't beauty though defined in part by its rareness?

No?
posted by Sara C. at 3:56 PM on April 8 [23 favorites]


Care to elaborate, Sara? If everything is beautiful, then why are some paintings masterworks, and others are not? (Sorry if this seems dumb or obvious -- it's not to me, and I'm interested to hear an alternative viewpoint.)
posted by nacho fries at 3:59 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


You can argue that beauty is determined in part by uniqueness, but then every body that hasn't been surgically remade is unique in some way.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:02 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


Because we're talking about people, not masterpiece paintings.

I think it's really damaging -- and overall not actually true -- to decide to create a world where most people have to hate themselves in service to the idea that a few people are Truly Beautiful.

It's not true.

It's not something that can even be objectively quantified.

It doesn't help anything to see the world that way.

Lots of people have terrible levels of self-hate about their appearance. Those people don't need to be told they're actually ugly, so just accept that you're a monster and move on.

Most people are attractive enough not to really need to worry about any of this stuff -- they look just fine in their clothes and end up eventually getting laid and pairing off and making babies if that's what they want to do.

I just don't see the point. It's the worst sort of pedantry, except worse than that, because it's not even remotely actually true.
posted by Sara C. at 4:03 PM on April 8 [24 favorites]


This should have been in my previous comment, but E4/Channel 4 also maintain a landing page for anyone who is dealing with the issues the show addresses. The link is shown and mentioned at the end of every episode. It's really cool and I'm glad someone is handling things like this well, and that people seem to have been helped by it.
posted by Corinth at 4:05 PM on April 8


Isn't beauty though defined in part by its rareness?

You can argue that beauty is determined in part by uniqueness, but then every body that hasn't been surgically remade is unique in some way.


Sunsets happen every night, everywhere, yet the majority agrees they're beautiful.
posted by gingerest at 4:10 PM on April 8 [24 favorites]


Fair enough. Sara. I agree that comparing a body to a painting was a dopey comparison on my part.

But just to be clear: I think attaching a person's worthiness to beauty is a sucker's game, and you'd never find me arguing for that line of thinking. I like sharing the world with all body types and looks.

I don't find it personally helpful to claim that everyone is beautiful, but if it works for others, that's cool.

Everyone is worthy of respect, kindness, and compassion. No one needs my approval of their looks to earn that from me.
posted by nacho fries at 4:11 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


MeTa.
posted by homunculus at 4:12 PM on April 8


Care to elaborate, Sara? If everything is beautiful, then why are some paintings masterworks, and others are not?

Who decides which paintings are and which aren't?

Moreover, does a painting being declared a "masterwork" mean that everyone is therefore going to like it?

The point being - "everyone and everything is beautiful" is true because everyone has differing opinions on what is beautiful. you may not find someone in particular beautiful, but you can respect that someone else probably does, yes? So, in a larger sense, you can appreciate that everyone posesses qualities that someone, somewhere, finds beautiful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


i feel like maybe some people are using beauty as in closer to hot or perfect, whereas other people are using it to mean something more general. interesting, worthy of observation, something that can be appreciated on its own terms rather than in comparison to some narrow impossible and of-the-moment standard. regardless it's possible to think both that everyone is beautiful in a general not-necessarily-hot sense and to also focus on things less superficial than appearances.
posted by twist my arm at 4:19 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


But just to be clear: I think attaching a person's worthiness to beauty is a sucker's game

Well, and there's the problem that there's nonetheless a ton of cultural momentum behind the attachment of people's worthiness to prevailing standards of idealized beauty. It is a sucker's game, but we're all stuck in a great big suck machine.

So how do you try and find a way out of that, how do you try and lessen the damage being done by the culture machine? You might:

1. Change the whole culture en masse. Notoriously difficult, at best takes a lot of time and effort, at worse shit just sort of stays the same over hundreds or thousands of years.

2. Encourage people on an individual basis to accept, but not care, that they are ugly. Call this the "yeah, well, fuck you" option maybe.

3. Encourage people on an individual basis to reject the premise that cultural momentum gets to define whether or not they can think of themselves as beautiful. Call this the "no, your system sucks" option.

In a sense options 2 and 3 are trying to do the same thing: free the individual (and hopefully, in the long run, a lot of individual until the individuals become a crowd and then a movement and then eventually a new culture) from some of the extant harmful cultural bullshit. So I feel like I can sort of understand the argument for 2 vs. 3 if you're specifically hung up on the need to maintain the idea that human beauty is necessarily a rare commodity/hierarchy.

But telling someone they're ugly and just deal with it vs. telling someone they're beautiful and it's okay to feel good about themselves are two pretty seriously different approaches at an emotional level, and the latter seems a whole lot healthier and less antagonistic in aggregate.
posted by cortex at 4:20 PM on April 8 [26 favorites]


I don't really understand why we all need to accept the idea that some people are inherently ugly as axiomatic.

I feel like there is a false dichotomy being suggested here where the only alternative to "Everyone is beautiful" is "Anyone who is not beautiful is therefore ugly", which just doesn't seem at all true to my own lived experience, where many, many people don't necessarily fit either category.

Just to use myself as an example, I don't think I break any mirrors or anything, but I'm pretty confident that if you put me and Channing Tatum (even minus the fame) in a room and asked 100 random women who they'd rather date the numbers would lean heavily in his favor. I think this can both be absolutely true while also not suggesting that therefore it must mean I'm a hideous beast.

I don't know - I always found the "Everyone is beautiful in their own way, man" sentiment to be a little condescending, but I can appreciate that this might be my own hang up and most people with this point of view do mean it sincerely.
posted by The Gooch at 4:29 PM on April 8 [18 favorites]


I'd argue that being not-beautiful is not the same as being ugly.

(On preview, The Gooch articulated what I'm driving at here.)
posted by nacho fries at 4:29 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Every body is beautiful for at least two reasons. First, because it is an exquisitely, incomprehensibly complex and finely-balanced biomechanical machine that despite being apparently little more than goo wrapped around sticks is able to persist, move about, develop, grow, repair itself, and reproduce. That in itself is crazy beautiful to me; we each contain a universe of complexity within us, on a purely material level.

Secondly, and more importantly, every body is the material manifestation of a conscious being. Each body serves as the physical vessel by which a mysterious, unique, sentient entity explores, manipulates, and learns about the rest of the world. Somewhere behind the eyes of every body is something absolutely amazing and fundamentally unknowable, and that is sublimely beautiful to me as well. Each body serves as the medium by which an entire universe is created and understood.

If I fail to see this beauty in a body, that is a failing of my perception rather than evidence for a lack of beauty. The more I can broaden my view and the more I can see the beauty in every body (and every person) I encounter, the more wonderful my life becomes. It is wonderful to live surrounded by beauty.
posted by Scientist at 4:40 PM on April 8 [116 favorites]


I fall on the side that some people certainly are more beautiful than others, and some also strive for it and value it more than others. Its value to people is their own business as long as they understand that it's their own opinion and should not be used or assumed to be a cultural standard. The 'body positive' idea is great to me not because it suggests all people are equally beautiful (I don't think this is true) but serves as a reminder that beauty is not perceived similarly by all or valued the same by all. It's progressive, modern, individualistic yet socially conscious. Good!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:41 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Also, beauty is not a finite resource. It's not like money or oil or gold, where there's only so much available and making more devalues previously-existing stocks. It's like love or kindness, where the only limit is how much we are willing to extend ourselves, and having more just makes everything better. It's not a zero-sum game here.
posted by Scientist at 4:42 PM on April 8 [18 favorites]


Isn't it a little bit crazy that there is so much stress and anxiety and judgement about the way we look? I say that as someone with a history of intense anxiety about my appearance.

I appreciate anything that encourages people to be a little easier on themselves and others about this thing that is ultimately a small fraction of what makes up a person.
posted by torisaur at 4:43 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I'd argue that being not-beautiful is not the same as being ugly.

How about the ugly folks? Which people are you comfortable putting in the "yeah, you just need to accept that you are the opposite of beautiful, that you are really really bad to look at" bucket? Because that's one of the cultural implications of taking the route of qualifying not-beautiful as a healthy cultural construct on the basis that it's also not-ugly.

hotornot.com went from 1 to 10. What's the cultural value in a rubric of acceptable physical form that says something like "well, as long as you're not a 4, you're fine"? What's that telling the 4s? The 2s? The 4.5s? And if 5 and up is fine, why does it go to 10?

That site was obviously a crass internet oddity, but the thing is that it's not a cultural oddity in the way it reifies a group-enforced belief in the commodification and competition over a ranked list of sufficiently acceptable human bodies and faces. It's absolutely a restatement of the status quo, just in an especially problematic participatory format.

It's something so thoroughly entrenched in human culture that it's hard to even step back far enough to see it. People who can recognize that e.g. a dog show is a weird spectacle of arbitrary human standards are still likely to be under the thrall of a similar set of attitudes applied to themselves and their fellow humans every single day of their lives. Tons of people will spend some or all of their life feeling actively bad about themselves because of this construct. A smaller set will spend their lives in, essentially, misery. Because the cultural message is that they're not good enough, and they're not trying hard enough, and that this failure is important and worthy of tacit and explicit group condemnation.

"Everybody is beautiful" only seems condescending within a system that rejects the possibility that everybody can be seen as beautiful. If you find yourself thinking "obviously everybody can't be beautiful", stop and ask why. Stop and wonder if you're as judgemental of each of the cheerios in your bowl, of every rock you walk past. Stop and wonder to what degree the fact that other people might find different rocks interesting in a way that you wouldn't feel a strong instinctive need to argue with is a reflection of something weird about prevailing human cultural attitudes toward the physical human form, rather than something inherently different about humans and rocks.

The search for beauty in the world shouldn't be a ten point scale on a website.
posted by cortex at 4:52 PM on April 8 [34 favorites]


Just to use myself as an example, I don't think I break any mirrors or anything, but I'm pretty confident that if you put me and Channing Tatum (even minus the fame) in a room and asked 100 random women who they'd rather date the numbers would lean heavily in his favor. I think this can both be absolutely true while also not suggesting that therefore it must mean I'm a hideous beast.

This is a fair point.

On the other hand - there's a difference between taking the opinion of the 100 random women you ask to compare you and Channing Tatum, and taking the opinion of the one woman who IS dating you. That woman is gonna have a very different opinion, even if she does still think Channing Tatum is empirically beautiful. I've talked about how pretty I think David Tennant is in here; the guy I'm dating now couldn't look more different from David Tennant if he tried - he's got crazy hair and, in his words, "the body of a Mexican wrestler" - but my God I think the guy is hands-down adorable, to the point that if you put him and Tennant in the same room and asked which one I wanted I'd go for my crazy-haired guy everytime.

So maybe the "everyone is beautiful" crowd is a way of trying to remind us that while some people are empirically more "classically beautiful" than others, that the definition of "beauty" is broad enough that no matter what someone looks like, someone else is going to find them the Platonian Ideal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:54 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Which people are you comfortable putting in the "yeah, you just need to accept that you are the opposite of beautiful, that you are really really bad to look at" bucket

In the range of normal daily activities on most days, I'd say none.

I have though met people who, by dint of who they are as a person -- their thoughts, their behaviors -- and how that manifests in their physicality, are plug-fucking-ugly. I'm not going to pretend to find them otherwise. And I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone in this world who "sees" them as beautiful.

Am I talking about edge-cases and rarities? Perhaps if I'd lived a different life, and didn't intentionally and accidentally find myself amongst people who I think most people avoid (and therefore, can pretend don't exist, in all their ugliness), then these could be the exceptions that prove the rule. But not in my experience.

If you've not encountered that type of visceral ugliness in a person, and think it doesn't exist, I'd only suggest that you haven't walked in my moccasins. I stand by my experience, and the evidence of my senses.
posted by nacho fries at 5:01 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I want a dude version of this that doesn't go straight to that lewd gay bear woofing nipple-tweaking hand-down-your-overalls horrible-proposition-to-read-in-a-chat-window-while-you're-enjoying-a-nice-cup-of-tea place, for all us mild-mannered old-fashioned husky queer folk out here.
posted by sonascope at 5:02 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


I know that I have a very different set of standards of beauty to the next guy. Part of this is my trans identity, part of it is that I tend to prefer the chunky body (masculine or feminine), part of it is that I myself am chunky. But I also like a good smile, brains, gentleness, roughness, interest, interestingness, sense of humor, particular builds, particular ways of moving, certain kinds of confidence, certain kinds of humor, self awareness, the ability to consume input and to examine oneself critically, and a whole mess of other things about people I find attractive.

I've always thought that while there are a lot of folks (mostly guys, but some women, many younger, but some older) who tend to think there is only one way to be beautiful, why they're just leaving a greater field of the truly attractive (to me) to me. And people more like me. I tend to see it as their loss, not mine.
posted by kalessin at 5:02 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


It's OK to be average looking. It's like worrying about having hair-coloured hair.
posted by angerbot at 5:04 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


If you've not encountered that type of visceral ugliness in a person

But you're talking here about ugliness in thought and behavior driving your evaluation of them as a person, and this thread's about a blog post collecting stuff about positive body imagery in people in no way presumed to be internally ugly terrible jerks or whatever. I don't really see where the connection is, other than the word "ugly" appearing in both cases. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you're saying.
posted by cortex at 5:05 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've encountered some truly ugly people over the years - but you couldn't tell by looking.
posted by rtha at 5:07 PM on April 8 [38 favorites]


Who decides which paintings are and which aren't?

Everyone. If someone liked the artwork from the dude on kirkwood ( go IU ), he would be known as "the guy who draws on your arm for a million dollars" rather than "the guy who draws on your for a dollar".

There is way less beauty in the world than there are things which COULD be beautiful. That's what makes it something we want in our lives.

But seriously, have perspective. Beauty doesn't solve shit, it just makes the shit experience, prettier.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:08 PM on April 8


Yeah, I've encountered some truly ugly people over the years - but you couldn't tell by looking.

This times a million.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:10 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Last year, for the first time in a million years (well, since I moved to San Francisco more than a decade ago), I had to go buy shorts and a bathing suit because we were going on a family vacation to Hawaii. I grew up there and I have memories of all kinds of bodies in all kinds of beachwear, but I still felt really self-conscious when I looked at myself in my suit in the mirror here at home. But then, you know, we got there, and we went to swim, and there were all the kinds of bodies in all the kinds of swimwear, and nobody was looking at anybody like "ew gross go away."

The only thing is, if you're not a local, you really should wear some kind of rash guard or other shirt-type thing because OW SUNBURN ON THE FIRST DAY OW. Nobody cares about your jiggly belly but they will snicker about your haole tourist lobster color.
posted by rtha at 5:19 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


asked 100 random women who they'd rather date the numbers would lean heavily in his favor

This is probably my own problem, because I'm the only person I've ever met who just doesn't get this at all. But I have never understood this model of quantifying beauty.

I have a boyfriend. He is gorgeous as far as I'm concerned. I would hope he thinks the same about me. Both of us have rich histories of getting laid.

Who cares if some other women would prefer to fuck Channing Tatum, or some other men would prefer to fuck Charlotte Johansen? Why does it matter? Why does their existence mean we're not beautiful?
posted by Sara C. at 5:21 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Aaaaah I meant Scarlett Johansen and the edit window is shut and now I look like some kind of rube!
posted by Sara C. at 5:26 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Quick boys, there's a rube, get them left-handed oil cans.
posted by angerbot at 5:28 PM on April 8 [13 favorites]


As someone who is learning to love* my post-partum body, thank you for this.

*It's hard to be negative about something that's brought you so much joy. And I don't even just mean my daughter, though of course I mean her, too. But I'll always remember how, three days post-partum, I was lying in bed in just a nursing bra and my husband made me laugh and my belly, loose and soft and covered in stretch marks, started jiggling like jello and the sensation made me laugh even more and more jiggles and more laughter and my husband and I sat there for like 20 minutes cracking up. Bodies! They're amazing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:34 PM on April 8 [13 favorites]


I can get behind "every body is beautiful". It's not untrue, and it's a lot less damaging than the alternative.

Well, it's not true...if it can also be not untrue...that's a neat trick...

We can try to whistle past the graveyard and push people to accept the happy fiction that we're all beautiful... Which has certain advantages, but has the disadvantage of being false, and obviously so...

Or we can try to get people to recognize the less-Pollyanna-ish, actually true fact that physical beauty is something that, sub specie aeternitatis, really isn't that important. This has the virtue of being true, and important.

Meh, I'm just no good at happy fictions, and I know I'm not.

So maybe you're right.

I'm not the right guy to say.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:34 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Nuanced view is nuanced?
posted by odinsdream at 5:35 PM on April 8


I think that the graveyard reference and the "happy fiction" phrase are among the uglier things said in this thread. It's simply not my experience that beauty is an absolute, especially in people and bodies, and it's a conceit that I think does cause and express a lot of ugliness in the world.
posted by kalessin at 5:38 PM on April 8 [10 favorites]


Fists O'Fury if you can read Scientist's comment and not get a little teary-eyed thinking about your species, this mass of humanity, then i guess yeah we disagree. it's fine but i think there have been enough responses as to what other ideas of beauty there might be. i would however disagree with any characterization that these other explanations are fiction. you disagree, that's all.
posted by twist my arm at 5:40 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


The body-shaming thing is weird, because isn't something you have to experience actively to actually experience. Maybe that's simplistic, but I only just learned it.

I was always very skinny -- didn't hit 100 pounds until around 30 -- and if anything my self-consciousness about my body was about being too thin. But in the past few years I've progressed to having a few extra pounds (prednisone + turning 40), and it's bothered me. It's weird how it bothers me, though, because I've never been one to follow any sort of pattern of what people would consider stylish or even normal fashion/body type for women. I dress in jeans and T-shirts. So it's not like I've been following the cultural prescription all along and now suddenly I'm a woman in slacks with a belly. It's that I never followed any of those prescriptions, and never felt like they applied to me, and now I have the double whammy of not following the norm AND having a bit of a belly.

And I think the problem I have with it isn't that I'm suddenly aware that I'm violating some sort of rule that our society has set up for what women are supposed to look like, it's that I feel like I don't look like me anymore. I can only speak for myself, because I never really compared myself in any real sense to what other women look like or what women are *supposed* to look like, but my self-image problems are solely about the before and after for me personally.

All that is to say I don't feel shamed by those who expect me to adhere to some sort of cultural norm, or by the male gaze, or by whatever else you got -- I guess I feel shamed by myself. So even never having subscribed to any of that other stuff, there's still shame.

Does that mean that it works THAT subtly? Or that as women (and men too) we're taught THAT surreptitiously that there's a point at which your body is no longer okay?

I don't actually know the answer to those questions. That's why I'm asking them. I think I only feel recently qualified to participate in the discussion, so it may be that I'm not up to speed.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:42 PM on April 8 [12 favorites]


I have no useful thoughts his a via the rarity or intrinsic nature of beauty, but GUYS! GUYS! Body burritos! Like when people eat sushi off naked ladies? But burritos.

This cannot but end all body negativity forever. Everyone looks awesome in guacamole.
posted by theweasel at 5:49 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


As a chunky guy, yes, I can say that one of the ways we enslave ourselves is when our cultures, our societies, convince us to shame ourselves. That's one reason that one of the fat acceptance/fat positive political agendas is to specifically speak out against that impulse and to celebrate bodies without conditions.

That self-shame is so destructive. Certainly it doesn't always lead to suicide, but a lot of mental health professionals see self-shame as not helpful, not healthy. It can be silencing, isolating, and can be terrible to endure.
posted by kalessin at 5:50 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


Can't you sort of derive 'every body is beautiful' from Rule 34? That probably might sound awful, but I don't mean it to be- I guess it would be 'everybody is beautiful to somebody'. Which is maybe closer to what we mean by this.

But maybe not- conflating beauty with sexual attractiveness isn't maybe the best way to go, and maybe it's exactly the point that's being argued against, here.

Because there's probably not someone for everyone, no matter what your smug, coupled friends, or my mom, or whomever, might say. And you need to be able to love yourself even if nobody in particular right this moment finds you hot, right?

Almost nobody is a attractive to almost everybody. The ones who are, the Channings and the Scarletts and whatever, we all know about them because they get paid ridiculous money because of their rarity, because they're the .001% of people attractiveness-wise. Compared to them, practically none of us are beautiful, and probably that's not a very useful or healthy way to think about ourselves.

So I guess there really are a fair bit of semantics involved, and if it's important for people to think about themselves in terms of whether they're beautiful or not, and it seems to be, then the definition that Scientist is using probably should be the one we (well almost all of us, hell, maybe all of us) use as well.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:06 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


"I don't think that rebuts anything I said. I did not say "we have only had CAMERAS for 100 years." I said It's only in the last 100 years or so that we have lots of still photographs.. Printing was quite expensive at one time. Portraiture was mostly reserved for the upper classes. Two hundred years ago, we did not have magazine stands on every corner, facebook filled with pics and so on."

Right, but we actually have lots of photographs as a popular medium starting in the 1850s. And prior to that, we have mass reproduction of elite painted portraiture through woodcut and engravings, then lithography at about the same time as photography developed.

Which is why I said that while the scale may have changed (we do have more images relative to our attention), blaming the idea of mass body consciousness on photography is wrong, especially given that mass body consciousness was linked to previous media. Blaming photography is an extremely facile explanation. See also: Kids these days are soft because they don't play like we did.

"I actually do think that most, if not all, bodies are beautiful. The curves and rolls, stretch marks, &c. of the human body are pretty beautiful. I've never been particularly grossed out by acne or whatever else we're supposed to find deeply unattractive. I don't see why that is so pernicious."

Pretty much everyone is beautiful in the right lighting and makeup.
posted by klangklangston at 6:07 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I subscribe to the "bodies are, by far and wide, beautiful" philosophy. Honest. When I ride the subway, I often look around the car, and think to myself, "Damn, this city is looking good today." (I love Humans of New York for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it does a great job of capturing the wide variety of human beauty that I see on a daily basis.) When I'm at the beach or changing in the locker room at the Y, I've never looked at any of the people around me and thought, "Man, you look awful."

I used to go to figure-drawing classes. While it's absolutely fine for people to have what I think of as magazine-cover-model bodies, drawing only that kind of body gets really boring really quick. The human body isn't just young and taut and firm. It's also soft and wrinkled, sloping and hairy, bulging and bony. The more hours you spend staring at bodies of different shapes and textures, the more you come to appreciate the diverse ways there are to be a human being. And the more you come to realize that, despite mainstream prescriptions, beauty is an entirely subjective thing.

I wish I could go back and convince teenage me of the above. Because she—well, I—wasted a ton of time being self-conscious for no reason. As an adult, I've come to realize that people are attracted to all kinds of things, and all kinds of bodies. It may sound crazy to say this (and I feel a little weird about it), but I've found it reassuring that even the cesspools that are Reddit and 4Chan have boards and threads devoted to a wide variety of body types and parts. Teenage me would not have believed that possible.

tl;dr: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I have tentative faith that even when I'm dumpy and elderly, someone out there will still think I'm lookin' good.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:10 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure why accepting a much much wider definition of beauty than what we currently see in the media has to be seen as a "happy fiction". I see beauty in Byzantine icons, Kiki Smith sculptures, Eero Saarinen's architecture and weird desert plants. If anything popular media just seems like the weirdo in the room yelling "NO! ONLY FLOWERS! ONLY FLOWERS ARE BEAUTIFUL AND ONLY PINK ROSES ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL! NO OTHER THINGS!"
posted by Thin Lizzy at 6:17 PM on April 8 [20 favorites]


This one should be a band for starters...also all cars should have these as stickers. ALL CARS!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:20 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I, for one, support the idea that everyone is beautiful because maybe next, everyone will be tall. I've always wanted to be tall.
posted by ftm at 6:25 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Of course there's someone for everyone. We're freaking animals. You don't see squirrels sitting around going all like "UGH LIFE IS SO UNFAIR NOBODY WANTS TO BE WITH ME I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M A SIZE 14 NOW I'M SO DISGUSTING". No. Squirrels fuck other squirrels and make squirrel babies and the whole thing seems to work out OK.

Is there really a significant population of people who are genuinely Forever Alone, and not by choice/introversion/solitary confinement?

Junior year of high school I transferred to a co-ed boarding school. Pretty much immediately upon arrival, like within a week, maybe even less, this one particular couple just fucking slammed together like the world's strongest magnets. Both of them were sort of tubby and geeky and introverted, probably the exact image you get in your head when you think FOREVER ALONE. But they just loved each other so much, like pretty much from the moment they laid eyes on each other. You'd see them around campus, on benches and under trees and in stairwells, snuggling like the adorable love dorks they were. Via facebook, I'm pretty sure they're still together, going on 20 years later. If that is a thing that can happen, I think we're mostly all going to be OK.
posted by Sara C. at 6:29 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


Developing appreciation for the variety of human beauty matters as a societal goal because there are negative real-life consequences of not being perceived as beautiful-enough. It takes a lot of emotional energy to deal with constant micro-aggressions. It's possible that some of sexism and racism are folks not measuring up to a standard of white male male beauty.

In the Torah, ugly priests could not serve in the temple (hare lips, wall-eyes or eyes with damaged irises, missing or unusually-shaped limbs, multi-colored hair, beard bald patches, being short, too-small penis, undescended testicles, and so on).
Nowadays, less-conventionally beautiful people make up to 40% less pay at the same job.
I have read less-conventionally beautiful people are more likely to be depressed and don't live as long, but can' find the links right now.

The more we work on unexamined biases, the more equitable our society can be. And the more happy people we will have, and the happier we can be ourselves.
posted by Dreidl at 6:35 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


We can try to whistle past the graveyard and push people to accept the happy fiction that we're all beautiful... Which has certain advantages, but has the disadvantage of being false, and obviously so...

Or we can try to get people to recognize the less-Pollyanna-ish, actually true fact that physical beauty is something that, sub specie aeternitatis, really isn't that important. This has the virtue of being true, and important.


I looked up "sub specie aeternitatis" and didn't really get it on some level. Why do you think physical beauty (and all that comes with it) is unimportant?
posted by 23skidoo at 6:38 PM on April 8


Actually, every body is beautiful. I can objectively say this - I was taught to see it.

Foundation figure drawing, year 1 of art school: all sorts of nude models. All shapes, sizes, ages; scars, tattoos, piercings, cellulite, stretch marks, rashes, discolorations, hairs, wrinkles, rolls, occasionally a cold sore and even a scrotal hernia. Wow!

But the beauty: all the parts, flexing on a rigid, jointed frame. Layers of muscle, slack here, bunching there, trembling somewhere else to hold a long pose. Muscle that swells and then dwindles to straps and ropes of tendon. Skin stretched taut, or hanging and loose, or bunched. Fat billowing and enveloping and padding, or isolated in thrifty deposits on a ropy, wiry frame.

The bodies with rolls carry weight, solidity, gravity, substance. They take up space. But they're also fragile, balanced and supported on feet that look dainty, toes that look more vulnerable for being small. A fat body can seem constrained by gravity in one moment, and appear to defy it the next.

Bodies are cantilevered, contraposto, balanced and kinetic even in stillness. Skin is a landscape, a translucent story-telling surface that flushes and blanches, shines with perspiration and pebbles with chill - sometimes all in the space of a few moments. Joints, ribs, vertebral protrusions create rhythm with pattern and repetition of form.

The roundness of a body, illumined with highlight and velvety shadow, whether smooth or wrinkled, bony or creased, hairy, spotty, lumpy or pitted: it's beautiful. When you have to examine it, follow its contours without looking away and without blinking, so you can recreate them faithfully on paper with chalk, you discover the beauty. You caress it in effigy. It's the best lesson I took from school and I am so grateful for it.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:44 PM on April 8 [54 favorites]


Beauty is an opinion.
posted by bongo_x at 6:52 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


every body is beautiful (which isn't true)
I mean, pushing some idealistic-but-obviously-false point about everyone being beautiful seems like a fool's game
------------------------------------------------
Just to use myself as an example, I don't think I break any mirrors or anything, but I'm pretty confident that if you put me and Channing Tatum (even minus the fame) in a room and asked 100 random women who they'd rather date the numbers would lean heavily in his favor.


I'm pretty surprised to hear that anyone thinks that "Wanted as a dating partner by 100 randos" is a sufficiently broad enough definition for the word "beautiful." I've honestly never heard anything like that in all my born days.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:57 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


A body that has been cared for by it's owner is beautiful, regardless of measurable metrics.
posted by docpops at 7:17 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


So here's what I don't understand. Why is it so important to some people that I say that I'm not beautiful? Seriously: what's your investment in me not believing that I'm beautiful? It's not like any of us are unaware of society's beauty standards. I'm not asking you to think I'm beautiful or pretend you think I'm beautiful or anything like that. So if I tell myself that I'm beautiful rather than pretty-average-who-can-look-fairly-good-if-I-put-a-lot-of-effort-into-it-but-it-doesn't-matter-anyway, why does it matter to you?

Anyway, I want a copy of the Riots Not Diets one.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:19 PM on April 8 [14 favorites]


The whole thing about beautiful/not beautiful is so subjective and weird. I got teased mercilessly when I was a kid because I have big lips. Then Angelina Jolie became famous and everyone wanted them and now people have those bloated injected lips, and I still have full lips and people are jealous of them.

It's exactly like my mother said, "One day you'll grow up and all the stuff you don't like now, people will want."

It's true, all the stuff kids teased me about is stuff people compliment me on now. My lips, skin tone, curly hair...
posted by sweetkid at 7:22 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: a ranked list of sufficiently acceptable human bodies and faces.
posted by Scientist at 7:57 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, the whole physical-appearance-as-completely-independent-from-personality thing is wholly theoretical. Nobody you actually interact with is someone whose physical appearance you are capable of, like, objectively analyzing. Personally the older I get, the more I notice that people who seem happy, confident, or kind are way more attractive to me than people who seem cold, humorless, or miserable, regardless of how they might look in a still photo.
posted by threeants at 8:00 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


It's true, all the stuff kids teased me about is stuff people compliment me on now. My lips, skin tone, curly hair...

Yep. I experienced pretty much the same thing. About the same things too(in addition to comments about general facial structure, which used to be negative and are now positive)

...Which i think, actually leads me to something that bothers me about all these discussions. I can't help but think that the people who are so strongly "i see everything as beautiful!" and "i've never thought anything like that negative stuff in my life!" or similar sentiments both never experienced that sort of thing, and are likely forgetting or were very fortunate to never experience or be around those sorts of sentiments as a child.

Because maybe it's just my cynicism, bitterness, and general attitude but i can't stop myself from feeling like a lot of the people who espouse those sorts of "everything is beautiful, i don't even see anything but beauty anymore!" beliefs are either far down the rabbit hole of performing the social image they've been taught is the ideal of social justice in group stuff, or are fortunate to actually have somehow transcended all the societal programming they've gotten since essentially, they were born.

There's just something granola-ey and somehow pollyannaish about the "everything is cool" approach. The images that most resonate with me are the ones that go "This is stuff people normally think is good, and this is the other stuff that some people think is bad. That stuff people think is bad is fine too". It's hard to explain the difference in message, because it's subtle, but the entire "there is no difference everything is beautiful!" approach just seems tone deaf and hand wavey to me.

Beauty is an opinion.

Is a powerful soundbyte that, if expanded on a bit, would probably get a bunch of reblogs or applause or whatever depending on the venue. But without the context of "And a lot of people have similar opinions, so you have to operate in the reality that it isn't just some arbitrary thing with no basis that a lot of peoples opinions align" it just feels really hollow to me.

I feel like i'm having trouble being super articulate about this, but an awful lot of the discussion surrounding this sort of thing seems like it's worded to sound really powerful and feel like it has some grand, right on! message, but doesn't actually feel like it actually has that much power to me. It's like all marketing and no product, if that makes any sense. It's like it's mostly about making the writer and the reader feel like they're fighting the good fight without actually doing any effective fighting.

And that's not even delving in to the fact that the tons and tons of things like this i've read over the past 10+ years are nearly always penned by "traditionally attractive" people, and that the popular bloggers in social justice-y groups are often generally in that category as well. Male, female, outside the binary, gay, straight, POC, whatever. It's to the point that when there is a group of people contributing to something the people who aren't, when "everyone is beautiful", often almost feel like tokenism. Which is part of the reason so many of these statements just sound like political fluff to me.

I mean, maybe i'm just a neurotic projecting ridiculous mess, but when this made the rounds on my social media circle and lots of mostly attractive, early 20s mostly white people were going "OMG, she's so beautiful" it felt like in-group insincere performance BS like a puppy rolling over to get tummy rubs.

Like, It's easy to sound enlightened on the internet, but i bet if that person casually talked to you while waiting in line for take out you would recoil. I also absolutely love to hear people who champion this stuff try to reconcile how they'd be grossed out if a lot of people depicted in these drawings, or in photo collages often used for this sort of thing hit on them they'd react the same way. It's almost as hilarious as watching someone try and explain how they're emphatically not a racist, they're just not attracted to XYZ people.
posted by emptythought at 8:04 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]



Response to three ants:
Yeah, that's like how I think all of my friends are attractive. I don't have one friend I can think of where I'm like, "well, that person's just plug ugly." Do I only make friends with exceptionally pretty people? Possibly, but it's more likely that I think they're attractive because I like their personalities and how I feel when I'm around them.
posted by sweetkid at 8:04 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Like, seriously, I would rather have sex with a super fun and kind person whose head was LITERALLY a microwave oven instead of a head than with someone conventionally attractive with a dull personality. Are there people who wouldn't?
posted by threeants at 8:07 PM on April 8 [7 favorites]


maybe I just have a thing for microwaves

mmm set that shit to thaw
posted by threeants at 8:07 PM on April 8 [22 favorites]


emptythought, "beauty" isn't only about who you would or wouldn't want hitting on you.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:11 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


never experienced that sort of thing, and are likely forgetting or were very fortunate to never experience or be around those sorts of sentiments as a child.

Could not be further from the truth.

I was tired of being told I was not enough, so I decided I was enough.

I was tired of being judgmental about others' appearances, so I decided they were beautiful by fiat.

The reason I think everyone is beautiful is that I've seen the fallout from a system where some people are beautiful and others aren't.

Everyone's pretty. Everyone wins. You all get a trophy. Now let's put on our bathing suits and jump into the waves and forget about it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:17 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


emptythought, "beauty" isn't only about who you would or wouldn't want hitting on you

And my post, blatantly, wasn't only about that. That was a random example of how i feel that a lot of people don't walk the walk after they say stuff like this.
posted by emptythought at 8:19 PM on April 8


i feel that a lot of people don't walk the walk after they say stuff like this.

What does this even mean?

What does it mean to "walk the talk" on the idea that everyone is beautiful by default?

The only thing I can think of, which is something I very consciously work on, is less negative talk about my or others' bodies. I'm also personally working on less alteration of myself in order to meet conventional beauty standards, but being fully honest that's 90% laziness and enjoyment of doughnuts.

But, like, I don't know, the woman in your link looks like any one of thousands of women on the NYC subway. I'm not going to Protest Too Much and insist, "oh, she's sooooo beautiful!" but yeah, of course she is, in the way that we all are. She looks normal. She's attractive. If she was one of my coworkers or something and she brought her husband around to the company party, I wouldn't think "OMG SOMEONE MARRIED THAT HAG?" You know?

I think it's a bit ludicrous to say that if someone who looked like her walked up to me in the supermarket, I would literally recoil. I mean, if she offered me a hit of crack or mugged me or something, maybe? If she were naked in the supermarket, probably? If she took a shit on the floor, yeah. But seriously? She's a normal looking woman. If I recoiled every time I saw someone who looks like her, I'd spend my entire life recoiling.
posted by Sara C. at 8:26 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]


Do others find people in general just way more attractive than not? Like I would definitely make out with 97% of the people I come across in day to day life just out of curiosity if given the chance.
posted by threeants at 8:27 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


What does this even mean?

That i feel like a lot of people give this sort of thing a ton of lip service when there's a discussion about it, but are not really doing so in good faith. That if you approached it in a different way you could get an answer out of them that was entirely contradictory, in the exact kind of negative talk you describe in the next paragraph, to everything they were just espousing. Basically, that i think it's a really shallow belief for a lot of people.

As for the rest of that, that entire rant is frankly way out of left field for me. I wasn't saying that woman was shockingly disgusting or anything, and i agree that she looks pretty normal. I just thought the response i saw to it was outsized and circlejerky, and that it was a good example of the shallow "body positivity" stuff i see online which just feels like so much back-slapping to me.

Yea, it was a somewhat weird post, i'll admit that. And my point was that if the average young person who spends all day espousing this sort of thing online encountered that person on the street in conversation, they'd probably be a bit offput(did you even look through all the photos?), and depending on how full of shit and stuck up they are might even do the sort of "eww" i exaggerated, or drop a "weeeird" afterwards. Because yea, a lot of the people who write about this kind of stuff are upper middle class white kids, who will react that way.
posted by emptythought at 8:34 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


they'd probably be a bit offput(did you even look through all the photos?)

Yes I did, and I still think it's outrageous to assume that most people would be "offput" by the person in those photos.

The photos themselves are controversial, because we're told in the title that they're photos of a crack-addicted prostitute. But the woman in the photographs is just a person. I could easily have stood next to her on the subway a million times without noticing she was even there. When I lived in Upper Manhattan I had neighbors who looked identical to her. I have neighbors now in East LA who don't look literally like her, but are on a similar spectrum of "not conventionally attractive by racial standards", and I don't recoil when I see them, either.

I think you're either being extremely judgmental of others' motives, or maybe you're from a small town in the middle of Kansas or something where there are no brown people and everyone you know is a provincial hick.

It seems weird to assume the worst of people in that way. Some of us really are cool with everybody.
posted by Sara C. at 8:46 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


That i feel like a lot of people give this sort of thing a ton of lip service when there's a discussion about it, but are not really doing so in good faith.

I can believe that every person's body has beauty and not be a hypocrite that I don't feel attracted to every person and want to date them. They are different things, though not totally unrelated.
posted by rtha at 8:57 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Is a powerful soundbyte that, if expanded on a bit, would probably get a bunch of reblogs or applause or whatever depending on the venue. But without the context of "And a lot of people have similar opinions, so you have to operate in the reality that it isn't just some arbitrary thing with no basis that a lot of peoples opinions align" it just feels really hollow to me.

"That’s a great song" is an opinion. There are no great songs, there are songs that I think are great, there are songs a lot of people think are great. Same with beauty. It’s an opinion. Arguing about beauty is variations of "your favorite band sucks".

Wait, was I supposed to get a prize for expanding?
posted by bongo_x at 9:09 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


"soundbyte" "granola-ey" "pollyannaish" "tone deaf" "hand wavey" "political fluff" "lip service" "circlejerky"

Emptythought, you have a lot of strong feelings about this that I'm not sure really reflect other people as much as they do you. I mean, I understand in theory Lou Stell's art-school-informed aesthetic, and Scientist's anatomic/physiologic/neurological-functioning-as-miracle aesthetic, and the human-sympathy aesthetic espoused by a number of people in the thread. I don't share those aesthetics, because I'm still struggling with the headful of garbage about beauty that I've picked up by living in society. But I don't assume that other people are posturing just because they've found a way to dump the garbage out of their heads, or because they've resisted more successfully than I have all along. And even if they are posturing, isn't it better to play along than to argue that the invalid head-garbage is inescapable?
posted by gingerest at 9:12 PM on April 8 [9 favorites]


And my point was that if the average young person who spends all day espousing this sort of thing online encountered that person on the street in conversation, they'd probably be a bit offput(did you even look through all the photos?), and depending on how full of shit and stuck up they are might even do the sort of "eww" i exaggerated, or drop a "weeeird" afterwards. Because yea, a lot of the people who write about this kind of stuff are upper middle class white kids, who will react that way.

I'm not trying to "gotcha!" you, but: How many people have you encountered who use the phrase "Everyone is beautiful!" (or something close to that), only to find out that they also talk trash about people's looks? Or are you just making the assumption that people who use that phrase can't possibly be earnest when they use it?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:13 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


there's a non-zero percentage of people who are no doubt hypocrites about it, but that's not really the lesson i take away. upthread i'm in the beauty-is-everywhere camp, but it's not because i see beauty in everyone all the time (far from it unfortunately), it's more that i know someone somewhere could probably see it even if i can't, so what is the point of me saying "i can't see it." it's arrogant to think that my view of the thing is also the one and only truth of the thing.

i've also noticed that, especially on metafilter, if someone says "that person is beautiful/hot/amazing" i tend to look a lot harder. and sometimes i'll revise my initial assessment. anyway all of this is going on in my head anyway and because i'm generally a bitter terrible person it makes me feel better to try to be more body positive and to find the beauty in the world around me. (getting super emotional about humansofnewyork, thanks for nothing.)
posted by twist my arm at 9:17 PM on April 8 [9 favorites]


We went to the Bahamas for our honeymoon, and one of the diversions was a nude beach on St. Martin / Maarten. Now, I'm a huge hairy pudgy bear, and way out of shape. I don't feel terribly confident about my body, and never really have. Being naked in public is something I tend to go out of my way to avoid.

But you know what? When in Rome! I let it all hang out, man boobs, little floppy Jew wiener, flabby ass, everything. NOT A SINGLE FUCK WAS GIVEN BY ANYONE. I wasn't even the most out-of-shape dude there, by far (cruise ship, come on) and every single person was just chilling in their birthday suits, enjoying the mindblowingly gorgeous beach, talking, laughing. I met some really cool people there; they didn't say "eww, you're so hideously ugly and fat", they said, "Man, this is an amazing beach, huh? So where are you from?"

My main concern, surrounded by people much more classically beautiful than I, was the potential for an awkward boner, but I could feel my ghostly white skin frying to a crisp, so I was mostly just thinking about cancer, which is a highly effective boner mitigation technique.

Thinking about your beauty (or lack thereof) is one thing, but actually experiencing that it's okay to be who you are can actually change your whole outlook. I think putting yourself in a situation like that, just taking a deep breath and stripping down and enjoying yourself, can be a pretty transformative thing. Made me a little bit more comfortable in my skin, and can laugh about it without actually feeling shameful.

So um.... who's up for Jacuzzi? (peeling off sweatpants)
posted by jake at 9:20 PM on April 8 [22 favorites]


but i can't stop myself from feeling like a lot of the people who espouse those sorts of "everything is beautiful, i don't even see anything but beauty anymore!"

Well, I mean, I can only speak for myself, but my deal is not that I have suddenly or all my life transcended culturally/biologically inculcated notions of physical beauty or whatever. I'm not some ascendant wizard of egalitarianism, I'm a product of my culture and there's key parts of my brain that are totally autonomically enthusiastic about sorting faces and bodies and so on and distributing limbic thumbs up and down and so on.

But one of the better parts of being human is being able to think about my thinking, being able to stop and reconsider whether I actually want to validate all that lizard brain shit and cultural conditioning by letting my amygdala call the shots on how I interface with the world. I get to decide, to the degree that I'm capable, of whether what I value as a person actually corresponds to the first thing my hindbrain barfs up at me in any given situation.

Treating people poorly because they don't meet a conditioned standard of beauty is bullshit. Knowing it's bullshit makes it something I can re-examine. Re-examining it lets me question the source and the meaning of my reactions, lets me short circuit that conditioning and choose to try and behave differently, to think differently, to chuck out some of the shit my brain comes up with that I disapprove of and replace it with something a little fairer or more generous or more right.

It's not some magical caricatured blindness, it's forcefully working on my own shit because it's better for me and better for other people. It's struggling actively to find a better view of the world and of other people in it than the fucked up one cultural momentum set me up with.
posted by cortex at 9:26 PM on April 8 [18 favorites]


if someone says "that person is beautiful/hot/amazing" i tend to look a lot harder.

I had a friend in college I thought was plain or maybe even homely, felt a little sorry for her, even, and one day another friend said, "Oh, I think (Friend 1) is stunning, absolutely beautiful." And I really looked at Friend 1, and I saw what Friend 2 meant. It was a life-altering moment. I've been friends with these two people for over 20 years now, and I *still* look at Friend 1 and enumerate all her various beauties in my head and wonder how I missed them.

Having experienced that once, it's a lot easier to remind myself that aesthetics are very much subjective and dynamic, no matter what society says about Classic Timeless Beauty and its worth. On preview - yeah, it gives me something for my cerebrum to work with to counter the responses my limbic system is unhelpfully supplying.
posted by gingerest at 9:29 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


I compensate by getting really judgmental about people's shoes.
posted by Lou Stuells at 9:40 PM on April 8 [16 favorites]


cortex, I find the same exact thoughts ring true when examining racism, sexism, or any other -isms or -phobias. We're all encumbered pretty much from birth with this horrible cultural baggage, and it's on us to actively rummage through it and toss out the bad stuff. Confronting, rather than denying, your innate / learned / trained reactions to people, and rising above them, is way more useful than just declaring they don't exist.

I grew up in a household where I was told very clearly from a young age that people of other colors or cultures are no different than us, just with a varied exterior, just like puppies can be black or white or tan and still be the exact same breed, and I can be best friends with ALL of them. That lesson alone made it so much easier to deal with the constant barrage of societal bullshit trying to convince me otherwise. Bless my damn parents.
posted by jake at 9:40 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to "gotcha!" you, but: How many people have you encountered who use the phrase "Everyone is beautiful!" (or something close to that), only to find out that they also talk trash about people's looks? Or are you just making the assumption that people who use that phrase can't possibly be earnest when they use it?

What acceptable answer could i give to this? did you want a number? is "around half, trending towards a bit more" fine? It's not a random assumption i'm making based on nothing but brainfarts, it's more on the level of "oh great, this drunk person staggering up the street my direction is probably going to try and talk to me". It's like, an assumption based on previous experience.

For what it's worth though, i like a lot of the answers since i wrote that long post. It's really made me think about this a lot today. And it was already something i had thought about a lot for years, and something i thought about a lot more before i initially posted.

I guess what really bugged me the most, and motivated me to post that was how a lot of discourse and propaganda about this presents it as if it's like... something on the level of no longer saying homophobic or racial slurs, and even less aggressive language of that variety. As in, that it's something that's 100% high level thought and brain software kind of stuff where if you just think about it hard, it'll go away. When it fact, it's more like attraction where it's something deep seated that begins forming before you can even make anything but "goo" noises.

Someone could make a vow to never call another person the F or R word again and if they were serious that would be that. But accepting "everyone is equally beautiful" is a journey. It's like deciding to quit eating fast food Vs stopping drinking heavily or something. And that's where the flippancy of the "stop doing this bad thing" gets to me; it's being treated as if it's a 5 minute choice.

So yea, i think i'm associating other peoples own struggles with Doing The Right Thing with insincerity because i can be a bit of a dick. When in reality, they're just spreading the good word while fighting their own battle.

Or something, i don't know.
posted by emptythought at 1:00 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


The point being - "everyone and everything is beautiful" is true because everyone has differing opinions on what is beautiful. you may not find someone in particular beautiful, but you can respect that someone else probably does, yes? So, in a larger sense, you can appreciate that everyone posesses qualities that someone, somewhere, finds beautiful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 PM on April 8 [5 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Oh, yes. This.

There is an incident that has really stuck in my mind, and which also makes me look like a real asshole but I'll post it anyway.

So, I was at a loooong wedding about ten years back. During the speeches, my mind had drifted off and I'd been quietly assessing what the other women were wearing and how they looked. Everyone was dressed to the nines, except my friend B. And (God, I squirm admitting this), I'd just been thinking that B was such a lovely person, but she was really objectively very plain. If only she'd make a bit more effort with her appearance! Her hair was super-frizzy and needed a good cut, she was wearing no makeup when just a touch would have done wonders, she'd stacked on the weight, and what was she even wearing?!

Just then, B's husband arrived (having come late, straight from another function). As he strolled across the expanse of grass towards the marquee, I saw his eyes scan the crowd until he picked out B. His whole face lit up, and his eyes remained fixed on her. As he leaned down to kiss her hello, there was a lull in the conversation near me, and I heard him whisper fervently in her ear: 'God, you're beautiful'.

I can honestly say that it changed the way I thought about beauty forever.
posted by Salamander at 1:13 AM on April 9 [30 favorites]


I realize that this is going to make me sound both crazy and like a narcissist, emptythought, but I think that what you're missing is that, for some (maybe a lot?) of us, this isn't about Doing The Right Thing with regards to other people. It's about being a little less hateful and abusive towards ourselves. I am not claiming to be immune to beauty standards with regard to other people, but I can tell you with complete sincerity that I have never in my life thought the hateful and cruel things about other people's appearance that I have routinely thought about my own. I have never thought that anyone but me was so ugly that he or she shouldn't be seen in public. I don't think I do recoil from people who aren't conventionally attractive, but I sure do sometimes expect people to recoil from me. I don't really think that this is about pretending that everyone adheres equally to conventional standards of beauty. It's about striving to see my body as something that I should love and take care of, not as a problem to be hidden or fixed.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:51 AM on April 9 [12 favorites]


But one of the better parts of being human is being able to think about my thinking, being able to stop and reconsider whether I actually want to validate all that lizard brain shit and cultural conditioning by letting my amygdala call the shots on how I interface with the world. I get to decide, to the degree that I'm capable, of whether what I value as a person actually corresponds to the first thing my hindbrain barfs up at me in any given situation.

I hate to do the whole, "yes, this" thing, but, yes, THIS!
posted by MartinWisse at 2:01 AM on April 9


Going back to the original post, I appreciate the sentiment Bust is trying to get across, but with the exception of the woman in the Oasis shirt early on and the woman with the beer belly and unshaved legs further on, most of the drawings show people only a few degrees out from conventional standards of attractiveness. It's easy to say everbody is beautiful if your examples are actually not all that ugly (for conventional standards of ugliness) in the first place.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:08 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


Touching on what conventional standards of beauty are for women, there is Veet's new advert campaign that advises us "Don't risk dudeness!"

Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by Kitteh at 4:07 AM on April 9 [8 favorites]


Taking that literally... that means that every female body is biologically destined to turn into a male one unless the owner intervenes with nature.

Strange, strange commercial and more than a bit homophobic.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:31 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Nobody cares about your jiggly belly but they will snicker about your haole tourist lobster color.

I'M A GINGER IT'S THE ONLY COLOR I HAVE

But seriously, I'm glad my wife is around. She likes my ginger-ness and doesn't mind me being 60 lbs. overweight even though most mornings I feel like I'm looking at the Michelin Man in the mirror. She still thinks I'm handsome and sexy after 24 years. But I'm sure she feels the same way, as I look past her post-baby tummy and boobs that are a lot less perky than they used to be and see the woman I fell in love with so many years ago.

I think part of this is acknowledging that we are all our own worst critics. My midsection looks way bigger to me in the mirror than it does to most everyone else. We exaggerate our faults in our own minds, and I think we need to remind ourselves of that every day.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:35 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


most of the drawings show people only a few degrees out from conventional standards of attractiveness.

The Veet commercial linked right below this comment is a great example of the way that even someone who is model-beautiful, who meets every societal beauty standard plus others we haven't even heard of, is going to be surrounded every day by advertising and articles and movie scenes that are designed and focus-group-tested to make you feel shitty.

It really, truly isn't about objective standards of ugly/beauty, it's about people feeling good about themselves and moderating their judgments of others.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I am just agog that about that advert. And Too-Ticky is right; it's more than just a little homophobic. I'd also argue that there's a vein of transphobia in it too.
posted by Kitteh at 6:05 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


And Too-Ticky is right; it's more than just a little homophobic. I'd also argue that there's a vein of transphobia in it too

It really is a commercial that is designed to make everyone feel shitty. Women are supposed to feel shitty about not being perfect hairless barbie dolls and the homophobia/trans issues are obvious. And then a totally normal looking dude with a beard is being used as the "yuck!" punchline in contrast to our male model protagonist. All it's missing is really obvious racism or a homeless guy getting run over by a bus for laughs and you'd have your bingo card full in one 30 second spot.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:14 AM on April 9 [7 favorites]


And I also have a hard time understanding the horror of a fuzzy leg. A tangle of fuzzy legs is something everyone should enjoy. Mind you, I fit into punchline demographics all over the place, so maybe I'm just not the target audience for evil advertising.
posted by sonascope at 6:21 AM on April 9


Beauty is not an inherent physical property of objects/persons in the real world. Beauty is an attribute in the mind of the perceiver. If someone honestly tells you that they find a certain person/painting/song beautiful, it makes no sense to tell them that they are "wrong."

Everyone is beautiful to someone. The difference in the so-called "beautiful people" is that they are perceived as beautiful by more people. It's a statistical thing.

Scarlett Johansson is perceived as beautiful by a lot of people.

My wife is perceived as beautiful by many people, but not as many as see Scarlett Johannson that way.

That obese woman with severe eczema that I saw in Wal-Mart last night might only be seen as beautiful by her children.

The biggest advantage of this sort of body-positive messaging is that it may help an individual perceive him/herself as beautiful. If someone appreciates their own body, they are more likely to be happy. If I were to tell them that they are incorrect to find themselves beautiful that would be an arrogant attempt to insist that my personal aesthetic is somehow universally correct.
posted by tdismukes at 6:33 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Beauty =/= "I'd hit that"

HTH.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:19 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


There seems to be an awful lot of conflation of “beauty” with “sexual or romantic attraction” going on in this thread.

I have no interest whatsoever in dating women. I am not sexually attracted to women at all. But sometimes I will see a woman I find so incredible aesthetically pleasing that it stops me in my tracks. Maybe her clothes hang just perfectly right, or there’s a particular grace to the line of her posture or movements, or something about her coloring, or maybe the flow and hues of her hair remind me of the trees around the lake on that day when all the autumn leaves are perfect, and she’s just so damn beautiful it almost brings tears to my eyes.

It doesn’t bring any particular feeling to my loins, and it doesn’t make me want to get to know her or spend time with her. It just makes me appreciate something nice to look at in the world, and it can take many, many varied forms.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:36 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


There seems to be an awful lot of conflation of “beauty” with “sexual or romantic attraction” going on in this thread....

I'm the same way. I have no interest in dating women but I sure do find some incredibly beautiful and nice to look at. For me at least, the men I'm sexually attracted to I would say I find beautiful in some way but all men that I would say are beautiful, or handsome, or nice to look at, or interesting to look at I don't necessarily find sexually attractive.
posted by Jalliah at 7:48 AM on April 9


emptythought: "it's more on the level of 'oh great, this drunk person staggering up the street my direction is probably going to try and talk to me'."

And this still has nothing to do with the drunk person's physical attributes.
posted by Orb at 7:53 AM on April 9


I think that if anyone has taught us anything about beauty it's RuPaul. You are beautiful just as you are, you are beautiful with a tuck, padding, wigs and makeup. Beauty is a fluid and flexible thing, and it's entirely definable by ourselves alone.

Beauty is ultimately subjective. What fits into your aesthetic is specific to you, and you alone.

The rest is just static.

I think confidence isn't believing that you are 100% beautiful to 100% of folks, but that you are beautiful and amazing to the people that matter to you, and the rest can fuck themselves if they can't take a joke.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:36 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


I think that if anyone has taught us anything about beauty it's RuPaul.


OMG, there's another example. I have no sexual or romantic interest in PuPaul, in or out of drag. And when he's out of drag, I think he's just kind of cute.

But when she walk onstage in drag, sometimes I can barely breathe for the sheer beauty. I'm an atheist, but sometimes it feels the way people describe otherworldly or religious visions.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:00 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


I was born with a body that was not-standard-issue, so I grew up being stared at and teased from kindergarten on. I can't say I'm glad I went through that, but it did instill a "fuck you, I'm just fine the way I am" attitude in me as an adult. The older I get, the less I care.

There are things I like about myself, there are things I don't, but the things I don't can't be changed, not through weight gain/loss, not even through surgery, so I've learned it's a lot simpler to just accept them. (I wish I'd accepted them at 15 or 20.)

Am I beautiful? I don't know, it doesn't seem like a useful question to ask myself and it doesn't seem like a useful question to ask of others. I'd rather be known for compassion or wisdom. I've already got gray hairs and I'm inevitably going to get wrinkly and saggy so it really doesn't matter if I'm beautiful because it's not a quality that's going to last.
posted by desjardins at 9:03 AM on April 9


I am not talking about that kind of beauty, though, and I think a lot of other people here aren't either. The kind of beauty that I try to see (in myself and in others) is not dependent on unwrinkled skin or firm muscle tone or good hair. It is a forever quality.
posted by rtha at 9:37 AM on April 9


I have a good friend who has disorder that has caused unusual bone growth in her face. She get stares on the street. She has amazing eyes, dresses well, has an talent with accessories, and her hair always looks great. But she is not, in fact, beautiful. The people who've taken her photo on the subway (and think they're being sneaky about it) don't care about how wicked a sense of humor she has, or that she's generous.

It's easy for those of us who are conventional looking to say "we're all beautiful," or "it's what inside that counts."
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:08 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


As in, that it's something that's 100% high level thought and brain software kind of stuff where if you just think about it hard, it'll go away. When it fact, it's more like attraction where it's something deep seated that begins forming before you can even make anything but "goo" noises.

Fair enough. But if that's the case, I don't think answer is for people to embrace their mean girl reptile brains as their true selves. Instead, we need to walk the walk: to find beauty in people, and to treat them well. Is it gonna be perfect? No. Does it beat the alternative? Kinda.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:17 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


The corpse in the library I think there's room to find beauty in unusual features even if we have to acclimate to them first. I suppose it's a matter of breaking down the definition of beauty, then. If you saw a person with a similar condition to your friend's, would they be a bit less unsettling for you because you've become acclimated to your friend, and associated her distinctive appearance with feelings of fondness and admiration? Would that mean you find the similar person's appearance less aversive than you otherwise might? Does 'less aversive' translate to 'closer to beautiful'?

I have a tuxedo cat. We've had him since 1997. I adore him, and more importantly, the man I love adores him. Because of this, any tuxedo cat I see is precious, dapper, and charming. I'm okay with saying that I find them more beautiful, because even though I know why I feel it, the experience of pleasure at the sight of one is identical whether it's a siamese cat (which I have never owned but always thought were the prettiest sort of cat) vs. a tuxedo cat, which I used to have no particular opinion about. In fact I think the tuxedo guys have come to outrank the 'meezers, in my estimation. Funny how they've gotten cuter over the years!

I like these affirmations. I don't see them as 'change your opinion instantly, like flipping a switch' - I take them more as snowflakes that accumulate. The flip side to micro-aggressions, little nanometer nudges to the Overton Window.
posted by Lou Stuells at 10:50 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I guess this is again where I differ. My mean girl reptile brain is part of me, as is the arrogant asshole, and so on. I don't need to exile those parts of me from my self-concept to go out in the world and treat people correctly (which is to say: with baseline courtesy, and dignity), or to treat myself the same.

While I do talk back to my Inner Mean Girl ("That's just your opinion, maaan..." "Yeah, so, who made YOU the boss of the world?") I doubt I'll ever get to an idealized state where I'm not passing judgment internally. And I think that's OK. Thought-bubble me is very different than speech-bubble me, and as long as it doesn't bleed over into overt behavior, I don't see an issue.
posted by nacho fries at 10:51 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Everyone is beautiful on the slide, stained with DAPI and anti-actin fluorescent monoclonal at 10x-50x zoom. Except for those faulty actin people. Man, what a mess that is.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:04 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


I guess this is again where I differ.

I don't see you as differing, I don't think. You accept a part of you that you know is not ideal; you don't beat yourself up for having that; at the same time, you don't just go "oh well guess I'm just an asshole!" and leave it at that. You strive to do better (or at least not do worse all the time) even knowing that you will never attain perfection. That's all any of us can do.
posted by rtha at 11:04 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Everyone is beautiful except for me. Everyone is stupid except for me. No! We're all ugly fools, and we're in this together!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:28 AM on April 9


> If you saw a person with a similar condition to your friend's, would they be a bit less unsettling for you because you've become acclimated to your friend, and associated her distinctive appearance with feelings of fondness and admiration

I've never met anyone else who looks like her, so we'll never know.

One of my cats is also a tuxedo cat, but I'm not following your chain of thought there. Tuxedo cats are not unconventional or unattractive. Or human.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:29 AM on April 9


It's easy for those of us who are conventional looking to say "we're all beautiful," or "it's what inside that counts."

When I was courting my now ex-partner, she was a professionally, classically trained vocalist. She'd moved on from training in the New England Conservatory to a small college in Spokane, Washington, and was planning to move back to Boston and study Musicology at Brandeis. We met, courted, eventually I attended one of her concerts.

I'd grown up with classical music and that's where my tastes were as far as classical vocalists went. She had a beautiful, rich, reassuring mezzo-soprano voice and I thought it was lovely. Part of me was starstruck.

But her concerts by the time I met her and started attending them were in contemporary music. Now, I'm not sure how fluent any of you are with contemporary music, but it doesn't follow conventions or aesthetics of classical music. A lot of contemporary music doesn't follow the same conventional tonal scale that most of us are used to in classical music. Sometimes the scales are weird and hard to predict. Sometimes they're a different number of notes on different intervals. It's hard to say. There's aesthetic but it takes practice to hear it and understand what's beautiful and what's not, what's jarring, what's intentionally so, what's accidental.

Some abstract contemporary artists eschew scales altogether and bash notes around and together, apparently at random, seeking beauty in chaos. Some artists set up the sort of overall tonal, harmonic, overtone scale by picking objects with different tonal character, bomping them, strumming them, dripping water on them, drizzling sand on them, whatever evokes the sound they want to evoke in the performance space they have to work with, with the audience they've cultivated or invited. The whole is the sum of the parts, and depending how it goes and how your ears are trained and what you expect, it's lovely and beautiful sometimes. And other times it sucks and you get a headache and you want to leave.

It really depends. Both on what you encounter and how you take it. What your expectations are or were, how it all goes down.

It took a few concerts for me to start getting an ear for contemporary music. And then I started enjoying it. But partly I enjoyed it because I was in love with her and sometimes it felt like I never would have stuck with it if it weren't for her. And now? I don't really pursue it any more. But sometimes I find something weird or contemporary or somehow cultivating or motivating or profound or intriguing and I listen and remember and enjoy.

But if at the start you had asked me if it were beautiful, I would have said "No!" and in the middle of it, "Of course" and later, "Depends" and now, "Sometimes". And I don't think any of those ways are a particularly wrong way to look at it.

What it tells me though is that our tastes change as we change and our lives mold and shape us to like or dislike certain things. And I think that that's the truth we should aspire to accept. I don't think there's an absolute in the game of beauty. Except perhaps that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. That we love what we will love and that what you loved when you were young will rarely inform us of what you will like when you get older still.
posted by kalessin at 11:32 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


It's easy for those of us who are conventional looking to say "we're all beautiful," or "it's what inside that counts."

So, confession time.

Relatively recently, I got an OKCupid message from someone with dwarfism. The site rated us as highly compatible, his profile was great, he lived nearby, all systems were go.

Except... I wasn't attracted to him. I spent a lot of time evaluating whether I wasn't attracted to him because of his disability (would I date someone who is 3 and a half feet tall, like, in general?), or whether I wasn't attracted to him because of just what he looks like as a person, the same way I am attracted/not attracted to anyone. Height is historically not a thing with me (I'm on the short side, myself, and have dated many people who are my height or shorter). I have on many occasions watched an episode of Game Of Thrones and thought, "I'd so hit that," about Peter Dinklage.

I did a lot of soul searching about the right course of action. Should I go out with him, because it would be rude/ableist/mean not to? Maybe this dude is the love of my life. Maybe he's amazing in bed. Maybe he's hilarious. Maybe he's the father of my hypothetical future children. Who am I to say that I can't find X or Y feature attractive? Ultimately, however, I decided that I just wasn't attracted to him, the same way I might be about any person on OKCupid who messaged me. And that, just as it wouldn't be right for me to discount him out of hand because of a medical condition, it also wouldn't be right to go out with someone I knew I wasn't attracted to, simply out of misplaced third grade "bring enough for the whole class" fairness.

Still, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't see someone like him on the street and recoil in horror, thinking "SO UGLY OMG GET IT AWAY FROM ME". Just... there's another person out there in the world I'm pretty sure I don't want to have sex with for arcane reasons of why anybody might or might not want to have sex with anyone.
posted by Sara C. at 11:51 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Which is why I said that while the scale may have changed (we do have more images relative to our attention), blaming the idea of mass body consciousness on photography is wrong, especially given that mass body consciousness was linked to previous media. Blaming photography is an extremely facile explanation.

I wasn't blaming it on photography per se. I think that issue of scale matters, and quite a lot.

In the book "Emergence," the point is made that "more is different." A small number of ants leaving pheromone trails creates a different message from a huge number of ants leaving pheromone trails. The first says "there is probably food somewhere in this general direction" the second can say "There is definitely food DUE NORTH." Scale is the difference between small town culture and big city culture -- which are very different things.

When I was younger and I read a lot of fashion magazines, watched a lot of TV, etc, I think I was mentally inundated with these images of what people "should" look like probably more than with images of what people actually look like, in part because it is deemed rude and aggressive and all kinds of socially wrong to stare at other people. Even in a face-to-face conversation, you don't take in the image of the other person as much as you can if it is a picture in a magazine article where you can examine every detail to your heart's content.

In part due to my health issues, I haven't read too many magazines in recent years. With getting divorced, I have more often than not simply not owned a TV. TV mattered a lot more to my ex than to me. I spend a lot of my time online, often on discussion forums like this one where the written word and ideas dominate over imagery. When I am looking at photos, they are more likely to be unprofessional selfies than glamour shots in a magazine. I think the ratio of time I look at other actual people versus highly edited, carefully masterminded Hollywood-style imagery has likely flipped. I think I look at ordinary people more these days than at idealized imagery.

I no longer feel like I can never be beautiful enough. I did feel that way when I was younger. When I was younger, I got a lot of feedback indicating that I was a lot more beautiful than average but it never lived up to something in my head. It never felt perfect enough. I always felt like if I could just get that stuff right, somehow my life would be better in some important way. I am 48 and I happened to shave my head about a week ago (for medical reasons) which makes me feel kind of butt ugly, frankly. I am a pretty socially conservative female and I am not really psychologically comfortable with the stubble on my head. But I don't feel deeply shamed or something, which I know I would have felt had this happened when I was younger. In fact, my sons have suggested previously that I ought to shave my head for medical reasons and I just couldn't make that choice -- the fact that I was a woman was psychologically too much of an obstacle for me.

So my relationship to perceived social pressure or expectations about my looks has changed hugely over the years and I feel very clear that it is in part because I have largely unplugged from looking constantly at magazine images, TV images, movie images, billboard images and on and on and on. The weight of the constant reinforcing of what I "should" look like is no longer there.

During my divorce, men with a sufficient track record of real life experience with other women gave me good reviews on how I looked naked. They mentally compared me to other actual women they had actually slept with and found me pleasing. Men with little to no experience with real live women who were mentally comparing me to movies, magazines and porn were pretty scathing. a) The men saying nice things got to see me again. The men being insulting did not. b) This said something very powerful to me about how what we have viewed shapes our expectations.

Anyway, if that doesn't make it clear to you, then probably nothing will. I think that scale which we both agree exists really, seriously fucking matters to the psychology of many modern peoples who get inundated with it. Obviously, not everyone is equally inundated. I am turning into an old fogey who hasn't heard the latest popular songs and hasn't seen the latest popular movies and so on. There is a (mostly social) down side to being that out of touch with current culture. The up side: I like my body and how I look a helluva lot more than I did when I was younger and probably objectively better looking.
posted by Michele in California at 12:35 PM on April 9 [6 favorites]


My mean girl reptile brain is part of me...

For better or worse, my inner mean girl is usually pretty silent with regard to judging how other people look. (She does, however, have a lot of opinions about things like personal space on the subway and how people should actually be driving.)

I guess that when it comes to beauty, the floor is usually given to solipsistic social anxiety girl, who isn't focused on other people's flaws—or other people in general—because she's wrapped up in b.s. about how I look, and if I smell, and am I sitting too close to that person, and dear god, why did I do the thing? I should never have done the thing.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:12 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I have had luck shifting my inner mean girl onto aesthetic things people have a choice over, like fashion sense. I feel perfectly OK judging someone for dressing badly -- especially if it's dressing badly out of bad taste, not for economic reasons -- whereas I think body shaming ("ugh look at that gross muffin-top, why is she wearing those jeans...") is beyond the pale.
posted by Sara C. at 1:15 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


I realize that this is going to make me sound both crazy and like a narcissist, emptythought, but I think that what you're missing is that, for some (maybe a lot?) of us, this isn't about Doing The Right Thing with regards to other people. It's about being a little less hateful and abusive towards ourselves. I am not claiming to be immune to beauty standards with regard to other people, but I can tell you with complete sincerity that I have never in my life thought the hateful and cruel things about other people's appearance that I have routinely thought about my own

I left anything about this out of my post because i didn't want what i posted to seem too bloggy, or like i was making it about myself. This is in no way a dig on you, it's just kind of offputting to see someone think that just because i wrote entirely about how people see eachother, that i had no consideration for how people(or even, how i myself) see themselves.

That's actually somewhere that i just barely started to go when i was replying to sweetkid about the teasing. Both in seeing how my appearance wasn't the norm, and in being teased from early childhood to my late teens i developed a rather (un)healthy good ball of self loathing on that front.

And this still has nothing to do with the drunk person's physical attributes.

What? I don't even get your point here. Mine was that when you've seen events and behavior lead to a certain point several times before, you grow to accept and dread that it will happen again.

There seems to be an awful lot of conflation of “beauty” with “sexual or romantic attraction” going on in this thread.

And i feel like it came from an odd fixation on exactly the way i, and maybe a few others worded their comments. I do not have some deep seated misunderstanding of what the point is here. I just wanted to set my opinions to the page in the simplest language possible, and since i used that type of attraction as an example everyone just fixated on that.

I think where it went off the rails is that i was trying to convey the idea that there is no objective beauty. There's commonly and widely held beliefs, but it's all subjective attraction kind of stuff... And everyone who expresses something negative is essentially on the same level as the guys going "2/10 would not bang".

...To which i can of course see someone harping me further with "There goes that sexual attraction talk again", but i hope that makes it more clear why i even brought that up at all.
posted by emptythought at 10:15 PM on April 9


"I wasn't blaming it on photography per se. I think that issue of scale matters, and quite a lot.

In the book "Emergence," the point is made that "more is different." A small number of ants leaving pheromone trails creates a different message from a huge number of ants leaving pheromone trails. The first says "there is probably food somewhere in this general direction" the second can say "There is definitely food DUE NORTH." Scale is the difference between small town culture and big city culture -- which are very different things.
"

You started off talking about still photos, and I pointed out that insecurity about body image on a popular scale precedes that. You don't get women in constricting corsets or wearing white lead make-up without some pretty big underlying body image issues.

Likewise, while the scale of exposure to still photography probably does play a part, you're ignoring that there's still plenty of fucked-up body image media that's done through video, and you're also ignoring an even bigger concurrent development with still photography, that of advertising on a mass scale.

The focus on still photography is just odd and ahistorical. Saying, 'Because… ants!' doesn't make it less so.
posted by klangklangston at 1:14 AM on April 10


There was a really great, simple pair of posts going around Tumblr that was a total game changer for me on the weight loss issue:
A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, [it is] an obsession about female obedience.
Lois Griffin (via fawun)

Understanding this concept is probably the only reason I know longer have weight issues. Instead of thinking that I should be thinner to look nicer, I’ve got it in my head that thinner=more compliant and over my dead body is that ever happening.
(via iamayoungfeminist)

And that was just it. That was exactly it. The pressure to become thin is from people/structures that want me to be compliant and insecure. To desire approval. It has zero to do with strength, or health, or beauty. So, now, I eat when I'm hungry and my gym routine is centered around building giant muscles instead of endless, punishing cardio. My body is amazing, and I'll be damned if I'm going to mistreat it in the service of fashion/boners/reinforcing unattainable standards.
posted by almostmanda at 6:07 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


See, though, the problem with Lois Griffin's comment is that it casts a bit of a side-eye against thinness - which does no favors for the women who actually are just thin by virtue of biology.

During my 20's, I actually was the kind of super-skinny woman that's supposed to be the ideal, even though I did absolutely no exercising and ate like a Clydesdale Horse; I had the metabolism of a coked-up lab rat, basically. But rather than having people falling at my feet in awe because I was supposedly the Platonian Ideal of body weights, I was getting my own type of "you're too skinny" bodyshaming criticism instead.

Fortunately, though, I somehow was born with this huge quantity of notgiveafuck when it comes to trying to change my appearance to please others, so all that did to me was make me think "beauty standards are wack, yo" and just go about my business.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:16 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


But rather than having people falling at my feet in awe because I was supposedly the Platonian Ideal of body weights, I was getting my own type of "you're too skinny" bodyshaming criticism instead.

Yeah, I get this, too. Stuff like "Strong is the new skinny!" and "Real women have curves!" initially sound really comforting and empowering to my (overweight) ears, but really, they're just body policing in a different direction. I feel like that doesn't really undermine the point, though, which is that awesome women that give zero fucks about approval in all other areas of their life still have trouble unlearning all of the (conflicting, forever changing, but ever present) messages about what their bodies should look like. I found it really helpful to frame it that way.
posted by almostmanda at 6:28 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I have had luck shifting my inner mean girl onto aesthetic things people have a choice over, like fashion sense. I feel perfectly OK judging someone for dressing badly
For what it's worth, it's really hard to dress well if you're sickened by the sight of yourself in the mirror. People with a lot of body issues often dress badly because they don't want to focus on their bodies in the way that you have to do to figure out what looks good on you and because they don't think there's any point to dressing up something that is hideous. I wasn't able to give myself permission to care about clothes until I had made a lot of progress on my body issues. So you may feel perfectly justified judging people for not meeting your aesthetic standards, but I'm a lot less inclined to let you off the hook.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:30 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


The whole "but skinny people face bodyshaming too!" reminds me a little of how some men (NOT ALL MEN) complain in sexism threads. Or "reverse racism." Yes, any body shaming is bad, but the scale (no pun intended) is really different.

For every "real women have curves" campaign, I can see 1000 representations of my body type in media. (I say this as someone who is ~95 lbs and has a really hard time gaining weight.)
posted by desjardins at 7:58 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


So your shame is valid but my frustration with people accusing me of having anorexia was something I should have just sucked up and dealt with?

My point - and the point of this fop - was that "hey, all shapes are beautiful so this trying to pick on someone because of their shape is total damn bullshit". And that is something everyone of any shape can get behind, together.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


...that had a weird word choice, sorry - rather, "your hurt is valid".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on April 10


No, your frustration is entirely valid, I'm saying that at a cultural level, the shame directed at skinny people is not on the same scale as shame directed at fat people.
posted by desjardins at 8:21 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


The skinny shame absolutely exists, but it doesn't exist within a vacuum--it is very often coming from a place of "you have somehow managed to attain most of our impossible demands, but society demands that, as you are female, we punish you regardless." That first part is what distinguishes it, in my mind, from fat-shaming.

"You're a success, and therefore we must knock you down a peg" is very different from,
"You're a failure, and we shall kick you while you're down."

Both are demoralizing and warped, but the skinny shame basically says, you can't win. If you know you CAN'T win, it's much easier to say "well, fuck you then, why would I play your lose-lose game?"

The fat shaming is crueler because it lies to you and pretends you CAN win, if only you hated and flagellated yourself enough, if only you were a better person, if only you just didn't suck.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:13 AM on April 10 [13 favorites]


Maybe it would be better to rephrase the Lois Griffin comment as

A culture centered around female weight-loss is not an obsession about female beauty, [it is] an obsession about female obedience.

Then you lose the whole "skinny women vs. fatter women: WHO HAS IT WORSE" circular firing squad.
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


it's really hard to dress well if you're sickened by the sight of yourself in the mirror

Yeah, this is really not the kind of fashion mockery I'm talking about.

I wear a t-shirt and jeans like 99% of the time, so I'm definitely never going to judge somebody for dressing down or avoiding fashion because they don't feel confident enough.

I'm talking about, like, Bai Ling.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The skinny shame absolutely exists, but it doesn't exist within a vacuum--it is very often coming from a place of "you have somehow managed to attain most of our impossible demands, but society demands that, as you are female, we punish you regardless."

This. Society looks much more kindly on women who become skinny. Women who are naturally skinny are seen as undeserving of praise, because they didn't earn skinny through an grueling lifelong mission of self-denial.
posted by almostmanda at 10:53 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


I think the concept of judging someone for "dressing badly" is odd. One could argue that a woman who chooses to dress in a way that doesn't match popular conceptions of dressing "well" is actually the wise one. She isn't opting into having her purchasing choices and self-image manipulated by marketing campaigns and peer pressure and very arbitrary definitions of what well-dressed means. For example, people will repeat, without questioning the logic, that wearing good shoes (i.e. expensive, constructed a certain way) is essential to being put-together. Guess what? It's not. It's just one of those bullshit exclusionary "rules" that people parrot to reassure themselves that they are "doing it right" while those poor shlubs in Payless kicks are doing it wrong.

I enjoy fiddling with fashion and style these days, but that wasn't always the case. I can't tell you how many women took it upon themselves to fashion-shame me when I was younger just because I chose to wear comfy, shlubby outfits. "You'd be so much prettier if..." etc. And do not get me started on the Makeup Police..."You'd be so much prettier if..." again.

It's like a fucking civil war out there -- woman against woman, bayoneting each other over the stupidest shit.
posted by nacho fries at 10:53 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


One could argue that a woman who chooses to dress in a way that doesn't match popular conceptions of dressing "well" is actually the wise one.

This is exactly why I feel like it's fair game. It's more "your favorite band sucks", less "you are a terrible person". We can disagree on whether those saggy diaper butt pants are ever OK, and it doesn't have to become a referendum on what any individual's body looks like or whether they are acceptable as a human being.
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Hell, the concept of judging someone for their appearance at all is odd, outside of a few specific perameters (I'm talking, like, adopting a different religion's dress as a joke or a sports uniform or something way weird like that). An old roommate of mine works for Michael Kors, and she always had the best attitude to fashion I've seen - it wasn't something to obsess over, it was just like a big game of fun dressup. Sometimes it's just fun to wear a fur vest if you feel like it, but other times if all you feel like is a t-shirt and jeans, that's fantastic too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


I used to be morbidly obese, and then became skinny but and the "real women have curves" was worse than the fat shaming for me, probably because like like_a_friend said it really rubbed it in that you can never win, but also because of the "real woman" thing that was so spelled out. The fat shaming never explicitly told me that I wasn't a real woman. Also, the "real women have curves" came from other women, who until then I thought were my allies.
posted by blub at 11:05 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


The criticizing clothing discussion reminds me of the Self Magazine Tutu picture. The media made a big issue of the fact that the woman in the picture was battling cancer and that *that* is why Self shouldn't have made fun of her but I really agreed with this article that stated that making fun of others is not so fun even when the person does not have cancer.
posted by blub at 11:17 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


The "real woman" campaign is an atrocity. And thin women DO get a lot of judgmental flak, and not in some sort of "You meet the ideal" backstabbing way. They are exhorted to eat more; to get implants or wear padded bras; and to not wear certain styles of clothing.

So, women without sufficiently "womanly" curves are what, exactly? Not-women? Faux-women?

It's so gross.
posted by nacho fries at 11:30 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


I don't think that having opinions about aesthetics is a bad thing.

Making fun of specific people's specific choices sort of gets into the larger issue of whether it's OK to make fun of people in general. I can see both sides of that. It's kind of not nice, I guess, but it's also not the worst thing that people do, and I just can't get terribly worked up about it.

I do think it's silly to think that it's OK to make fun of someone for liking Nickelback, but not OK to make fun of someone for liking fringed crop tops.
posted by Sara C. at 11:31 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I also think there's a GIGANTIC difference between a women's magazine making fun of the appearances/style choices of people who are engaging in good clean fun, and a private individual privately snarking inside their own head about how silly a given fashion trend is.

Most of the stuff about the tutu incident is more about whether Self magazine -- as a specimen of all the shitty body-shaming women's magazines out there -- ought to be making fun of real women for really engaging in real fitness activities, not really about whether it's OK for anyone to pass judgment on anyone for any reason ever.
posted by Sara C. at 11:54 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I kind of suspect the "women are damned whether skinny or fat" has roots in "women are damned whether they work/don't work, reproduce/don't reproduce" stuff.

If a woman has kids, she winds up getting all these messages that she is a bad mother if she has a job while they are small but she is leech upon society if she stays home to raise them. If a woman does not reproduce, she gets all these messages that she is failing her duty and destiny as a woman to make more people so the species can continue to exist.

Having kids tends to cause 'womanly curves' and not having them tends to be somewhat associated with remaining thinner and more straight-bodied. Pregnancy tends to widen the hips and fill out the bustline.

I think this is a politic that runs very, very deep and literally shapes women's bodies and these messages are much more rooted in these larger issues.

I don't have an answer as to what to do about it. But that's where I think this friction really comes from. This pressure to "be thin" is in part pressure to not have 10 kids and not be a SAHM. This pressure to have curves is in part pressure to be sexually available to a man and look like what a lot of men find sexy.

The real issue here is that women's sexuality and bodies is largely not seen as something that "belongs" to them, over which they have agency. It belongs to other people and what other people think and want matters more. Thus no matter your choice, you are wrong because women aren't even supposed to make a choice.
posted by Michele in California at 12:01 PM on April 10 [11 favorites]


In the OP, Glenn Marla's quote (from the 7th image), "There's no wrong way to have a body" is particularly relevant to any body policing, against any kind of person, woman, whomever. We have bodies. We treat them the way we want to. We work with them as we must.
posted by kalessin at 7:01 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


Here's some more about Marla.
posted by kalessin at 7:04 AM on April 11


Surprisingly, the Cracked podcast has a lot to say here.
posted by psoas at 8:00 AM on April 20


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