What Is Beauty?


We all have our own concept of how beauty looks (I’m talking about physical beauty), no doubt influenced by our families and friends and by our society, which while increasingly global still has a very narrow focus.  Personally, I very consciously choose to look beyond the standard to see beauty in all types.  The reason for this is the fact that I am ever conscious that society has almost set in stone those features that are considered beautiful, ie. ideally European.  By those definitions, I and my lovely daughters are excluded from the beauty standard and I have thus long since rejected them.


Let me be clear here.  This post is not a diatribe about how unfair it is to be brown/black, or kinky haired, or over 40, or a woman, or whatever I may be that is not what our society currently values.  I’m not bitter, but I am conscious of the ways our society can affirm, and/or exclude, and even mock people merely for being “other”.  It is for this reason that I embrace literature that honestly discusses and is inclusive of all types of people, and also the reason that I’ve made it part of my personal writing mission statement to write characters into my work who are  representative of what my world looks like and that also challenges stereotypes.

This doesn’t mean that everything I read or write is about Muslims, or women, or brown/black people, or Americans, or mothers, or nurses.  But it means that I will never be satisfied with the status quo.  That focus is just too narrow for me.

I’m not even 1/4 as well read as I’d like to be, so if you have any suggestions for interesting reads, I want to hear about them.

I recently listened to this phenomenal story on Clarkesworld Magazine by Aliette de Bodard called Immersion.  I highly recommend it to either read or listen to.  It’s sparked off quite a conversation at the Clarkesworld website about race, colonialism and cultural imperialism.  Maybe you’d like to join in.

Of note, Aliette and a few others put together this interesting Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card meant to expose some common attitudes about our beliefs and understandings about culture and people of other cultures.  It isn’t all that flattering, but discomfort is often the vehicle through which we are able to engage in tough conversations.

Aliette’s site can be found at: http://aliettedebodard.com/

  • Ann (bunnygirl)

    What I find particularly interesting about the beauty myth is that in real life people find all kinds of people attractive. I was at a conference recently with a co-worker of about my same age (mid-40s) but who is shorter and significantly heavier. Guess who was getting hit on? It sure wasn’t me, even though I have a figure that meets the current American standard of approval. Not that either of us was looking for men, since we’re both married, but it was funny how often men approached me only to ask if my friend would be interested in exchanging phone numbers!

    • khaalidah

      True enough Ann.  Beauty standards are also dependent on culture and even age.  Funny, but my children didn’t always “get” me when I would discuss these types of things in the past.  They thought that i was being a trouble maker.  Ah…how blissful to be young.  Now that they are more mature and more socially active they are starting to see the once invisible barriers and boundaries.  Ah, how bitter it is to age.
      We just have to keep our eyes and hearts open, I think.