"Beauty when unadorned is adorned the most.”
--St. Jerome (340-420)After writing about young women and the current obsession with body art a couple days ago, I feel it may be appropriate to address the issue of feminine beauty as it relates to gender norms. I am certainly in favor of women expressing their feelings with honesty and commitment. Saying that, I understand that some young ladies get tattooed to commemorate others and to express sincere, honorable feelings. I support their choice of expression.
Someone asked why I limited my discussion of body art to women. I must admit doing so makes me appear to be extremely sexist. I believe I am not. Old-fashioned in some respects and appreciative of the natural female form perhaps, yet I am very supportive of women’s rights.
I want to tell women that their beauty is not dependent upon any particular standard or style. I want young women to know they do not have to possess fashion-model looks or cosmetic adornments to be absolutely alluring. I want them to know that their unique sensual attraction stems from so many different feminine graces and that imperfection is truly beautiful.
To me, excess makeup and outlandish fashion often betray feminine appeal. In fact, some say we are experiencing a sea change in how beauty is viewed in today's culture. Among them is Vivian Diller -- Ph.D., psychologist, and author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change.
Diller says ...
“As I see it, the yearning for perfect beauty is beginning to lose strength among every day women and celebs alike. Boomers may have been the first to feel what I call 'image fatigue' as their attempts to appear younger led to too many inauthentic looking faces and bodies. That plastic, overly puffed up, frozen image has become a turnoff to many, in part because they have begun to all look the same. And the next generation is feeling it too: Millennials are experimenting with more fashion and makeup statements that express authenticity. For many young women, less is becoming more.
“(It) Seems like women's voices are joining together and are finally being heard: 'We want to feel and look attractive, but there isn't just one way to do that. We want to look like ourselves, not someone else.' At last, real may be the new beautiful.”
(Vivian Diller. “Building a Case for Real Beauty.” The Huffington Post. January 25, 2014.)
Specifically, people thought “the models looked best when they were wearing just 60 percent as much makeup as they had actually applied. But they thought women would want the models to be wearing 75 percent as much, and that men would want 80 percent.”
These mistaken preferences seem more tied to the perceived expectancies of men, and, to a lesser degree, of women. In other words, the models were primping for nonexistent ideals, not for actual humans.
(Olga Khazan. “Why Do So Many Women Wear So Much Makeup?”
The Atlantic. April 28, 2014.)
What is the human preference of beauty as it relates to a woman's physiology? We know it has changed considerably over time as most aesthetic values do. A large group of people willingly adhere to ever-changing “beauty” standards of build, weight, and other physical attributes set by the media and fashion industries – extremely judgmental criteria that now seems to be at unrealistic levels of achievement.
We also know each woman must be true to her own beliefs about attraction – some truly have no desire to appear “beautiful” to others as long as they are honest with themselves. These women include those more concerned with proper exercise, diet, and health than with meeting fashion demands. And other ladies are just rebels who find the entire “body beautiful” argument unwarranted.
I believe perhaps the most alarming standards are commonly accepted artificial modifications – anything that presents the opportunity of completely selling out to fashion or to manufactured standards over unadorned, natural bodies.
To me, the beauty inherent in modesty and humility – the subtle graces – illuminates both the elegance and the beautiful mystery of a female. When glamor is glaring, upfront, and so dazzling as to make eyeballs bulge and drop jaws open, I think it often loses its charm. I hope young women understand how “too much” and “too drastic” can cheapen their image. And, again, if that is what is desired, far be it from me to preach the gospel of natural adoration. Yet, I strongly believe the work of art is the human form, not the chemical or plastic alteration of that form.
The delicate newborn female comes into this world in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It is beyond my conception how any adornment would be made to this baby to meet some artificial standard of beauty. Upon her first breath, she is supremely adorable. Yet, as she grows, this baby is increasingly bombarded by demands of beauty when the truth is nothing is more beautiful than her natural, human development. If nurtured, protected, and loved, she will be beautiful in her heart, mind, and skin.
I am confessing to my preference for moderation as it applies to a beautiful female. It is a prejudice I will likely continue to harbor, even in the face of overwhelming odds. I understand that body art, body piercings, plastic surgery, and scads of makeup are commonly employed in beauty makeovers today. Still, some of us find special grace in the imperfect – we love the image of a sweet being in her natural design. Simply beautiful and unadorned.