The Distortion of Beauty
Ive been doing research on the concept of beauty & attractiveness and how differently it is defined around the world. In his book “Rethinking the Color Line”, Chuck Gallagher defined beauty by those physical characteristics that are deemed more essential to survival in the environment the individual was born. I prefer this definition because it seems to be one of the more natural and realistic definitions for why a culture would perceive a certain set of physical traits as attractive or Beautiful. Under this definition if a child were born in an environment with a warm climate and high exposure to the sun, the more favorable features in the culture would be darker skin and thicker hair. This skin being more abundant in melanin and hair coarse to assist in absorbing the sun and its nutrients while protecting the infant from the harsh rays of the sun.
Now, fast forward to me finding out that 77% of South Africa’s popular Men’s health and fashion magazines have white male models on the cover. This seemed peculiar to me because the population of south Africa is 80% black and with only 10% or the population being white. How is this possible?
I was confused because in America we are often told “oh the reason we show more whites on TV, magazines and in movies is because they represent the majority of the population and its a more realistic representation”. I’m paraphrasing of course but as you can see (probably without the numerical data) black Africans out number white Africans by a landslide in south Africa.
Then I started to think because this couldn’t have been the first time this happened. And it wasn’t!! I started counting in my mind the numerous times I’ve seen this portrayed in America. For example, mostly all big blockbuster Egyptian movies features all white casts. There are TV shows with black women and men openly preferring relationships with people of different ethnicity over their own. Have you noticed how some aspects of black culture are viewed as ghetto and unprofessional but are constantly being exploited by capitalist under new names I.e urban? Let’s not forget the shaming of woman of color and their curves, banning of natural hairstyles, etc.
Why do looks matter?
Whether you notice or not the perception of beauty holds a lot of power in regards to decision making. There have been several studies conducted that attempt to predict the type of jobs, amount of money, social relationships, and legal troubles that a person is likely to encounter based on ones perceived level of attractiveness.
A study done by Daniel Hammerish in his book “beauty pays” found that men who are perceived to be handsome are poised to make 13% more than their less attractive counterparts. This study also states that people who are perceived as attractive are more likely to be hired during a recession than those viewed as less attractive.
A study done at Cornell University by Justin j. Cornell and Stephen J. Ceci found that the more attractive defendants were, the less likely they’d be found guilty. Those viewed as unattractive received on average 22 more months than their counterparts. This study also showed that in cases where monetary damage is involved, attractive people tend to get the highest rewards.
A study conducted by Feingold (1988) discovered that when all else is equal, most people show a substantial preference for attractive individuals over unattractive others. Furthermore, people are much more likely to want to form friendships with attractive people compared to less attractive people.
The question is, does the media send subliminal messages that encourage the majority of its citizens to view Black people as less attractive than White Americans? And if so does this play a role in how Blacks are treated in America? I think yes but that may be debatable depending on who you’re talking to. However, the facts show Blacks are more likely to get paid less than there white counterparts, less likely to get hired during a recession, more likely to be found guilty and serve more time on the same charges as their white counterparts. Blacks are more likely to receive higher fines,pay out higher rewards and are less likely to be befriended by a group of White Americans (with the exception of the token black friend).
Although America uses the terms attractive and beautiful interchangeably, I don’t agree with the countries usage of the two words. In my eyes someone attractive is someone I have a physical interest in and someone beautiful is someone I have a spiritual interest in. For example I’m attracted to darker skinned woman with strong African features but what I find beautiful is a women with intellect, integrity, and virtue. Every once in a while I get lucky and find a woman that possess both qualities.