The question of the objectification of the human body has become an even more sensitive one for me after experiencing pregnancy. Why is it that the amazing potentialities of the human body to create life are not only limited to only its physical appearance, but that only a limited range of the way a human body can look is considered beautiful—and then it’s not considered beautiful in its fullness, but only because of how well it can gratify sexual appetite?
I don’t think it is wrong to appreciate the physical characteristics of the human body, nor is it wrong to spend time beautifying it further with makeup and carefully chosen clothes. I actually think that it is showing respect to the human body’s full potentialities when we take care of it. By the same token, there is nothing wrong with sexual attraction; it is a normal part of the human experience, one that, within the right context, brings great joy.
After all, we are all naturally attracted to beauty, however subjective its perception may be. Thankfully there is a lot of it all over the place! Otherwise it would make for a very boring world…
Which brings me to wonder: how do we consciously practice becoming more appreciative of beauty for the right reasons? When it comes to the human body, how do we teach ourselves to learn to appreciate the beauty in all human forms? How do we learn to weed out the narrow perception of beauty we have been fed and open up our minds to a broader yet still accept personal differences in opinion?
Questions, Questions, and More Questions
One thing I have found is that using a specific set of questions, or even just using one question as a mantra of sorts, can really help us start our journey towards a broader definition of beauty. A simple “Why do I find this beautiful?” has helped me and a number of my friends start to understand why we find something beautiful. Surprisingly enough, without having to do much else, we found ourselves appreciating the same thing in places we never expected to. So for example, if we found someone beautiful because of the symmetry of their faces, we found ourselves appreciating symmetry on our desks, in buildings, in the way gardens are set up, even in the parking lot on the way to work.
No Bashing Allowed
There is an almost ingrained defensiveness in our opinions related to beauty—or lack thereof. I think it is very important to let go of this attitude. If we find something beautiful, that’s fine, even if we don’t understand why—and the same goes for something we don’t find beautiful. But we have to be completely OK with the fact that not everyone will agree with us.
In the same vein, there is a reason why the narrow conceptions of beauty which society imposes on us has such a hold. Going around bashing tall, thing, long-legged women goes against the spirit of learning to appreciate beauty in all its forms. I’ll be the first to admit that models can be absolutely gorgeous. And thin can definitely be beautiful! The issue is that models and thin are not the only beautiful bodies around.
Letting Go of Insecurities
I have a feeling that the defensiveness is related to the insecurity that years of being exposed to messages that “anything outside of this narrow range of beauty is not beautiful”. I know I have it, a number of my friends know they have it. We have come to understand that us reacting to certain body types extolled as beautiful is a reflection of insecurities further nourished by the fashion and cosmetics industries. In our journey to broaden our appreciation of beauty, then, we have had to consistently make sure that our insecurities are not keeping us from seeing a certain body type as beautiful for—oh irony—reasons just as superficial as those used to tout them as beautiful in the first place.
The idea of figuring out how to appreciate real beauty seems like something superficial to some. But to me, the implications are huge. If we can learn to appreciate the diversity of beauty in its physical sense, we can apply those same principles and skills to appreciating the diversity in opinions. And imagine what we could do in such a world.