Many couples fight about money, fidelity and bathroom norms. Sara and i seem to be struggling over the concept of beauty. While the topic is slightly abstract, the conflict is real and edgy.
At the center of this fight is oppression. If i find someone beautiful, then am i oppressing, disrespecting or dismissing someone which i dont find beautiful? Are my beauty standards influenced by the $100 billion/year advertising industry? [This one is an obvious yes] Is beauty inherently unfair?
i bristle at the idea of having to give up my experience of beauty for someone else’s notion of political correctness. Sara bristles at the notion that this issue is about political correctness. “It is about being an ally.” She says.
We can wander in a philosophical direction and ask “What is beauty?” Is it simply an esthetically pleasing appearance? Can it be captured in a still photo? i am comfortable with these limiting constraints. And in my world view it is an intensely personal and individual experience. [For the purposes of this debate i am limiting the discussion to the most contentious point of the beauty of people, ignoring beautiful music or art, which is less politically interesting.]
So then the challenge is “Does this notion of beauty dictate who it is i choose to interact with and how?” In some contexts, i admit it certainly does. There is a link between my notion of beauty and what is attractive. In a party or social setting, all other things being equal, i am more likely to try to start a conversation with someone who i find more beautiful.
And my life is more complicated than this. All things are never equal. If someone is saying especially clever things, this will almost always trump beauty as something i am drawn to. Or if someone is being funny, or theatrical or otherwise animated and alive, physical attractiveness becomes a secondary consideration in drawing my attention or attraction.
And i get the piece about beauty being unfair and certainly the part about it perpetuating unhealthy behaviors and reinforcing negative self messaging, especially in women. And i have definitely failed to be an ally on this issue at points. As Sara points out in her post, my strongly stated preference for long hair had created a fear in one 8 year old girl who i adore that if she cut her hair i would not like her anymore. i am more careful about these strong pronouncements now because of this incident.