The Idea of Beauty

The idea of beauty is an interesting topic to discuss, as it has changed through the generations and the concept also shifts across geographical boundaries and between the different races. Beauty is an idea of society’s expectations of women and they tend to try and change in order to fit society’s standard of beauty.
Comparison based on time periods
In the past, beauty was about being fat, which symbolised prosperity and wealth. In countries such as China during the Tang Dynasty, being fat and bountiful meant that the person was rich and able to afford nutritious food, such as the famous Yang Guifei. In this case, wealth was a significant factor in being beautiful. In the current generation, beauty is seen as being slim and skinny, while obesity is a sign of having health problems, which means that there is reduced reproductive fitness. Hence, we can see that there is a link between class and beauty, as well as a link between reproductive fitness and beauty.
The role of media
The media also plays a role in propagating the idea of beauty and strongly influences what the concept of beauty is. This can be seen in the case of how models and celebrities are forced to live up to the social expectations of being skinny. Those who do not conform to being skinny are criticised, as can be seen from celebrity mothers who do not lose their pregnancy fat fast enough, such as Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai. Magazines, movies and TV also play a role, as they impose and reflect what the current popular culture of beauty is.
Comparison between countries
In less developed countries, where primary work stems from agriculture, beauty is concerned with being fair, which symbolises wealth as it implies that they do not have to work in the fields. This can be seen in the case of ‘Poverty and Merit’, where Holly was seen as beautiful with her fair skin. This idea may be also due to the Eurocentric view from the less developed countries. In the developed Asian society such as Korea, being able to afford beauty whitening products is seen as a sign of class and beauty. In western countries, people desire tans because it is harder to achieve, due to their naturally fair skin. Another reason they desire it is because it is a symbol of health and represents a person as being sporty and keeping fit. Here again, we see that beauty is intrinsically linked to class, race and wealth.
In conclusion, the concept of beauty is influenced by class, race and health. It is also always in motion. However, it works on the basic fundamental that the more difficult it is to achieve something; the more desirable it is in society’s eyes. Societies which have scarcity desire someone who is more voluptuous. As opposed to the USA, whereby obesity is rampant, finding slim women is difficult. Beauty is also heavily influenced by the media, and the media is able to tell us what beauty should be about. The media is a useful tool in distributing information to the masses, and creating a social expectation.