SURVEY: What would you say if a 7 year old asks you if they are beautiful?
What would you tell a 7 year old girl asking you if she’s beautiful? In answer to these and other questions, our survey said…
People of the Earth, I have a proposition for you…
Imagine a world where everyone meets up to the same ‘beauty’ ideal. What makes YOU special?
I recently put together a little mini-survey about beauty standards. What is beauty? What is beauty if you can’t see? Can you escape a beauty standard? Answers flew thick and fast from a wonderful range of 50 men, women and gender-queer folk between the ages of 13 and 65. The diversity of answers was simply amazing…
Empathy and other such qualities were valued as highly as they ought to be.
Creativity was a blanket term frequently used. It’s a big term that covers a wide range of things, and even though people in the survey used the same term I’m sure they all expressed this talent in hundreds of individual ways which made them unique.
The ability to make people laugh and intelligence were mentioned – things that people are generally born with and can nurture in their own private soul gardens.
And then there were the really different beauties. For example…
What could be more wonderful than fostering children in need who don’t even speak your language and studying Russian to help them feel at home?
If everyone looked the same, no-one can doubt that the people who so kindly responded to my survey would be judged and praised for their individual skills.
Beauty beyond the visual
Now imagine a world in which everything is the same, but sight no longer exists as one of our senses. Then what would beauty be? Music of all kinds, weather on bare skin, voices of loved ones, delicious food, the pure joy and lust for life you feel on what can only be described as a beautiful day… that’s what the people surveyed came up with!
Nevertheless, the pressure to conform to sometimes impossible beauty standards is unchanging. Even complying and being beautiful isn’t any guarantee of being safe from public scrutiny. Over 73% of those surveyed have been called ‘sexy’ when it may not have been appropriate. Other such ‘terms of endearment’ – both relatively tame and plain offensive – are equally common. People even commented that I had missed ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’ and ‘weird’.
If a 7 year old asks “am I beautiful” how would you reply?
Now imagine a seven year old girl is in front of you. She knows you. She trusts you. She asks: “Am I beautiful?”
How would you reply? Some of the answers you gave in the survey were:
- “Yes, but beauty is subjective”
- “[List of qualities she has which I deem beautiful]”
- “You’re amazing”
- “Absolutely, but you’re still a big monkey poo. Which animal poo am I?”
- “Beauty is on the inside”
- “I bet you have an adorable pancreas”
All this suggests that – yes – there is a standard of beauty and we aspire to it even subconsciously.
So what IS the beauty standard?
Clear skin, big eyes, long natural hair… anything more specific than that and I am lost.
If I pull together the survey answers as best I can, someone who looks like a ginger or blonde-haired Emma Watson crossed with Adele with natural curves and a slim waist, coping with huge perky breasts and blue-green-grey eyes (with someone following her around constantly photoshopping her) is as much as I can ascertain.
Then I asked…
OK, so what SHOULD the epitome of beauty be?
Now it gets more confusing.
Now, according to the survey, we’re looking for:
- Ellen Degeneres crossed with Adele (again)
- Bright eyes burning like fire…
This pressure to conform to a standard – or even to agree on a reasonable example of beauty – seems to have come out of thin air. But everyone has felt it. It lives and breathes and makes us feel a bit pooky. Is there anywhere you can escape? Let’s ask the survey.
Is there any way to escape the beauty standard?
Uh… our survey says no.
37% of people thought that your appearance was important in education to STAFF MEMBERS and 75% felt it was important to fellow students.
The most important place to match a beauty standard was, naturally, considered to be the fashion industry (with 94% agreeing that beauty was essential).
The least important place for beauty – with a still shockingly high 32% – was in babyhood.
Everyone loves a beautiful baby, but is this beauty standard really so important? Can’t we live with having newsreaders having a bad hair day, or sharing a uni hall with someone who doesn’t dye their roots very often?
Again, my lovely surveyed masses told me that I’d missed a few places including the office, holiday situations and family relationships.
Now, I did read an Edwardian Women’s Guide recently that suggested that my son couldn’t love and respect me if my handbag and my shoes were different shades of black, but why do we feel so much pressure in environments where beauty is non-essential?
With a survey full of men, women and gender-queer folk between the ages of 13 and 65 it was irresistible to me to ask if they’d ever felt any advantage or disadvantage because of their physical attractiveness. The result was a good combination of “yes”, “no” and “probably”, all rounded up with…
- “I wasn’t pretty enough to play the girl [in college production of Metamorphosis] so I was stuck playing the beetle”
- “Slender woman, large breasts… two reasons I might get served quickly in bars”
- “I have felt too stressed to leave the house because I felt too ugly to be seen”
- “More attention at work”
To conclude this piece, I would like to include a particularly interesting quote from the anonymous survey that sums up for me – and hopefully for you – how beauty should be seen.
With thanks to the Mooks, friends and family who contributed their thoughts and feelings to this article.