Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fashion and Beauty

What isn't evil about it:

-Presenting the best of yourself; using creativity, craftsmanship, color, texture, line, drape, and function; self expression through physical appearance; fashion as one of the ultimate forms of art which is for people in an incredibly tangible and concrete way.

What is:

-Excessive valuation of physical beauty; beauty as an essential component, or even the most essential component, of identity--particularly for women

-Defining beauty as being some incredibly unhealthy and incredibly unobtainable standard

-Thereby a) generally screwing people over psychologically and b) making sexuality competitive, which diminishes the quality of sexual relationships


One obvious thing is an attempt at reclaiming; to use creativity, self expression, and craftsmanship to reject unobtainable standards of beauty. I see three problems with this.

First and most obviously, it doesn't address the incredibly excessive emphasis placed on appearance. This is a huge problem, and I'm unaware of any easy solutions to it. I can only suggest we try and remember that it's always more important to be amazing than to look amazing--always.

Secondly, reclaiming is not going to win the war. This kind of action alone, contrary to liberal mores, is never going to create a world where people have a healthy attitude towards their bodies, their appearance and their sexuality. The best you can hope for is to create a liberating subculture, a chance for a few people to practice democracy in discourse, a chance for a few people to have freeing experiences. If reclaiming does not win the war, and something else--say, lobbying for restrictions in advertising--possibly could, should we be spending our resources on this?

Thirdly, lots of things about aesthetics are not universal. Current aesthetic standards will influence what we find to be appealing; this is inevitable. I haven't studied aesthetics a lot, either practically or philosophically. However, it seems that to an extent, you would have to play into the current consumption-oriented aesthetic standards to successfully create something beautiful. I need to read and think more about this.

The other obvious thing is to simply disengage--to act in a way that doesn't accept making yourself an object for the aesthetic consumption of others as a value. It seems like an ineffective and unsatisfying option; it's not going to win large scale against corporate hijacking of aesthetic values, it has lots of practical disadvantages in day to day life, and it looses all of the potentially healthy things the art of personal appearance has to offer.

I have some sort of idea about the balance on this that I personally want to strike, but I'm interested in other people's thoughts. :)