About the book
Justice Stewart is quoted as saying, “I know it when I see it,” in a ruling about pornography. Is that true for beauty as well? Do we know it when we see it? Is beauty an intrinsic quality of everything? In many species babies have certain physical characteristics to ensure adults find them loveable. This is a way to ensure compassionate care until the animal can become self-sufficient. For humans, the time of reliance on parents is much longer than for any animal species. Within the environment, as individuals grow, they develop value judgments about beauty-- expectations and characterizations. Does culture, family, peers and society at large define our perceptions about beauty?
In nature beauty can serve a beneficial role as animals use distinctive markings to attract their mates. In society beauty can have a positive role but can also lead to risky modifications as individuals try to live up to societal expectations. Can we challenge and change how beauty is defined and valued? For many, but especially women, society holds rigid guidelines of beauty, which can impact self-esteem and lead to dangerous alterations and even eating disorders. Within an eating disorder, individuals often have skewed perceptions of how they look. They struggle to assess how they compare to others and to societal values. One does not have to have an eating disorder to fall victim to misrepresentations and misperceptions. On social media individuals offer photo-shopped images or highlight only the beauty of their lives. The inability to live up to images portrayed in the media can lead others to experience loneliness, disconnection and a negative self-view. Does one feel even more bereft and lonely in the face of unachievable beauty?
Different cultures and decades of time influence the definition and perception of beauty. Tattoos and other body modifications have become more mainstream in certain geographical locations. Does this impact the view and delineation of beauty? What risks are individuals willing to take in the name of beauty? Does beauty offer a benefit or are there dangers in being seen as too beautiful? Does one's beauty affect expectations that others might have of one's competence or skills? Many old jokes hinted at blonde women not being smart. What biases and micro-aggressions influence how we define and react to beauty?
Understanding beauty leads us to contemplate the different ways that we experience beauty. Often beauty expectations rely on visual perceptions but how do the other senses get involved? Can we taste beauty? Smell it? Is beauty only physical? Can we understand it on an emotional or spiritual level? Does religion affect how we perceive and value beauty? Is beauty elegance, grace or sexiness? Do different qualities define specific aspects of beauty?
As we work to understand beauty, we need to find beauty in our own uniqueness. This volume is designed to understand the multiple facets of beauty and celebrate the diversity of thought. Clearly there is beauty in ideas as they are conveyed in carefully crafted words. This project welcomes new perceptions of beauty, which can take the reader to a deeper understanding of beauty or a offer a new perspective.