Is Beauty a Social Construct?

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Jean Kilbourne started collecting ads in the 1960s, influenced, in part, by her involvement with the women’s movement, her interest in media, and her background in modeling. She began her film Killing Us Softly by showing vintage magazine articles and advertisement that she claimed are responsible for creating “an epidemic of eating disorders”. In 1991, Naomi wolf’s bestseller the beauty myth claimed the obsession with beauty was the result of a cultural conspiracy seeking to undo psychologically and covertly all the good things that feminism did for women. She argues that ideology of beauty is the "last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact" and that women's magazines have played a pivotal role in the selling of the beauty myth. If, as Jean Kilbourne suggests, the media and advertising teach us to detest ourselves and damage our bodies, then what Wolf calls "the beauty myth" is a threat to everybody. In 1999, Dr. Nancy Etcoff published Survival of The Prettiest, rejecting Naomi Wolf’s claims that beauty is a backlash against feminism and using historical and scientific research to argue that beauty objectively and universally exists. She states “Beauty is one of the ways life perpetuates itself, and love of beauty is deeply rooted in biology”. So, is Naomi Wolf justified in her concerns? Is beauty truly an invention of Madison Avenue or is it an instinctual universal urge that played a major role in human evolution? Did the magazine advertisements in the sixties shape or reflect the obsession with beauty? To answer these questions, one must virtually travel back in time and carefully examine the magazine articles and advertisements of that era and analyze whether what they are promoting are novel ideas or do they ...

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...has long pre-existed airbrushed billboards and weight-loss infomercials. While the men on Madison Avenue have clearly exploited it, they’re no more responsible for creating it than Milton Hershey is responsible for creating a fondness for chocolate . It is ingrained in us through darwinian evolution. Dr.Nancy Etcoff writes, "our response to beauty is a trick of our brain, not a deep reflection of self. Despite the vagaries of fashion, every culture finds the large eyes, small nose, round checks, and tiny limb of the baby beautiful . All men and women find lustrous hair, clear taut skin, a woman’s cinched waist, and a man’s sculpted pectorals attractive.” Naomi Wolf calls for women to tone down their grooming regimines in order to revert back to nature, but beauty is nature and no amount of vilifying will tone down this divine, remarkable, and intoxicating force.

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