Extra Credit/ Do We really know what beauty is?/ Kelly Tseng

Linda Weintraub’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous: Beauty and the Aesthetics of Activism” seminar was very compelling for I felt that she addressed many topics that society often overlooks and fails to recognize. As an artist, curator, writer, and educator, she is currently in the process of writing about her research findings regarding art and ecology. Weintraub’s discussion about how society values beauty is quite interesting because I feel that this issue has raised very substantial problems that are often faced in society. She said that we tend to care for things that are beautiful and neglect things that are not beautiful. This idea is very similar to topics that I have studied before in an Introduction to Psychology class.

Society tends to treat attractive people better and it can be seen throughout the course of evolution that individuals within a species prefer attractive mates. For example, many female bird species look for beautifully colored males that sing vigorously. However one may think it be foolish for the males to devote so much time and energy into producing such beautifully colored feathers that would only inhibit its flight, which would then make it more susceptible to predators. The point here is that because these males have enough energy to make bright, colorful feathers would require the male to be quite healthy. As a result, these females want a healthy male that could protect them as well as be able to reproduce more successfully. However, a strong link between good appearance and healthful genes have not yet been found and thus this leads me to question why then does society view beautiful as they way they do and more importantly how they came up with the notion of beauty.

If you think about it, humans constantly intervene with natural plant life to selectively breed a certain wild-type, so that is it bigger, better, and prettier. But if natural plant life arose by itself without any human intervention just as how all life arose on this planet without any mechanical intervention besides that of divine intervention, then how could organisms, individuals, or rather society come up with this “other” idea of beauty?

Weintraub presented the works of George Gessert and explained how he controls plant fertilization and isolated mutations in the process. These ways all the more show that society is so concerned with making everything beautiful when plants and life forms in general should be able to blossom naturally, without being influenced by the “norm” of what is considered pretty. The reason why hundreds of thousands of individuals invest in corrective or plastic surgery is so that they can look “beautiful” and fit in and be accepted by society. This popular, fashionable, and accepted look is what society now defines as attractive. I believe that beauty should not be defined in this way nor do I believe that people truly understand or ever did understand what beauty meant in the first place because beauty is supposed to be natural as is all creations by God. However, since basically everything is genetically engineered or altered, fixed or corrected, society has truly lost the true idea of what beauty originally was. This website talks about Nietzsche’s views and how human beings recognize beauty.


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