Posts Tagged ‘aesthetics as art’


In her book “In Your Face,” author Shari Graydon, describes the early indoctrination of young women to beauty. She cites the glorification of beauty as it is introduced to girls through fairy tales such as: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and the story of “Cinderella.”  She touches on the Greek legends, Helen of Troy and Aphrodite.  Beauty of course, is not restricted to just the feminine gender, as she conveys through the stories in mythology.  Graydon mentions Adonis and how his physical beauty drew Aphrodite to him. She also explains the role his attractiveness supposedly played in his premature death. She speaks of Narcissus, and she describes “the emotional wreckage” he caused those to whom he rejected – telling of the revenge one of his suitors took because Narcissus was unable to feel anything else for anyone else.  How tragic it was the he became so confused and lost when he was unable to capture the heart of the image he fell so madly in love with. And, without realizing it, Narcissus had become enamored with an image that was that of his own. She relates how he eventually died of a broken heart. This myth is magnificent as a cautionary tale to all of us to fight against the lures of vanity and self-obsession.

Author Shari Graydon

Throughout her book, Graydon constantly points out the importance of recognizing the powers and the pitfalls of beauty.  It is clear that her intention is to make us more aware. She does not want us to be controlled by obsessive ideas stemming from our desires to always fit into the dictates that suggest we will be stunningly “beautiful.”  Her writing makes us more sensitive to the intense pressure from societal forces that can evoke negative feelings about our image.  As I turned the pages, I was reminded over-and-over again, that beauty is fickle because it has infinite descriptions, rendering it always illusive.

As Graydon reminds us,  every society has its own set of beauty rules.  Her book is a fascinating read because she attempts to describe why historically women have tried to comply with the dictates of fashion and trends. Her publication is intriguing in that it makes its readers question; what are the sources in our culture that shape our views about appearance and our personal focus of aesthetics.

Some of my favorite insights include, but are not limited to:

Beauty of the Ages – a section of Graydon’s book that takes us on a walk through the various decades so we can get a feel for how society viewed women and how we were expected to be.

Global body images – a trip around the world to learn more about beauty practices of past and present such as the intentional cuts on their skin that some African tribes make because they consider this ritual to result in “beautiful scarring”

The Limits of Beauty Diversity –  just how little any of us know about the broad range of beauty and all that the concept can encompass. How we are only experiencing a mere fraction of the art of aesthetics. How the few aesthetic images of beauty we are exposed to are preventing us from experiencing a wider interpretation of beautification.

Changes in hair fashion – how they are less in agreement with what constitutes “Great Hair.” I particularly, like the illustrations provided and how Graydon describes these clueless guidelines.

Beauty promises – associations made with “gift-with-purchase” cosmetic promotions

What I found in Graydon’s book most disturbing, was a section entitled “The Mean Spirit of Law” according to her book “Chicago city bylaws once imposed fines on people who were considered unsightly by those in power. From 1966 to 1974, a subsection of the vagrancy law dictated that people who were diseased, maimed, mutilated or anyway deformed so as to be an unsightly or a disgusting object” could be fined for appearing in public. The attitudes that led to the creation of such laws are shocking today. Now we use the legal system to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and ensure their full participation in every aspect of society.”

I thank Ms. Graydon for her research and her insistence on writing about beauty in a way that gives it more meaning and less superficiality. I applaud the manner in which she has written about such an important aspect of our culture, and of all cultures. I found this book in the children’s section of my local library – a rare find – it turned out to be “indeed.” I encourage the reading of “In Your Face,” discussing its contents and sharing it with others. I believe that it can be most useful for young women who are searching for a sense of themselves and using the medium of aesthetics as a tool with which to communicate self-expression.

Book cover


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: