Beauty has been a subject of discussion for a long time. However, the debate has climaxed in the twentieth and the twenty first century. Although the word has been defined differently, it generally means qualities or sum of qualities that give pleasure to senses. That basically means that any quality or characteristics of an individual which is pleasurable can be defined as beauty. More often than not, beauty is linked to women’s characteristics.
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As a result, most women have become obsessed with it and they do all in their power not only to look attractive, but also beautiful. Since it has been mostly linked to outside characteristics, there are lots of beauty products in the market meant to improve the aesthetic value of women.
Sontag is one writer who has written on the issue of women and beauty in one of her essays ‘A woman’s Beauty: Put Down or Power Source?’ She discusses the plight of women in the contemporary society in relation to beauty.
More specifically; Sontag discuses some sensitive issues concerning women and beauty. For instance, on the section of Put Down or Power Source, Sontag explores the responsibility of men on women’s obsession to beauty.
In addition, the author still seeks to explain the extent women are responsible for the same. With that background in mind, this essay shall discuss the summary of Sontag’s essay and argue on the issue of responsibility of men and women towards women’s obsession on beauty.
Although Sontag has generally spoken on beauty, there are numerous themes which have been discussed concerning the same. Sontag majors on explaining on the difference between intrinsic beauty and the outward appearance. The author points out that it is possible to find a beautiful woman walking in the streets but the same woman may lack some important characteristics that can add to her goodness. However, Sontag is not all against beauty especially in women.
She explains that it is the duty of women to maintain their beauty. Nevertheless, Sontag describes a different way of maintaining beauty apart from talking care of the outside appearance. She says that someone can add more to beauty by working hard in career and also in other areas like the business (DiYanni pp. 332).
Sontag compares different perspective of beauty in the contemporary society with the historical perspective. For instance, she considers Greeks who were knowledgeable on various issues and maintained that intrinsic characteristics were more valuable than outward characteristics.
For example, Plato who was a renowned philosopher was not beautiful on the outside but was still attractive due to the knowledge he possessed. In addition, Sontag mentions that early Christians did not value outside beauty compared to the current Christians who condone even some beauty products like use of perfumes.
In the contemporary society, women are faced with a great need to appear beautiful. The condition has lowered their status because compared to men; they are viewed as people who care more about their outside looks other than being concerned about their real identity. According to Sontag, women’s concern about their looks just signifies lack of power.
The fact that the society has made women to view themselves as objects of pleasure makes them to be come anxious about their looks and that is why they are always strive to measure up to the standards of the society. Sontag points out the main difference between men and women in relation to beauty. Although men contribute to the women’s obsession on beauty, they are more confident and sure of themselves.
Most importantly, their beauty does not emanate from outside looks but to their overall characteristics. Sontag ends her essay by a call on women to distance from beauty and instead concentrate more on feminine characteristics like gentleness, and being humble which are equally attractive.
No one can negate the fact that women currently are obsessed with beauty. The availability of wide range of beauty products in the market is a clear indication of the extent of women’s obsession on beauty.
Apart from that, women are even going for plastic surgery to change their outlook, to look more beautiful and to maintain their youthful skin. It is quite unfortunate for women because as Sontag says, the society views them as objects that are valued for how they look rather than for who they are. More often than not, women are treated as objects of pleasure.
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For instance, many magazines and movies as well as advertisements use women’s beauty and their body parts to achieve their objectives. Therefore, beauty is trivializing women and there is little they can do about it since society has socialized them to believe the same (DiYanni, 26 & 331).
At this point, the main question is who is to blame for this trap of beauty that women have gotten in to. First and foremost, women have a great need of being appreciated. Therefore, their effort to beautify themselves is for the sole purpose of attracting men’s attention.
Moreover, men are visual beings and are mostly attracted to what they see. As a result, women have no opinion other than to do all in their power to attract the attention of men.
As much as men are to blame to some extent due for women’s obsession on beauty, there is a high probability that the problem is caused by some inborn characteristic of women.
As Sontag has illustrated, there is a difference between women and men. For instance, men are more confident compared to women and they may not need to exaggerate their outside appearance. It is also possible that women and men view beauty differently. Interviews which have been conducted on men indicate that men value characteristic such as being happy and healthy.
Therefore, it is possible that it is women’s outlook on beauty that makes them to spend a lot of time on make ups and fail to work on the inner characteristics. On the other hand, men consider inner beauty more and that is why they are more committed on improving such characteristics. For that reason, it is possible that, the plight of women on beauty in the contemporary society is a problem of their own making and has little or nothing to do with men.
Beauty is defined differently in on different cultures of the world. However, it is important to note that due the emergence of a global culture which has been accelerated by globalization, there are similarities on some ideas concerning beauty. Since the American culture is considered superior to other cultures, it has proliferated to almost all parts of the world. Nevertheless, there are still some notable differences.
In some continents like Africa, plump women are considered to be more beautiful compared to United States where a beautiful woman has to be tall and slender. In most cases, although women have a role to play, men are chief determinants of women’s obsession on beauty since in almost all communities; women are always aimed at pleasing men. Therefore, as it is the case in United States, men have contributed greatly to women obsession on beauty.
Beauty as it is often defined as an attribute that is not only admirable, but also good and pleasurable. It ought to be cultivated by everyone in the society, men and women equally.
Nonetheless, as Sontag has illustrated in her essay, the idea of beauty has become a trap, not only for women but also men. Currently, outside beauty is carrying more weight than intrinsic beauty which is equally important. The issue is accounting to the current issue of women putting on more makeup to change their appearance.
The role of women in the society as wives and mothers contribute greatly to the women’s obsession on beauty as they are only more concerned on how they look rather than on their intrinsic value. Therefore, it will not be an understatement to conclude that the society which includes men and women, has contributed greatly to the plight of women as well as to their obsession on beauty.
DiYanni, Robert. Fifty great essays. New York : Pearson/Longman, 2004.