I’ve been seeing the term “unconventional beauty” thrown around a lot lately, in magazines, blogs, and on television. Which has got me thinking, what is it? Who has it? Who doesn’t? Is it a good thing? A bad thing? Why have we been hearing it so much lately? Do men inform the standard, or is it women, or both? Whoa, that’s a lot of questions, so let’s try to figure them out.
When you enter the term into a Google image search you get everyone from Grace Jones to Sandra Bullock. It seems that unless you’re Kate Bosworth you’re considered unconventional, wait scratch that, she has two different colored eyes, so she can’t be conventional either. So then who? Who is the conventional beauty? I’m really not sure.
The definition of unconventional (according to my handy Oxford American Dictionary widget) is as follows:
Unconventional: Not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed
For me this only brings up another question, does unconventional beauty rest more in how you physically look, or how you present yourself to the world? Can you be unconventionally beautiful if not meeting conventions is something you do by choice rather than something you are born into? I’m thinking the whole thing is just ridiculous, and I think we use “unconventional” as a way of saying flawed, but aren’t flaws what makes things beautiful to begin with? I’m getting very linear here and I can’t explain it.
I honestly have more trouble trying to come up with someone who is generally believed to be conventionally beautiful than people who are not. I’ve been asking people what they think. Is conventional beauty blond hair and blue eyes? Can a person of mixed race be conventionally beautiful, or will they always be unconventional? In the interest of experimentation, I’ve been trying to compile a list of women who might fall in to either of the two categories. Of course, I think every person has their own idea of what is conventional and what is not, based on how they feel about themselves, what they are exposed to, and what preference they have, also how they perceive the opinion of the general public, or what we each view as the “standard” of beauty.
Below is my attempt to come up with women who are conventionally beautiful. I want to point out that this list is made up of women I believe society has deemed as standardly beautiful.
And now my list of unconventional beauties. Which is made up of women I think are really pretty, but who would probably be considered unconventional by some.
So, after doing way too many photo collages I came to the hypothesis that all these women are beautiful, duh, or course! I think it’s wonderful to celebrate women with every combination of features, at every size, every age, and with every shade of skin, so why do we have to break them into categories, can’t we all just be beautiful? Do we have to make a big deal out of it when someone falls outside the mythological standard of what someone else may hold to be conventionally beautiful? And is there any control in this experiment, who is the standard after all? One persons idea of perfection certainly isn’t another’s.
By constantly making the distinction between different kinds of beauty, we manage to insult everyone instead of celebrating them. If someone were to say to me “Justine, you’re so conventionally beautiful”, I’d be insulted, likewise if someone were to say I were “unconventionally beautiful” I’d be insulted again, because making the distinction at all is unnecessary, and it only ever seems to end up a backhanded compliment.
I think the fashion magazines, and everyone else who has been using this term a lot lately, are well-intentioned, but they’re trying too hard. It’s great to feature a wide array of women as representations of beauty, but when we have to go out of our way to say “psst, we know she isn’t the “normal” idea of beauty, but she is still pretty, right?” it just ruins the whole thing. Can’t we all just promise to see ourselves and other women as beautiful without all the labels?
I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this more, and I would love to hear other people’s opinions on what they think of beauty conventions. For now though, let’s imagine a world without labels, where all these gorgeous women exist together in blissful harmony, conventional or not, they’re all knockouts!
(click to enlarge)