Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Beauty: More than Skin Deep


On April 28th Maria Del Russo took to popular lifestyle and beauty blog Refinery29 to talk about her addiction to tanning as a teenager. Del Russo describes sitting outside on the beaches of the Jersey Shore, tanning until itchy red bumps covered her skin. "There are photos from my teenage years that include my two brothers, my father, and all of my friends, and we're all the same burnt-red, slightly orange color. It was a way of life." (Del Russo). She was literally getting poisoned by the sun, yet continued to do it because it was her way of life. That bronzed skin, in her mind, was beauty. Even at the sacrifice of her health (she mentioned being fully aware of the risks of skin cancer) the drive did not falter. This is her way of life, so what's the problem?

As a social constructionist, I would let Maria know that this did not have to be the "correct" or the "natural" way of life.  Social constructionists know that norms, are created through language. It has now always been beautiful to be tan, but rather "the world is not then born of the pictures in our minds, but of realtionships" (Gergen 6). It was not as though someone imagined or discovered a tan woman, and thus the rest of society attempted to emulate her. Rather, society through its interactions of variety of communities has, through language, come up with standards that are awlways changing.

Need evidence? Look at the 1800s where woman who were heavy and pale were the most beautiful, because they had money and didn't have to work. In the 1920's woman bound their chests; in contrast to the 1980s in which breast implants were all the rage. The list goes on. But why does this matter: taking a critical look at Maria Del Russo's view of being tan as beautiful as "the way it is" is not universally true. It has changed over time, through history as well as in different communities. With that, there is potential for coordinating with others, and perhaps stimulating change.

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