Are norms of beauty socially constructed

Body cult and beauty mania

"I don't make myself beautiful for others, but for myself. (...) I think that's very important." This is a typical answer to the question "What does it mean for you to make yourself beautiful?"


I don't make myself beautiful for others, but for myself. And I have to please myself and not the others. I think that's very important. "This is a typical answer to the question" What does it mean for you to make yourself beautiful? " Gender, social origin and sexual orientation are discussed. [1]

People make themselves beautiful for themselves, not for others. At least that's how it should appear. The women's magazine Brigitte - and she should know - found out in a survey from 2001 that 94 percent of the 28,000 women questioned make themselves beautiful because they feel more comfortable and self-confident with it (in 1978 it was 27,000 respondents 79 percent). Only three percent wanted to please others (in 1978 it was 14 percent). [2] These numbers are not credible. Because the statements say something about what the respondents consider a socially desirable answer. No wonder: the admission to make yourself beautiful for others would amount to a declaration of bankruptcy for many and is therefore deliberately refrained from. It is certainly not possible to derive from the Brigitte statistics that women have become more self-confident that they have made themselves independent of the opinion of others. If you take the statements of the interviewees one to one, you run the risk of falling for pure ideological constructions. It doesn't help much if the answers - pseudoscientific - are calculated and evaluated up to two places behind the decimal point.

We obviously want to make others believe that we are above the prevailing beauty standards. And we believe that women in particular make themselves beautiful - regardless of some trendy magazines for lifestyle-oriented men with natural-looking tanning beds and washboard abs. Last but not least, we are convinced that the whole magic of beauty is also fun: Beauty is feasible and doing something beautiful is a pleasure. In fact, it is quite different: making yourself beautiful is not a private matter and by no means just a woman's business. And none of this has much to do with joking superficiality: making yourself beautiful is sometimes hard, success-oriented work that extends into deeper layers of identity. This goes much deeper than superficial debates on the pros and cons of applying make-up, hairdressing, dressing, shaving, piercing or operating.

Making yourself beautiful is not about beauty "in itself" and certainly not about the question of what and who is beautiful (or ugly). It is about pure "beauty action" - as a medium of communication that serves to stage one's own external impact for the purpose of gaining attention and securing one's own identity. Acting in beauty means positioning yourself socially. In contrast to this, the normatively used term beauty refers to mass media produced and weighty conceptions of what beauty is or should be as a norm in media-public discourse as a distinction to the non-beautiful or ugly. In the case of "beauty dealings", on the other hand, it is not the recipients' aesthetic judgment that is of interest, but rather the success or failure of recognition. If the punk woman with a yellow mohawk, worn leather jacket, nose ring and safety-pinched jeans rags can shock ordinary normal people on the street, she has achieved her goal: she knows who she belongs to and who she has to distance herself from. Beauty trading is a social process in which people try to achieve social (recognition) effects. The focus is on values ​​such as individuality, autonomy and authenticity. That can be interpreted as a legacy of the Enlightenment. Because the view that there is such a thing as independent individuals, that there is something "indivisible", namely individuality, is rooted in a core belief of the Enlightenment that people are responsible for their own lives, that they can take it into their own hands and shape.

This shift of responsibility away from God and fate towards the individual also affected the soul and body, the state of mind and the impression that one gives on the basis of his or her appearance. Making yourself beautiful is therefore also a strategy of social power and social success - at least an attempt. In the following I would like to introduce some components of such a beauty trade.