In the Eye of the Beholder

In the Eye of the Beholder

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  So be it, but what is beauty. Pick up any dictionary and you will find as many and as varied definitions as the number of dictionaries. One thing, then,  is decided; that for something as elusive or should we say exclusive or perhaps reclusive as beauty, mankind has not been able to come to a single mutually agreed conclusion, like two plus two, or so and so , or so much,  or so less equates to beauty.

The Greeks considered the golden mean to be beauty. They had a “thing”  for balance and symmetry, and hence what we refer to as exotic, did not fit into their theory of beauty or, as Plato would put it, into his theory of forms. The Romans , on the other hand, were more concerned with rarities of particular faces and persons. In modern times, Charles Darwin tried his level best to define beauty and miserably failed to do so. He ended his quest on the note:

“It is certainly not true that there is in the mind of many any universal standard of beauty with respect to the human body.”

An English psychologist named Henry T. Finck,was the first man to put forward a theory of beauty, in the late nineteenth century. His thesis was that the primitive people were nature’s “experiments”. According to him, humankind started as exceedingly ugly and through the process of evolution became better looking with the passage of time. In his view,  this evolutionary process stopped at its pinnacle of beauty in the form of the nineteenth century English gentleman; ironic, because Finck himself belonged to this class. So, if we look into the mirror, the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is proven right a hundred times over, at least, as far as Finck was concerned.

A survey of  more than two hundred primitive societies conducted in 1951 by Cetland Ford and Frank Beach, finally put an end to this controversy about a standard “universal beauty,” and the controversy that Finck had started was finally and conclusively laid to rest. Unlike Finck, Ford and Beach were not able to uncover any “universal standard” of beauty.

On the subcontinent, fair skin and green eyes is the ultimate sign of beauty. While in the west, the phrase “tall dark and handsome” is the common criteria for beauty.In Africa, skinny women are frowned upon and fat women with large boobs and huge behinds are considerable desirable and have much better marriage prospects than the skinny ones. In some cultures thin lips are considered beautiful while in other societies large ones determines beauty; the same goes for the color and size of the eyes and even the eye brows. Most cultures reckon that the human face and its contours determine beauty, while other societies lay stress on height and weight, while in other civilizations, the shape of the sexual organs determine beauty.

In conclusion; all over the world, beauty is a relative concept and the maxim that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder is, perhaps, the only real measure.


An Op-ed By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada


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