beauty focus group

So it’s to the point of my independent study to finish up the qualitative research and launch a large quantitative survey (watch for it on Monday!). I’ve read many articles, left my commentary on here and have been talking to a variety of people about trends in the fashion industry regarding body image as well as what people like you and I would want to see in magazines.

However, I’d love to hear your opinion on what beauty is! I feel like there’s a lot to listen to on this topic and while I’m having a small focus group this week, I hope we can open the discussion up on here.

There is a rule though so it’s fair. This will be a safe and non-judgmental space so whatever you believe in or feel, please don’t hesitate to comment. Disagreements and discussions are obviously welcome, but I don’t want to have anyone feel like they can not comment.

So let’s discuss:

1. What’s your definition of beauty?

2. Has there been a reason for that definition to evolve during your life?

3. What do you think the media can do to promote a healthy body? Or what would you like to see the media do?

and a fun little extra.. which picture, right or left, gets your attention? What do you like or not like about it?

I can’t wait to hear your ideas. Likewise, if for some reason you don’t want to comment, but want to talk about it, please e-mail me at sweetestthingdc (at) gmail (dot) com.


15 responses to “beauty focus group

  1. Hi,
    Here’s my reply:
    1. What’s your definition of beauty? I define beauty as the best possible visual image for an individual. Each person will have a slightly definition of beauty – it depends on your features, your coloring and how you carry yourself.

    2. Has there been a reason for that definition to evolve during your life? This definition arose for me because of my own internal work in defining MY beauty. I never thought of myself as beautiful until I became an adult – now I know I am beautiful, as are the majority of the women I see as I move through my life. If they are not beautiful, it’s because they are not trying to be, or don’t feel they deserve to be, and are therefore living beneath their visual potential.

    3. What do you think the media can do to promote a healthy body? Or what would you like to see the media do? The fashion industry would be my first target – please use reasonable sized models! Size 0 models are not relatable to ANYONE – even THEY don’t relate to others that size (they feel they are competition). Promote healthy levels of exercise and nutrition (no extremes, just doing more of the right things, less of the not-so-healthy); Stop acting as if any woman over a size 12 doesn’t exist, except on the fringe of fashion. As a former size 24, I KNOW how hard it was to find reasonably priced clothing.

    and a fun little extra.. which picture, right or left, gets your attention? What do you like or not like about it?
    I like both pictures – the one on the right shows more “attitude” so it appeals to me more. The one on the left looks as if it could have been retouched to make the model look thinner – perhaps not, but that’s what came to mind when I first looked at them.

  2. 1. Beauty is the sight of someone having fun. People are generally more beautiful when they’re in groups– playing a pick up sport, sitting around with friends. It is rare to see someone out in a social environment alone who exudes that sort of confidence and enjoyment, so generally singles (or people by themselves in photographs) don’t appear very beautiful to me. Also, it’s hard to know if someone /might/ be beautiful unless you go up and talk to them, or see them interacting with their friends.

    2. The biggest “evolution” in my definition is that when I was younger, I confused “being with a group of people you enjoy” with “being cool/popular.” I would see groups of “cool” girls giggling in the hall, and think “they’re really beautiful”– without putting it together that they were visually appealing not because they had money/clothes/makeup/nice features, but because they were having fun.

    3. Fewer “headless fat people” in obesity articles. Of /course/ those images look unattractive– you can’t see their inner smile! More appreciation for enthusiasm and joy in life– irony, sarcasm, and ennui are overplayed as “attractive” in media beauty. What’s with all the wedding dress photos where the model looks like she hates everything about her life? And more model diversity, in every ad/magazine, and not just a solitary “size issue” every year.

    I’d love for the media to take a more HAES approach to “diet articles”. And I want to see an end to the hate created by the duel mindset of “those are BAD foods” and “you are what you eat” which creates a victim-blaming culture for our current societal nutritional deficiencies. While I am anti-trans fat and anti-processed corn products, if the media could stop the “these are BAD FOODS and you are BAD PERSON for eating them”– I think that would go a long way towards encouraging a healthy body/mindset.

    4. When I first looked at this photo series, I didn’t realize it wasn’t the same girl at first. When I look at fashion photos, I really do notice the clothes and not the figure they’re on. To me, either photo would have been equally appealing in a fashion ad, which is why I think the “we need coat-hanger models so that people look at the clothes” argument is fundamentally flawed.

    The first things I notice about the outfit are the belt and then the suspender necklace (the color pieces) which I like. Then I notice the bra-as-shirt with the leotard showing more skin under the chest (which I don’t like). It is only after noticing /both/ of those things that I notice the weight difference, and decide that the heavier model looks less long in the torso, and hence carries off the stomach panel under the belt better than the thinner model.

  3. Amy (Up and Running!)

    1. What’s your definition of beauty? Beauty has just as much to do with personality as it does physical appearance. Having a good attitude about life can make someone all the more beautiful.

    2. Has there been a reason for that definition to evolve during your life? I was overweight when I was younger, and it took me quite a few years and some sobering experiences to realize that it’s a person’s attitude and personality that attracts others to them. A beautiful personality is very attractive.

    3. What do you think the media can do to promote a healthy body? Or what would you like to see the media do? Honestly, I don’t feel like the media will change. It’s always going to draw the most attention to perfect bodily proportions and looks as being beautiful.

  4. Thank you Dianne, Cait and Amy! Your responses are wonderful and very thoughtful. I really appreciate it 🙂

  5. Amy, I think it’s interesting that you define beauty as a personality attribute, but then say the media will always “draw the most attention to perfect bodily proportions and looks” as if there was an objective “perfect” body separate from the brain behind it. To me that makes it sound like a good personality can “compensate” for a lack of visual beauty, but that visual beauty is still somehow inherently alluring, even if the personality behind it is lacking.

    Additionally, I’m curious about the despair of your answer. By saying “media will never change” it sounds like you believe that media doesn’t promote healthy bodies currently (and I agree). But then you say that they’re always going to focus on “most perfect bodily proportions”– does this mean that you think “perfect body proportions” are unhealthy? And if yes, wouldn’t a focus on healthy-as-beautiful inspire media to change to a different standard of “perfect proportions”?

    Jacquie, Amy, let me know if I’m stepping on any toes and I’ll shut up. I’m just curious to talk more about the difference between “inner beauty” (which all of us have used for our answer to the first question) and the “visual beauty” by which we look at images of strangers or contemplate on the media.

  6. 1. I would like to think of beauty like this:
    “Beauty is how you feel inside and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” From Sophia Loren

    But in truth I can see someone who I know nothing about and thing they are visually beautiful. If I learn more about them and they suck, they become less attractive in my mind. I think this could also be a female to male difference, as women are more emotionally attracted while men are more visual.

    2. I’m not exactly sure how my idea of beauty was formed – overall though I wouldn’t say it has changed much over my life. I keep writing different stuff for this one but honestly I’m just not sure – so I’m gonna stick with that.

    3. I would like to see the media use more different types of beautiful people – just because a girl is plus sized or short doesn’t mean she can’t be just as beautiful as a thin tall girl. And I’m talking strictly visual beauty here – you can’t really tell someone’s inner beauty from a picture.

    And with the ad – I think both girls are beautiful but I don’t really like the clothes or styling. Just my 2 cents.

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  9. OK! finally getting around to taking this! hope not too late!

    1. What’s your definition of beauty?
    When I hear the word beautiful, completely out of context of this blog, so like if a stranger were to come up to me while sitting on a park bench or something–I would say beautiful is a word to describe something that is either visually inspiring and/or intrinsically good in some or many respects. It is like, something that lights you up inside when you see it, and therefore it is highly subjective. What lights me up may not light someone else up. I may see a plate of cupcakes all decorated perfectly which took someone so much care and attention to detail, and think that they look beautiful because of that reason (in much the same way, a plate of cupcakes made by a 5 year old and her mother as they were bonding in the kitchen, thats beautiful), someone else may see them and think they look like cupcakes–or that they look “fattening.” I use the word beautiful much more often to describe stories, something I am seeing in nature, a situation, etc. Within the context of this blog, I would define beauty in very much the same way, just with a different nuance: someone who has that intrinsic good. They sort of give off that light from within. I know it may sound like I am making this up just to sound not-so-shallow, but really when I just pass by someone who is very attractive, or see someone in a magazine, unless I know more about them and have reason to see that they are a good person on the inside, I don’t call them beautiful. I just don’t toss that word around a lot. I might think “hot” or “gorgeous” “great body” “pretty” “attractive” but hardly ever beautiful.

    2. Has there been a reason for that definition to evolve during your life?
    I’m not sure. I would have had to see how I answered that question when I was 16, when I was a completely different person, on the inside and out. But I will say that I recently had a revelation where my expectations from certain people with regards to my looks, which had changed quite a bit since the last time I had seen them (and not for the “better” according to the current media standards–aka there was weight gained) were totally blown out of the water when those people expressed how much I had changed for the better all around. The general feedback was, “Of course you’re still beautiful, you are even moreso because you are so much more interesting and confident and mature and grounded in your beliefs, etc.”

    3. What do you think the media can do to promote a healthy body? Or what would you like to see the media do?
    I’m not really sure. I think the way things are headed with the modeling industry not allowing below certain BMIs is a good start. I just think it is more in the media’s best interest to begin showing more normal sized people. The inclination to find more certain faces (even, balanced, no skin issues, etc) more attractive is just in our genetic make-up. Studies have shown this to be true. However, somewhere along the line, the idea of curves on women being attractive has gotten sort of hazy. And I think it’s often women themselves, or at least women’s media, that has perpetuated this. Call me ignorant but I just don’t talk to many men that would choose “rail thin” over “nice curves.” haha this sounds totally weird but I think the media needs to get back to basics–healthy looking bodies are more attractive because they are better able to reproduce/have better able to survive children! How they do this, I don’t really have the answer.

    and a fun little extra.. which picture, right or left, gets your attention? What do you like or not like about it?
    I don’t like the clothes at all really. I don’t really see a difference except in their poses. I wouldn’t be able to see that the woman to the right is “thicker” unless the picture was next to the other. I just looks like someone upsized the righthand body by like 5% or whatever. I am not particularly drawn to one over the other. If anything I am drawn to the one on the left because I can see her eyes/face.

  10. 1. Confidence! I love it when I can feel the energy off of someone that knows how much they rock!
    2. Yes, I have seen it in myself. I feel beautiful when I am confident!

    3. I want the media to show how beauty feels. I want more emotion and less expression

    Love the left! I love the eye contact! Total confidence!

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