Many philosophers have attributed the concept of beauty to its suitability for use. One such philosopher is the ancient hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene. Locke identified two types of beauty, primary and secondary, and considered color to be a ‘phantasm of the mind.’ Both philosophers have since been considered important to the study of aesthetics, but they have come to differing conclusions on the nature of beauty.
Traditional Western aesthetic standards celebrate whiteness. In fact, whiteness was once defined as the most beautiful race, as early racial theorists believed that the most beautiful race was white. As a result, decisions about who society considers beautiful often depend on class. For example, cosmetic surgery can cost as much as a few hundred dollars, whereas facials and braces are usually free of cost. In addition, there are a number of other consequences associated with the notion of beauty.
In the twentieth century, beauty began to lose its dominance as a goal in the arts. Various socioeconomic and political associations tarnished its importance. Artists began to pursue more urgent and important projects. The definition of beauty was weakened by these associations, and Danto’s book, The Abuse of Beauty, was published. As a result, many aesthetics are now degraded as being purely superficial and of no value.
Philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and David Hume all had differing ideas on beauty. Their perspectives on beauty centered on the nature of the art object or the experience of the observer. Moreover, both philosophers disagreed on the definition of beauty. While beauty is subjective, art and beauty have a certain meaning for us. Therefore, beauty is an experience rather than a concept. We may not know how to describe a work of art or how to judge its quality.
During the 19th century, the French revolutionaries associated beauty with the aristocracy. They associated beauty with the hedonistic expressions of wealth that were characteristic of the Rococo style. The aesthetic politics of the Nazi regime were also seen in Leni Riefenstahl’s films. This sealed the link between beauty and right-wing politics. So, what is the relationship between beauty and politics? The answer depends on the political context, but it does not necessarily have to be an ideological one.
Black liberation movements also had the benefit of the “natural” hair movement. The natural hair movement emerged from the Black Power movement. It merged with the civil rights movement and adopted African fabrics and hairstyles. Many people straighten their hair for various reasons, from social to personal. In this context, the Black is Beautiful slogan became a popular mantra and a statement against specific beauty standards and their negative impact on society. In fact, the phrase was born out of a black liberation movement and has continued to resonate to this day.