There is a surprising amount of disdain for physical beauty. It’s only skin deep; it’s what’s on the inside that counts; sexual objectification is bad; fashion is vapid, etc. There is a condemnation of beauty standards, typically within progressive circles, that suggests that everyone is beautiful and to say otherwise is patriarchal oppression. To be fair, unhealthy beauty standards that require unrealistic weight and body imagery are certainly oppressive, but that is not the only standard, and to rid the world of beauty through the leveling of attractiveness into a wash of monistic equality is asinine.

It’s like someone purposefully never learning to read because they ‘don’t adhere to society’s rigid intellectual standards,’ and claiming that they’re just as smart as everyone else because ‘who gets to decide what “smart” means anyway?’

And this is true, to an extent. The validity of intellectual accomplishments could be argued to be just as subjective as what constitutes someone’s beauty. But not having something and claiming to have it is ignorant when pursuing it can allow you to achieve a portion of it. Just as you can develop your intellect through listening to the news, reading, discussing ideas with other people, etc. you can develop your beauty as well: exercise, a healthy diet, taking care of your appearance through hair styles and grooming, fashion and accessories, or even well-designed tattoos can all improve someone’s physical appearance.

As I said, there are as many avenues that one can trace in order to find beauty; just as there are many for intellectualism. There’s the business-y, sharply dressed look, just as politics is a field wherein one can hone their minds. There’s the nerd-chic hipster look which could be likened to the hard sciences. The heavily tattooed Suicide Girls-esque display could be comparable to the intellectual pursuits within psychotherapy. There are many, many ways to be beautiful.

However, those who claim that the overweight, unhygienic, unshaven, gluttonous blob of a man with his hairy ass hanging out the back of his pants is just as beautiful as anyone else is the same as saying that the man who genuinely believes that if the woman is on top she can’t get pregnant because of gravity is just as smart as everyone else. If the height of your intellectual peak is knowing all there is to know about the shape-shifting lizard lords that run our government, you can claim to be smart all you want, and you may even find that a couple people might agree with you, it’s just that most people won’t.

Beauty and intellect have their subjective sides, (with all the ambiguity that that implies) but if one’s aim is to pursue them, recognizing the views of the majority is a necessary step in being taken seriously within them.

But why pursue beauty? Beautiful people are often considered more charming, persuasive, trustworthy, likeable, healthy and confident than their uglier counterparts. As Goethe says, “Whoever beholds human beauty cannot be infected with evil; he feels in harmony with himself and the world.” It seems that beauty is an incredible social benefit for people. The difference between a romantic gesture and a creepy one is the attractiveness of the suitor, after all.

Of course, the benefits to beauty seem to be somewhat superficial, since a beautiful person is quite likely to be just as trustworthy as an ugly person, despite how they may be perceived. However, Plato tells us that “physical excellence does not of itself produce a good mind and character: on the other hand, excellence of mind and character will make the best of the physique it was given.” This suggests that to optimize one’s other capabilities, it helps to be pretty.

If we insist on the universality of beauty, all we are doing is reinforcing its universal importance. There are many fine qualities outside of beauty, and to emphasize beauty over the rest of them is just as absurd as discarding it as unimportant. One is not obligated to pursue beauty, just as one is not obligated to pursue academia. But if one is looking to improve themselves, ignoring the physical aspect of the self is detrimental to that process. It is a personalized art form, and our unique beauty is typically an expression of our character and our values. Denouncing beauty standards, and flattening its effects to include the entire populace is a rejection of art, and is ignorant of the importance that beauty has for us all.

We are not all beautiful. Some of us are ugly as shit.