The ERC grantee Giselinde Kuipers studies how beauty standards – perceptions of physical beauty in women and men – are socially shaped. Her starting point was the transnational fashion and modelling industry. It is unique in human history that we have an institution like this: completely devoted to the creation and dissemination of (images of) human beauty. However, and surprisingly, the research showed that the beauty standards of ordinary Europeans – with the exception of a small minority - generally do not resemble the standards of this industry.
While people have strong feelings and opinions about beauty, at the same time there are great variations in what they find beautiful. Usually this is not the thin, pale ideal of the modelling industry. Giselinde Kuipers’ research showed that beauty standards are group-specific: they mark groups differences both within across and within cultures, leading to social inclusion and exclusion. Thus, while beauty may seem frivolous, it has important social consequences. These consequences become increasingly visible in today’s media-saturated, service-based societies where “looking good” has become the norm for everyone from shop attendant to college professor.
Learn more in this TEDx talk: