The feminist conversation for everyone. No litmus test required.
This is a really great question. There are positive aspects to both seeing and feeling that one can express beauty. Maybe we need to define what type of beauty we are discussing. As a creative artist I want the words, music, pictures, and ideas that I give to be beautiful, but I would not necessarily place I high value on my personal level of physical beauty. If I had to make a choice I would probably choose the ability to recognize and appreciate beauty rather than being that essence that others recognize and appreciate. But I do not think it is less of a talent to be beautiful or to express beauty to those around us. ESPECIALLY when that beauty is more complex than a social construct of physical and sexual attraction.
Jon, I think you're right to distinguish between types of beauty. At first I had a literal/physical idea of beauty in mind when I asked this question. I'd been talking with my mother, about how upsetting it was to me to no longer have 20/20 vision and to now face the decision of whether to wear glasses or not (it's an optional prescription, since my vision is still 20/30). She described how when she was at BYU she never wore glasses unless she was in class and needed them, and then one day she wore her glasses while walking to class, and she was shocked by how much more beautiful everything was. After that, she started wearing them all the time. And it got me thinking about how she chose to see beauty, even at the cost of her own physical beauty.But as soon as I came up with the question I started wondering how it applied to creative beauty - would I rather be beauty as a writer, or see beauty as a reader? Am I content to hear beauty when others create music, or does it bother me more that I am the antithesis of beauty when I try to make music?And it also got me thinking about gender - the stereotype is that men want to see physical beauty in a girlfriend or wife, while women want to be physical beauty. I'm really not sure if one is better than the other in that case.
Emily, my dear blogging buddy. (I feel like a real blogger, addressing you so formally!) I don't think one is better than the other and I'm not convinced that your assumption about men and women is true. I think it is common for both genders to feel a desire to look beautiful for their spouse and want their spouse to acknowledge their beauty regardless of how other partner looks. Love has a way of blinding us to a degree, making it easier to overlook flaws in a partner. We see, albeit with impaired vision, so much beauty in our partner that may or may not be real that we want to be our best for them. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder perhaps their vision is 20/30. Just enough off to see beauty where none may exist but good enough to see their lack of it in themselves. Maybe this is unhealthy. Maybe it is just a desire to be loved for the wrong reasons. Maybe it is a way of expressing love to a partner. I really do not know. These last two semesters I have learned more and more about game theory. One of the concepts is based on a rule of a zero sum, or what theorist call a zero sum game. Basically it is what we learned growing up as a win - lose situation. My gain is your loss and your loss is my gain. There must always be a loser. Although this theory is appreciated and valued, a zero sum game is not always the reality. Just because I see beauty does not mean I can not express beauty. I do not believe that we are talking about a zero sum game or an either or scenario. If we were forced to make a decision we might first choose to experience beauty, but as that skill would grow in us so would the need and desire to express these new found experiences in some way. The most beautiful expressions of creativity can only to shared by those who have experienced beauty. Obviously I feel I am talking more about existential beauty rather than physical beauty but I think it still works. When I see someone and recognize their beauty, in any definition of the word, I want to mirror that is some way. I am not Brad so usually it comes across as expressions of music, carefully constructed conversation, or even writing. Again I do not think beauty, in any sense of the word, is a zero sum game unless we so desire, but who would with all their creative genius deprive themselves of experiencing beauty.
I like the zero sum game analogy for the stereotype I mentioned. I do want to clarify, though, that I don't believe that stereotype about men only wanting to see beauty in a partner and women only wanting to be beauty - but I think stereotypes are fascinating things, insofar as they do help shape our perceptions of reality.For instance, people often say that men are shallow and that appearance is really important to them when they're looking for a partner, but that women don't care about physical appearance in a partner. Personally, I don't agree with that perception. I think women are far more shallow than men give us credit for being. I also hope (and suspect) men are a lot less shallow than we give you all credit for being.