On Superficiality

Section 1
In this article, I will attempt to explain my complex thoughts on appearance and superficiality. The first section is the explanation of how I categorize and discern superficiality and the second section is the explanation of my attitude towards it. (I have found it difficult to explain succinctly my opinion on appearance and superficiality, thus, I have concluded to structure the second section in such a way so that you, the reader, will understand me by reading the mental processes that brought me to this attitude). This composition does not in any way exhaust this topic.

Perhaps it may be useful to elaborate, in short, on why I believe superficiality is negative (I want to state here that I believe everyone is superficial to a certain extent). It does not seem to be just to judge and treat someone solely based on their appearance (unless it somehow reveals something about the character of the person, a topic which I leave to another day). Some people are just born unattractive (a very relative word by the way). It is as if you were to judge and treat a person badly because of their race. People should be judged (if judged at all) and treated by their personalities, skills, talents, passions, desires, intentions...in other words, people should be judged and treated based on their contents. I believe that most people do agree that treating someone badly because of their unattractiveness is unjust.

Having stated that, it would be logical that I would not favor anything that supports superficiality; I would favor the opposite, I would favor protest! The list of things that support the system of superficiality includes make-up, plastic surgery, fashion, and exercise (keep in mind this list is not exhaustive). The first two are bolder supporters of superficiality, the last two are not so clear and will be elaborated in more detail.

It is easy to see how make-up and plastic surgery are clearly supporters of superficiality (they are not supporters in the sense that they advocate it, but rather in the sense that they accept it). Both exist for the purpose of looking attractive, to be judged favorably by the superficial society. An argument can be made that wearing make-up (or getting plastic surgery) is for building up confidence and thus, solely inward and not for others. It is understandable how it can serve this role, but I do not believe it is solely inward (and even if it is solely inward, that would mean that one would feel better about oneself because of make-up and thus, would make oneself superficial). I believe there is an external factor to it. For example, if one lived in a box, would one wear make-up? I feel that for most people, the answer would be no. People can be confident of the fact that they are physically attractive, that they will be judged and treated favorably by superficial people. It is definitely not safe to assume that one wears make-up because one wants to be judged and treated unfavorably and it is also not safe to assume that one would wear make-up in total disregard on how one would be perceived by others. It, therefore, accepts superficiality.

The elaboration of my attitude towards appearance and superficiality is quite confusing. I must first explain the discernment of superficiality in regards to fashion and exercise. With that, I will try to smoothly transition to the next section.

It seems to me that these two things can be considered supporters of superficiality, but it would depend on the intent of the individual. If the individual's intent is to dress well so that superficial people will perceive them more favorably, then they are supporting superficiality. If they are doing it for artistic reasons, then no. If one exercises to look thin so that superficial people will perceive one more favorably, then yes. If one does it for health, then no. To put it simply, they can be either or both, the intent determines everything.

The categorization of one's actions can be clarified in the diagram below. However, in the next section, I will also use the diagram to help explain my attitude on appearance and superficiality.

Section 2
In the beginning, I disapproved of the entire superficiality circle, but a closer examination revealed to me that that was false. A question was raised as to whether or not I would find someone attractive if they were overweight. And if I did not, would that make me too superficial. My first thought was that I would not find an overweight woman attractive which of course made me ponder why. Was it solely because society told me that being overweight is unattractive? Or was there some part of it that was deeper than that? I have concluded that being overweight belongs in area 1, and thus, touches upon both superficiality and health. Over weight people are both unattractive and unhealthy, but more specifically, it is because they are unhealthy that they are unattractive. Therefore the answer is no, I am not being too superficial because I am taking health into consideration. To clarify my point, I would also not be attracted to someone who was malnutritioned because it would reflect poor health.

Another aspect I had to take into consideration was art. When I disapproved of the entire superficiality circle, it meant I was also against fashion. This presented a problem because I did not approve of a society in which everyone wore the same clothing. I concluded that it is good that there are different types of clothing, that there is fashion. So, I created a new circle for art and I placed fashion into it. I believe art is something deeper (and beneficial) and therefore, I approve of the art circle.

It would seem that I would be ok with things belonging to area 2 because of the previous statements I made about area 1. However, I must point out a slight difference between the two areas. If one's actions fall into area 1, regardless of one's intention, one should not stop because area 1 corresponds to health. In other words, one should not stop exercising because exercising supports superficiality; the health benefits are worth it.

However, if one's actions fall into area 2, I disapprove of the action if it is done with the intent of supporting superficiality. In this case, there is no beneficial outcome if one supports superficiality.

This analysis is limited to the scope of general morality and intentions; it does not take into consideration the indirect consequences of not being judged and treated favorably by the superficial society.