What is beauty anyway?

Ferris State art exhibit challenges social norms

The term “beauty” has an ever-changing definition set in place by society, a definition we—both men and women—strive for.

Right now, we live in a culture that tells us we can buy beauty like an expensive product at the grocery store. You’re beautiful when your face is plastered in makeup and you’re wearing Michael Kors or Gucci accessories and holding your Starbucks coffee.

The FSU Art Gallery exhibit “Strong is the New Pretty” challenges society’s definition of beauty by illustrating beauty in ways that are typically not described as beautiful. What I love about this photo series is that the beauty is found in the happiness of women doing what they love, rather than how the women look.

The subjects of these photographs are doing messy, dirty things like playing in the mud, competing in a wrestling match or skateboarding. They aren’t worried about what they look like or what they’re wearing as they wear their freckles and messy hair proudly without a hint of makeup in sight.

Yet, despite societal expectations, these women are beautiful because of their happiness, fearlessness and boldness. An exhibit like this is important for a college campus because it’s easy for students to get lost in the societal definition of beautiful.

What makes “Strong is the New Pretty” so powerful is that it demonstrates beauty in ways many people may not have thought of.

If I asked you to make a list of things you would describe as beautiful, what would you say?

Do you remember in elementary school, maybe even middle school, when you would go to school every single day without caring what you looked like or what you wore?

Growing up, girls are subjected to make-up, fashion and other things of the pink, frilly category and they’re told that those things are what makes them beautiful.

Barbie dolls come with dresses and heels, not converse sneakers and jerseys. Even my soccer ball growing up had Disney princesses on it.

“Strong is the New Pretty” demonstrates beauty in ways many people may not have thought of.

The photographs reveal women in athletic gear, playing instruments or other engaging activities. The women are naturally beautiful and display sincere happiness doing the courageous, non-girly things that they love.

I encourage you to explore the exhibit and challenge your definition of beauty. There is such a wide variety of images throughout the photo series clarifying the true definition of it and, hopefully, exhibits like this will change society’s definition as well.