What is the absence of beauty? It’s not ugly.

03 May

Oh, the fun (power) of Google!

When I search ugly and beautiful women on Google, I find two extremes.


If I search the term “ugly woman” on Google images, I find this picture.

Google Image of an Ugly Woman

The related searches are: plain woman, gross woman, scary woman, average woman, ugly man, and unattractive women.

Now if I search the term “beautiful woman,” I see an image of a blonde hair blue-eyed woman. Does this image look familiar? It is similar to the doll described in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. “…all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every child treasured” (Morrison 20).

Google Image of a Beautiful Woman

The related searches are: beautiful woman face, beautiful woman painting, beautiful woman in dress, and beautiful woman’s body. It is interesting how all of the related searches have beautiful in the title; yet, the related searches for “ugly woman” use many other words besides ugly.


Why must beauty be black and white or positive and negative? Everywhere I look I have media telling me that “this” is beautiful or “this” ugly. Clearly dividing the line between the two. Responses to a New York Times titled “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick In Hand” illustrated society’s negotiation of beauty and power. In a response Natasha Scripture says, “Yet makeup can only fix so much if you don’t take care of your skin.” The use of the word “fix” implies that ugliness exists. In another response Scott Barnes views “beauty as a tool” and says, “People listen to beautiful people.” These comments show that people truly believe that beauty leads to prosperity and ugliness leads to failure. Is this true? Does only beauty and ugliness exist?

A few people in class have stated that the absence of beauty is ugliness, but I don’t believe it. Just because you are not beautiful does not mean you are ugly. Where’s the positive space in between ugly and beautiful? Where do those people belong? I believe that this middle space exists, but it is not recognized.


As I read Morrison’s book, I blatantly saw the white and black distinction and/or the beautiful and ugly division. In class we discussed how blackness has a place within the text as being subjected to the reader’s gaze, and whiteness has a place within the structure of the book with Dick and Jane passages beginning the chapters. Does the novel leave room for a middle space?

Even though white is referenced as beautiful and black is portrayed as ugly, I would argue a middle space exists with Claudia and Frieda. They are not as ugly as Pecola’s family, but they are definitely not as a beautiful as the blue-eyed doll.  Yet, they say “We were so beautiful when we stood astride her [Pecola] ugliness” (Morrison 205).  Claudia and Frieda represent the grey area in between this beautiful and ugly dichotomy, and this is important because they are telling the story. Their voices deserve to be recognized.


I want to look at beauty without restrictions, so the absence of beauty can exist without necessarily being ugly. Those people in the middle are significant and should not be forgotten. I do not know how to define this space, but its presence needs to be acknowledged.


Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “What is the absence of beauty? It’s not ugly.

  1. Lilly

    May 4, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    You bring up an interesting point about the “in-between” of beautiful and ugly. Would it be plausible to say that the middle is “average”? We’ve been bringing in this particular term a few times during class, especially when it comes to the fact that average is what garners the most attraction. I believe that it is possible to not be considered beautiful, and I agree that this does not mean the person is ugly. Putting myself in a situation where I would come across a person I didn’t think was beautiful… the first thing to pop into my head, literally, is that they are “average.” And, I know this thought has gone through me before. I know it sounds kind of terrible, but I bet my mind goes something like, “Hmm… they’re not that pretty… I guess they’re average.”

  2. skytsutsui

    May 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I also agree with you in that there is some middle grounding between what is beautiful and what is ugly. Like Lilly, I admit I have looked at people and made the same conclusions that a girl is “average.” I can see this definition of average going one of two ways: it’s a whole separate category with it’s own standards and expectations or it lies within/between a spectrum of what is considered either beautiful or ugly. When I say that it could be a separate category, I mean that average is considered neither ugly nor beautiful. There are simply criterion that define what is average. Contrastingly, average could be on a spectrum in that there are different levels of average. Average would be in between what is ugly and what is beautiful but it would consist of both being ugly and beautiful. For instance, one could be considered for the most part beautiful but may possess some aspect that makes her slightly ugly; therefore, making her “average.” However, this does cause problems. Is it possible for one to be considered both ugly and beautiful? For me I’d like to believe that this middle exists on it’s own and that what defines being average neither entails being ugly or being beautiful.

  3. Nikki

    May 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    In the Nguyen reading, she talks about how a distribution of beauty necessitates a distribution of ugliness (362) – we definitely get beauty as a correction or “redemption” of ugliness, or at least of non-beauty. She writes, “Distribution must imply beauty’s absence or negation by the presence of ugliness, as well as by the cartographic and classificatory practices that let us know where beauty and ugliness can each be found” (362). So that definitely is one argument.

    But I don’t think I think of most people as either beautiful or ugly. I might be outside the norm, but I’d say I really only attach either judgment in fairly notable cases; I just looked around the computer lab I’m in and was like, okay, most of the people in here are just normal-looking. I mean, they’re college-normal-looking, so I guess hormones are doing nice things for their appearance collectively, but I guess based on my tiny ultrascientific experiment, I’d say the division is more one of theory. But I can definitely imagine it being a starker division for, say, Pecola, who is constantly placed (by herself and other people) on one side of it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: