Personal Beauty and Racial Betterment/General Negative Characters

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General Negative Characters

1. Signs of race. There are certain negative details of stature, feature, color and movement and habits which are important because they indicate in the first instance a race of species of the human family against which, for reasons which may be instinctive or due to education, there is a prejudice. Facial proportions, for instance, which in themselves have no value, may yet indicate or suggest a branch of the human family against whom we entertain a certain bias. If we despise the Irish, an Irish cast of countenance cannot be beautiful to us. If we have an antipathy to the German or Russian or the French people, the type of face which suggests these people, even though there is no indication of actual blood of the race, is a factor making against beauty. The commonest instance of this sort of negative condition is found in the negroid characters. Here, where the suggestion or indication is of an inferior race, the negative condition is especially important.

2. Signs of disease, deformity or weakness. Any indication, not merely of physical weakness, but even in some instances of mental or moral weakness or disease is of decided negative effect. One who looks like an imbecile or like a criminal is never beautiful; one who seems to have, or suggests, a deadly disease, is to that extent lacking in beauty. To a certain degree, these mental and moral standards are relative to the grade of the observer. A weak-minded person has not the objection to the weak-minded person of his own grade that the more normal person has, but I suspect that the person of low mental grade has a certain preference for the normal person. As regards disease and deformity, there is no question. A hunchbacked or an anemic man regards his characteristic as a decided bar to beauty.

3. Significant deviation from the average is a negative characteristic, even if the deviation cannot be classed as a “deformity.” Dwarfs and giants, exceedingly thin and unusually broad individuals; those whose legs are too long for their bodies, or vice versa; those whose ears are misplaced, or whose hair is of an unearthly shade, are ruled out by their oddity, regardless of what these peculiarities signify. They may be good, clever, or admirable, but never beautiful.

These details are in part relative. Among certain African tribes, where men are uniformly over seven feet tall, and as thin as a rail, a normal Anglo-Saxon is probably not beautiful. Among other African tribes, and certain islanders of the Pacific, a woman is not considered beautiful unless she reaches a degree and a distribution of fatness which makes her either repulsive or comical to European eyes. This relativity is, however, only superficial. The type which is highest in value tends to approximate the European type, wherever the European type becomes known. All dark races prefer white skin, and it is a general rule that the female of the inferior race prefers the male of the superior race to the male of her own race, no matter how striking the difference. That the inferior male considers the superior female more beautiful than the female of his own race is indicated everywhere, and clearly demonstrated among the Turks.

Deviation from the common type, then, is a drawback only when it is not a deviation towards the acknowledged superior type of another race. The conservative dislike for the unusual in general is tempered by approval when the unusual is clearly a mark of racial superiority. This will find its ready explanation when we consider the positive side of beauty.

4. Misplaced sex characters. A specific form of the abnormal, but one which is important enough to justify separation from the foregoing class, is the possession of individuals of one sex of characteristics properly belonging to the other. This is an invariable negative qualification in the eyes of healthy observers. The effeminate man and the masculine woman can be beautiful only to the moral pervert. The importance of this indication is very great, as we shall see later, and however little it may mean consciously to a given individual, the habit of reacting against it has been strongly developed in the human race.