[...] Today, as demonstrated by the cult success of the makeup and skin-care brand Glossier, we idealize beauty that appears to require almost no intervention—women who look poreless and radiant even when bare-faced in front of an iPhone camera, women who are beautiful in almost punishingly natural ways.
Mainstream feminism has also driven the movement toward what’s called “body acceptance,” which is the practice of valuing women’s beauty at every size and in every iteration, as well as the movement to diversify the beauty ideal. These changes are overdue and positive, but they’re also double-edged. A more expansive idea of beauty is a good thing—I have appreciated it personally—and yet it depends on the precept, formalized by a culture where ordinary faces are routinely photographed for quantified approval, that beauty is still of paramount importance. The default assumption tends to be that it is politically important to designate everyone as beautiful, that it is a meaningful project to make sure that everyone can become, and feel, increasingly beautiful. We have hardly tried to imagine what it might look like if our culture could do the opposite—de-escalate the situation, make beauty matter less.