Women have been in the search for eternal beauty ever since the creation of time! We struggle to come to terms with what the notion of beauty entails. But there are some common elements to our interpretations of beauty… the eyes, for instance, capture so much of our attention and are considered the most prominent indicator of beauty. Cultural perceptions, however, govern so much of what we might find beautiful.
Regardless of how our brains interpret beauty; there is no arguing that there are some universal elements judging female beauty; be it facial symmetry, flawless complexions, and a healthy mane. While some cultures favour slim and athletic figures alongside those traits; you might find other cultures who find beauty in excess kilograms. Again these differences all boil down to history and culture. Early Europeans as well as some Arabs and other developing countries look at an overweight woman with favour as for them this is synonymous with health and social status. In Mauritania, families used to send their daughters to “fat farms” where they would be force fed 16,000 calories a day to achieve that, and the more stretch marks the better. Whereas nowadays, Europeans favour slim figured women and they consider this a sign of self-discipline and financial stability.
On the other hand, while we – as well as Europeans and Americans- struggle to achieve the perfect tan regardless of how damaging we know the sun could be, we find that Southeast Asian women are always on the hunt for fairness and whitening products. For Asians, a darker skin tone reminds them of centuries of toiling in the fields, which in turn signifies a lower social standing.
Asians covet wide eyes and some Asians would go to the extent of undergoing cosmetic surgery to enlarge their eyes to resemble Caucasian women. While in some Arab countries mothers would line their babies’ eyes with kohl to that effect as well. Whereas, in some African countries the beauty lies in the size of the lower lip. In Ethiopia, a girl’s lower teeth are removed and the lower lip is pierced and stretched by clay plates to achieve that look. Fuller lips have taken over the world however, and no culture or country is exempt from girls injecting fillers to achieve an Angelina Jolie pout. Moreover, in some countries undergoing surgical procedures is considered a luxury and some people would keep wearing their bandages longer than necessary just for show-off.
While women all over are obsessed with achieving wrinkle-free faces and flawless complexions, Africans, again, create scarring on women’s stomachs to attract husbands. In Burma and Thailand, women with longer necks are the most beautiful and girls as young as five are made to wear brass neck rings to push down the shoulders and elongate the neck. Henna and jewellery to decorate the skin is used by women in countries such as India to make themselves more attractive. And while most people would kill for a hair full of body, Japanese girls turn to chemicals and flat irons to achieve the look of stick straight hair. Thus, it is clear that cultural differences provide an intricate way of deciphering beauty according to standards that might seem vague and ambiguous…truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!!