The CULTure of beauty.
A reality check on what makes us beautiful.
Young, tall, thin and blonde!
For decades people felt the need to reach these stereotypes in order to achieve perfection. But then again, who dictates these rules and why should a woman be thin or a man muscularin order to feel beautiful? Beauty standards are always changing and every century or culture has its own perception of how a person should look like, for example in the 19th century curvy women were more appreciated. But let’s focus on what’s happening nowadays.
In the last decade the media is constantly promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, especially for young women. The influence has become so powerful that not everybody realizes that the main goal is to make more money from people’s insecurities. Let’s face the reality, if more people would feel comfortable with their bodies, big companies wouldn’t be able to make any profit. There will be no more body shaming and this will promote more gender equality. So what does “beautiful” mean for you?
Clairol’s campaign for hair dye was really successful and it made billions just from making this statement. Every person has the right to choose whatever he or she wants to look like, but somehow it suddenly became very unpopular if you just want to look like yourself instead of following some beauty criteria.
|“Body hair is gross”|
|“Your unmanicured nails are unsightly”|
|How do you feel about yourself? Do you think you are beautiful enough?|
|“Your cellulite is an eyesore”|
Have you ever seen a commercial where the female is not young, with “perfect” proportions and skin or half naked? Most beauty campaigns reiterate gender stereotypes, by this contributing to creating and maintaining a vicious cycle in which models such as the loving housewife or the providing man are being recycled and reinforced.
The media pressure is growing day by day and every week we have a new product for losing weight, or a newface cream. Weight has become the main problem in today’s society especially for younger women that idolize famous actresses or models. Nobody realizes that behind all those commercials there’s a lot of photoshop done and that flaws are okay and acceptable. We need to love ourselves the way we are and accept that the beauty standards are not real.
|Your skin is too dark|
|Your skin is too light.|
We follow trends for a reason. Social acceptance is important for every one of us- it fuels the sense of belonging to a social group, it validates us as members of the community and it makes us feel safe. But even when we want to comply, keeping up with the beauty standards, as defined by the big industries such as fashion or cosmetics, seems mission impossible. Styles fall out of fashion just as fast as they become fashionable and set the standard- don’t forget to ask grandpa to borrow you his sweater! So no matter what you do, you are never going to get it right, at least accordi
according to the messages of the beauty industries.
But we decided to make a reality check. Not in the industry, but among ourselves, among the same groups of people from which we are expecting that social recognition. A few women and men from five different cultures were asked to describe the characteristics of a “beautiful woman” and a “handsome man”. And if you think that anybody is counting your six packs or remembers your nail color, then you have another thing coming.
“I don’t believe there are different things which make women and men beautiful.”
(Matko, 24, Croatia)
“A beautiful woman or a man is somebody who knows what she/he wants, they are patient, loving and have a good sense of humor.“
(Baiba, 29, Latvia)
Opposite to what you might expect, physical traits don’t seem to be on the top of the list. Both the men and the women from this multicultural group talked about personality, character and other psychological and emotional aspects. It’s not our appearance which makes us beautiful, but rather we become beautiful through our behavior. From defining beauty as the ability to show kindness to beauty seen as chemistry between people, it looks like we are constructing beauty together, through interaction.
“Beauty as a physical standard is a utopia. Essentially it all comes down to being a human- kindness says a lot about ones personality.” (Telis, 34, Greece)
One other interesting finding was that people don’t necessarily perceive beauty in relation to gender identity. What makes a woman beautiful can also make a man handsome and the other way around. Having a sense of humor, knowing what you want and being a carrying person are some of the most important elements which reveal one’s beauty. This is a far cry from all the gender related beauty stereotypes and prejudice which the media has been exposing us to. If commercials tell us that shaving your body hair makes you beautiful, people outside of the industry are saying that being ambitious and empathetic might make you more beautiful. Beauty is permanently being constructed and reconstructed through interaction.
“My model while growing up was my mother […] Being beautiful is a question of chemistry between people and being psychologically complementary.” (Razvan, 28, Romania)
“I had no role models while growing up- I lived in a village where we had no TV, children would play outside and the only stories I heard were made-up stories about China told by my grandmother.” (Iva, 40, Malaysia)