Feb 2nd, 2016, 03:48 PM

Western Culture and Beauty Ideals

By Nutsa Melitauri
Victoria's Secret Models (Image Credit:Instagram/victoriassecret)
How can any magazine judge beauty of individuals and rank them according to some given color or shape standards?

Being white, tall, and skinny with long legs, big breast, and full lips – this is what sells today. These are the ideal Western beauty standards promoted by the fashion industries, television, internet, and social media. This Western culture of beauty circulating around the world is ubiquitous. It is embedded in our daily lives.

Women often question the accuracy of these female beauty standards and the level of reality in these representations. Yet paradoxically, despite knowing that these standards are achieved after photoshopping touch-ups and airbrushing, they still strive to attain them. These women are so desperate to achieve the ideal beauty that they spend thousands of dollars, and go through in unimaginable physical pain, to feel themselves “fitting into” the accepted beauty standards.

Are these female representations accurate? Are celebrities in reality as flawless as they are represented on the covers? Of course not! The most recent example proving the absurdity of these female representations is  Beyoncé’s L’Oreal scandal. Pop Diva’s unretouched photos from her L’Oréal cosmetic campaign were leaked and published online. These photos show Beyoncé’s uneven skin, full of blemishes, and with a heavily applied foundation. Later on these images where edited and Beyoncé transformed into a lighter woman with a soft and totally smooth face skin. 

This is a lie. This is what make-up campaigns promote in order to increase their sales. No such ideal beauty exists or ever existed and it is natural that we all have blemishes, dark circles under our eyes, and uneven skin. Removing these natural traits means removing individualism.

Today only minority of people cares about individualism. According to a Lebanese student quoted in Julie Zeilinger's article about disturbing effects of Western beauty standards, if you walk around the streets of Lebanon “you’d realize that most people look the same, specifically people from a certain social class that have the money to have this many surgeries”.  Influenced by the celebrity culture and images promoting the idealized beauty, these people equate Western beauty standards with wealth and happiness, so they are ready to go through in any awful pain to reach this beauty and thus gain a particular social status.

Lebanon is not the only country influenced by the globally circulating ideal female images. South Korean women have their eyes “de-orientalized” for $800. They believe that after the double eyelid surgery they fit better into the fashion industry. This is a constantly increasing obsession in South Korean young people, including males to have big round eyes and to resemble more to western celebrities.

Like in South Korea, Indian females are also under enormous pressure to have ideal body measurements.  The number of females suffering from anorexia nervosa increases yearly in India. Indian females are naturally inclined to being curvy and full as rounded body was historically considered as a symbol of wealth, health, and thus high social status; however, today these females are having serious eating disorders in order to have flatter bellies and lower waist-to-hip ratios. They also use various skin-lightening creams that give their skin lighter color. First of all, these creams are discriminatory and racist. Secondly, they might cause long-term damage such as refractory pigmentations, skin burns and so on.

Who has actually decided that lighter-colored females are more beautiful? How can any magazine judge the beauty of individuals and rank them according to some given color or shape standards? These are the conventional standards that should be challenged and redefined. Females should not be fooled by the photoshopped celebrity images and feel pressured to look like them. The most successful way to fight back to these fake Western beauty standards is to accept women from all ethnic backgrounds, along with their culturally-specific traits, as beautiful. Individual beauty is superior to the perfectly symmetrical beauties that are results of multiple surgical operations. People should appreciate more the natural, individualistic beauty which does not have to be ideal.

 

Since building communities has always been a powerful tool to challenge accepted standards and to create social change, we need to have more body positive communities on different social media, to promote individual beauty. Hashtags such as #EffYourBeautyStandards, #GoldenConfidence and others are powerful forces to advocate all female body sizes so women feel confident about themselves. Dove’s recent effort, #speakbeautful is another campaign, for increasing self-esteem in females and for promoting the positive self-talk about their bodies. The National Organization for Women designated October 14 to be “Love Your Body Day” in order to fight against the oppressive beauty standards.

These communities are increasing on daily basis and they are the main catalyzers of the huge social change in the modern beauty industry. Recognize the absurdity of these standards, redefine these standards, and create your own ones. This is how to win the fight!