Beauty around the world

From India to Japan to AHS, people view beauty differently
Beauty [byoo-tee] –noun

“The quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind,” according to Dictionary.com.

“From thick ankles to small noses,” cultures from all over the world have varying perceptions of what they considered beautiful in their countries. Two thirds of all people say that beauty is primarily about non-physical attributes, yet as many as 40 percent would change their looks if they could, according to Synovate’s global survey on beauty.

However, students’ perspectives vary. “Beauty is being true to oneself and amplifying all things good,” said sophomore Lilas Dinh. Culture, gender and confidence influence humans’ perception of beauty. While poets and philosophers proclaim that beauty is subjective and can be anything that brings pleasure to the mind and soul, scientists and socialists claim that beauty is a combination of certain properties like contemplation, personal connectivity, symmetry and cultural standards. This shows that the definition of beauty is not something that can be readily decided through one concrete word.

Beauty has always played a great role in Asian life and culture. In ancient Chinese culture, the so-called beautiful woman looks slender and fragile with petite feet. That was the preference at a certain time; but later, in the T’ang Dynasty, an ideal woman was someone voluptuous and healthy-looking. Even today, many cultures consider curvy women to be beautiful, and young women are strongly encouraged to eat healthily. To women who live in societies where tall and thin models set the trend for what is considered beautiful, this may sound incredible.

In Japan the definition of beauty seems to vary according to the times. After World War II, Japanese culture began to popularize curves. Though some Americans get collagen and B=botox injections, Japanese women believe in a different approach—they consume collagen-infused foods. Miki Okae, one of Japan’s most famous beauty experts, told Oprah.com that eating collagen rich beef tendons is a regular part of her beauty routine. “I sneak out of the office when the supermarket opens to buy some,” she said. Many restaurants even feature collagen, which is derived from animals like cows and chickens, on their menus. Many Japanese people believe that their skin is the key true beauty, and the ideal skin is fair and smooth.

Another treatment for beauty that originated in Japan is the highly popularized hair straightening. In Japan, straight hair is considered the norm, and therefore, more attractive. Clear skin and straight hair might make a woman more attractive in Japan, but in some other cultures women are judged by different criteria.

“In India, women take a more natural approach to beauty,” said junior Narmeen Rehmani. Females in India wear special clothing and jewelry, including a forehead chain, on their special days. A dot of red powder on the face—known as a kumkum—is also thought to make a woman more attractive. Around the world, Indian women are known for their beautiful skin and hair, and in the United States, women go to great lengths to achieve the same thick, shiny locks.

On the new Jessica Simpson show “The Price of Beauty,” cameras document some of the world’s most extreme beauty practices. On the perimeter of Burma and Thailand, members of the Kayan tribe begin their beauty rituals at a young age. At just 5 years old, girls start wearing brass rings around their necks, a ritual that’s centuries old. As they become older, more rings are added, and eventually, their necks start to look elongated, giving them a giraffe-like appearance. For these women, the shiny brass rings are the ultimate sign of female sophistication and status. Some neck pieces can weigh up to 22 pounds.

“If I take the rings off now, I won’t look nice anymore,” one woman said to Simpson and crew,“they really are a part of my life.”

Thousands of miles away from the coast of Burma and Thailand, the Maori people of New Zealand perform a sacred beauty ritual—tattooing. The indigenous people believe women are more attractive when their lips and chins are tattooed. A woman with full, blue lips is considered the most beautiful and desirable. To a certain degree tattooing has a similar affect in the United States.

“Even though tattoos are cool here in America, I wouldn’t want to have my lips tattooed,” said Senior Bill Dihn.

In the United States and many countries around the world, being thin and slender is a standard when it comes to beauty. But in a West African country halfway around the world, bigger is definitely better. In Mauritania, a desert oasis on the northwest coast of Africa, a woman’s beauty is revered—but thin isn’t in. In Mauritania, being pleasantly plump is sexy! Yet, generations of young girls have been subjected to the practice of gavage—or force feeding—in order to fatten up the girls to make them more desirable in their culture. In Mauritania the more weight one has, the better chances of finding a husband.

Although force feeding is now frowned upon by the government, old practices die hard in secluded areas of the country. Some young girls spend hours each day in the muggy heat, forced to stuff themselves with highly fattening foods. Even in Mauritania’s more progressive cities, some women are willing to do anything for a fuller figure, including buying black-market drugs meant for animals.
“In Ethiopia people think the most beautiful thing about people is their eyes. It doesn’t matter what color they are as long as they are beautiful. Even for guys, beauty is sometimes defined as the guy with the pop eyes, smooth looking face, always smiling and a built up body, etc. Dark eyes are what really hit you; and you can’t help but stare into them, trying to figure out what she was thinking,” said junior Yordi Sam.

All this creates some question of how there can be such different standards in society concerning women’s beauty. Women tend to find themselves in a cultural trap that makes them keen to fit themselves into the mold of standard set by the social trends of the time.