Most of us have probably heard the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and never thought that it carries much significance.
The phrase always seems too obvious to me because we all have preferences, such that we all have different ideas about what composes beauty. But it is not that simple.
I also didn’t pay much attention to the arguments about the models in women’s magazines and how these magazines apparently contribute to eating disorders like Anorexia. But I later realised that I cannot ignore this issue any longer.
The Western world, by that I mean America and Europe, have created and promoted a set of standards of beauty that are unrealistic and that are now being applied to almost every woman in the world in one way or another. The set of standards I’m referring to is based around the concept of an ‘ideal’ white woman. Maybe I should mention from the onset that this is not an attack on any race. Because these standards are so unrealistic the majority of white women themselves cannot live up to them, so you can imagine the absurdity of trying to apply these standards to all women, regardless of race. Let me try and explore these standards one by one to illustrate my point.
Firstly, fair skin is emphasised as being beautiful, obviously white skin is as fair as you can get. With darker races, we can only say the lighter the better. Skin whitening creams have been used in many parts of the world including Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East for years.
Secondly, a slender physique is also emphasised as being attractive, preferably with the woman being tall.
Fashion models in Europe and America now weigh 25% less than the average woman while, they weighed 40% less in the 1950’s.
Also, long straight hair is a necessity for a woman to be considered beautiful according to these standards. The use of hair relaxer, wigs, weaves and extensions has become common practice for women in the modern world. There are more features but these three are the most emphasised.
These standards are highlighted everywhere, not just in the beauty magazines that I mentioned earlier, but in all Western media. Look at how so many of the women who are said to be attractive in television shows and movies fit the standards I mentioned. It is even present in adverts, and the best evidence is the many female celebrities who either fit these standards or can be seen to be trying to fit these standards. This is especially true of the successful models. It is also true of entertainers such as singers and actors.
Due to the major influence that the West has on the rest of the world, these standards are being applied everywhere, even right here in Botswana. It might seem like an exaggeration at first, but pause and think about the features of girls who excel in beauty competitions. We usually just write it off as the common standard that models need to meet internationally.
We all know, just from the women we’ve met over the course of our lives that very few women even come close to meeting the standards of beauty being promoted. So the question is, which women are these models meant to represent? The money is in helping women to chase the unattainable goal of beauty re-enforced in all these beauty magazines. These magazines go to great lengths to make their readers believe that women who do not fit into these criteria of beauty are inferior and should strive to achieve these features. They’re littered with adverts for makeup, skin lightening creams, diet supplements and other ‘beauty-enhancing products’.
In America alone, the sale of beauty products grossed a total of $50 billion in revenue in 2009. More than 50% of that was made from hair care and skin care products. The consumption of skin whitening creams in China has an estimated worth of $7 billion. The market for hair products in the US is worth $9 billion, an industry in which black people use 80% of the products, even though they account for only 12% of the population. The people behind the manufacture of beauty products and the media that promote them know very well the destructive effects that they can potentially cause but they are determined to stick to the same tactics; simply because it’s good for business.
Now I’m not trying to say that anybody is wrong to think that fashion models or beauty queens are good looking. Then I would be deluding myself. The point I’m trying to illustrate is that there exists a billion dollar industry dependant on making us believe that the physical appearance of these women is the only form of female beauty. That’s not the case at all ÔÇô I’ve seen countless beautiful women who don’t have a chance in hell of being a model.
I respect that people have preferences; I’m not trying to say that all women should be beautiful in everyone’s eyes that just would not be rational. All I’m saying is that who you’re attracted to is completely your prerogative, so just try to make sure that nobody is forcing their opinion of what constitutes beauty on to you, not even a magazine.