You can’t be fat but you can’t be too thin either, you shouldn’t show any sign of imperfection, your skin is too dark or too pale, your breasts are too big, your hair is too short or too long, your nails are not feminine enough, sit straight and smile!
“Am I ever going to fulfill society’s expectations?” says every little girl.
In a world of patriarchy and misogyny, women are indemnified and valued based on their appearance, meanwhile, men are praised for their professional success and strength. Women are taught to serve, respect, and listen to men…preposterous.
The perpetual fight against pre-determined gender roles, unrealistic toxic beauty standards, bigotry, and discrimination that we, women, have to go through every day is incredibly excruciating. Add to that the constant dilemma regarding our physique.
The feminine beauty ideal is the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women’s most important assets, something all women should strive to achieve and maintain.
Beauty is subjective, there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to beauty such as culture, tribes, country, and time of living.
Today’s beauty standard is having a slim face, defined jawline, thin nose, big lips, flawless skin, no signs of acne or imperfections, no signs of aging, no stretch marks, no cellulite. Asian women desire pale skin, a thin nose, and a slim body, meanwhile, westerns want dark tan skin, a tall hourglass body, a flat
stomach whilst having large breasts, and a big derrière. Basically a Bratz doll.
The beauty industry & media bombard young girls and women with the western ideal of beauty on a global scale. This unattainable beauty standard is exposed to us at such a young age.
Women are highly objectified and sexualized even from such a young age. They tell you what is conventionally pretty and what isn’t, they tell you to have and wax your body for the approval of men. They pressure you to wear makeup.
Why Asian countries should not idealize Western features:
The universal beauty standard goes way back to internalized racism ideologies and colorism due to the colonization of the western world. A time of racial supremacy that dehumanized people of color. Colonialism resulted in the promulgation of European beauty standards in cultures all over the world.
Europeans – being their pilgrim, ignoramus, and vain selves – took away different versions of beauty, customs, and traditions from people of color.
In Asia, after the Korean War in the 1950s and early 1960s, American military doctors performed double eyelid surgery to fix the oriental eyes of native patients. The American troops performed surgery on Korean women to be considered more attractive to the eyes of American troops. They also performed double eyelid surgery on Korean men because their squinting eyes meant that the Americans couldn’t trust them.
The concept of beauty in numerous East Asian countries praise pale skin, thin nose, and double eyelids. The obsession with pale skin in East Asian countries has been around for centuries and is on the adverse vestiges of past historical prejudices. Nowadays, many East Asian makeup products and skin-care promote fair skin, these precarious products usually contain chemical bleach to attain lighter shade.
It is beyond sickening and completely immoral to deem light skin as “superior” and “beautiful” because as a result, darker skin is directly labeled as inferior,which reinforces historical racial inferiority complexes that countries should completely castigate.
Darker toned people are perpetually mistreated when compared to their light skin counterparts, which substantiates the lingering effects of imperialism and Western supremacy in our world. It has also become so common and normalized for Asians to change their natural features, like the shape of their nose and eyes, to appear more caucasian. As reported by the Atlantic, the competitive culture within these societies often encourages young women to undergo plastic surgery, as it is believed that the “better looking” individual has an easier chance at obtaining jobs, finding their significant other, and so forth.
However, no Asian woman should ever feel inclined to go under the knife to buy an “ideal” face. At the end of the day, East Asians have their own intrinsic beauty – and they should wear it proudly. This truly saddens me, I find Asian women –from all parts of the continent– beyond breathtaking and downright gorgeous! Don’t let capricious and mercurial beauty standards affect your self-esteem!
Anti-black & desire for whiteness:
White colonists compelled and inculcated that the black race is inferior, the Black community was told that white is best, white is beautiful, white features are the beauty standard.
Black women feeling less than beautiful compared to their white counterparts is not new. In the 16th century, as the transatlantic slave trade expanded and the New World became reliant on their life and labor of enslaved African people, Europeans created theories to malign the culture and natural beauty of African people as beautiful to justify the enslavement. The classification of cultural differences such as skin color and hair textures existed to show that African people were ugly, disgusting, worthless, and naturally suited for slavery.
Besides skin tone, hair texture is historically a physical trait and ethnic indicator of African descent. However, in European, American, Middle Eastern, and North African countries, black hair textures and natural styles carry negative connotations of being “unprofessional”, “unkept” and “messy.
Thus, Black people are pressured to conform to unrealistic European standards of beauty in their pursuit of higher studies and employment.
For so long, Black folks were told to whiten their skin, whether through bleaching or lightening products. This has also led to the rise of African American hair care, such as wigs and straightenings, yet ironically, the modern beauty standard is now shifting into the natural features of a black woman.
It is no surprise that darker women in Morocco are perpetually discriminated and treated with constant hatred and contemptuousness. Moroccans come in every skin tone and different types of hair. My darker-skinned friends and cousins are often called “3azi” to point out how “dirty” looking they are.
Corroborating the virulent and toxic impact of unattainable eurocentric standards on women of color.
Black features such as large hips, big derrière, plump lips, beautiful melanin, voluminous hairstyles such as afros, box braids, and wigs are now trendy. White women tan their skin and undergo plastic surgery to look like black women, this method is called black fishing. Numerous black celebrities have spoken up about this and showed their anger with the hashtag #mycultureisnotyours.
Mental health and body image
A case study in Fiji has been released in the 1960s about the impact of television. In Fiji, being told “curvy or large” was considered a compliment. Having a large body was a symbol of status and beauty.
But after the introduction of television and western media, young girls stopped wanting to look like their aunts and their mother. Instead, they wanted to look like what the media showed. Shortly, there were reports of girls developing eating disorders, the young girls in Fiji started to see themselves as poor and fat.
Nowadays, so many kids and babies are gifted Ipads and Iphones at such a young age. Younger and younger children are exposed to this distorted idea of beauty, which can have a significant impact on self-esteem and trigger body dysmorphic disorder.
There is so much evidence showing the rise in mental distress, depression, and suicide amongst younger people linking to social media. There has also been a significant rise in eating disorders over the years. Younger girls are becoming obsessed with weight loss and dieting, ultimately it is all because of this
unattainable beauty standard.
What can you do about this?
Educate and spread awareness about these issues, start this conversation with one another. We need to learn to embrace our natural selves! The beauty standard is always fluctuating and it’s aimed to make you insecure. Profit greedy industries work with media outlets to offer us a distorted perception of ourselves. And use that distorted self-image to sell us remedies for the distortion. We live in a capitalist society after all, money is all that matters.
It’s hard to embrace our natural selves when for so long, the representation in the media has been primarily caucasian and eurocentric features. The media’s representation is only an insignificant population, it’s telling us that we need to look a specific way.
We are so beautiful in our own ways, there is much beauty from all sizes and all ages and cultures that we need to celebrate. You don’t need to be a specific height, you don’t need to have a specific skin tone, we are allowed to have flaws, stretch marks, pores, acne, hair.
Don’t ever compare your living, breathing, beautifully imperfect real-life human self to someone else’s controlled online content. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others, especially when we are all genetically different.
These companies and industries are nothing without us, we are their source of money, we are the consumers. Do not underestimate the power we have, especially with social media.
We’ve demanded a realistic and wider range of representations of bodies in the media and we’re actually getting it! There is a demand for less photoshopping and editing and embracing our natural selves and it’s been executed! Movements like body positivity teach young girls and women to love themselves in a world that has taught them to hate themselves.
We are definitely evolving and progressing. Don’t give up on yourself, don’t let a society predominantly ruled by men destroy your self-esteem. Love yourself, accept your body, embrace your stretch marks, embrace your natural hair, and most importantly support other women!
Written by: Imane Bour