Think small waist, tanned skin and blonde hair make women look beautiful? You’ll be surprised to learn that in the African country of Mauritania larger women are thought as more beautiful, while in most Asian countries whiter skin is considered more attractive. The perception of beauty varies across the world. It is the cultural implications that have a strong influence on the idea, feelings and acceptance of beauty in a particular place.
“Beauty is not one's own, but a reflection of one's culture”
Based on cultural beliefs, the ideals of beauty vary tremendously. Women with subtle, cherished, and sensual, delicate features are considered beautiful among Caucasian, but in Eastern countries, especially India, voluptuous and curvaceous women with big eyes and strong noses are seen as attractive. Similar kinds of diverse beauty epitomes are present all over the world.
While scars are seen with disgust in the western countries and many methods are used to reduce, whiten and remove them, Karo girls in southern Ethiopia embrace them. In Karo tribe scars are considered as a sign of beauty and a girl must have a particular number of scars before she is allowed to marry and have children.
The Pa Dong tribe in Burma considers women with long neck beautiful and hence, most girls can be seen wearing brass rings around their neck to elongate it. Another difference in definition of beauty can be seen in Vietnam. Contrary to most places, blackened teeth are a cultural and traditional sign of beauty in Vietnam. Young women in Vietnam use a combination of resin and alcohol to dye their teeth black, while elders chew the betel nut, which creates a dark brown colour when mixed with saliva and stains the teeth.
Do you think Angelina Jolie has the perfect lips? Well Africana and Amazonian tribes might not agree. For them stretched lips are attractive. The tribal women are required to make a hole in their lips and gradually increase it by inserting large plates. While Africans have a fixation with lips, a tribe in New Zealand sees beauty in face imprinting. In New Zealand’s indigenous tribe, Maori, both men and women have swirling tattoos called Ta moko on their face as a symbol of beauty.
Diverse beauty rituals across the world
With the ideals of beauty, treatments to achieve that also differ drastically from culture to culture. For instance, British and American women use collagen-enriched cosmetic products to erase wrinkles, Japanese women eat collagen-infused foods like beef tendons to get rid of the signs of ageing. In Hong Kong women use a micro-needle roller over the face to get ageless skin as they believe that massaging with the needled roller enhances blood circulation resulting in increased collagen production.
While Westerners apply sunscreen lotion to protect their skin from UV rays, Chilean’s use snail secretions for protection against pollution and ultraviolet radiation. They believe that snail secretions are rich in antioxidants and will help regenerate and repair skin, banishing wrinkles, scars and blemishes. In South America, the Wauwai people of Guyana consider round claves attractive. To achieve rounder claves they practice a form of body swelling in which young girls’ legs are bonded below the knee to create a swelled calf and tantalizing limbs.
The influence of Western culture on beauty
In Britain and America, Hollywood and the fashion world defines beauty. Whatever’s in vogue among celebrities is accepted by common people as the idea of beauty. But the influence of Hollywood isn’t restricted to Western countries. Many Eastern countries have started adopting beauty trends of the West. In countries like India where voluptuous women were considered beautiful, more and more women are now working to get slimmer waistlines that are thought as attractive in the West. Western influence on beauty has increased to an extent that many women in Asian countries like China and Japan have been undergoing eyelid surgery to achieve the doe-eyed look that is popular in the west.
The Bottom Line
The old-age saying, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” might still hold some truth for many people across the world. But in many places beauty is also a human obsession. Many men and women still use extreme methods to achieve what is perceived as beauty in their culture. In fact, it is this obsession with defining standards of beauty that forces a number of men and women to dislike their natural self and take extreme measures to get the look that is considered beautiful by popular culture.
While it might be difficult to define real beauty especially when the beauty standards vary drastically across the world, one thing that binds all of them is the need to look youthful and feminine. Women all across the world face the pressure of looking younger and close to what is perceived as feminine. But in all this external beautification, one thing that holds more truth than anything else is - real beauty lies in the heart not on the face.