BEAUTY IN RACES 9
Howthe World Sees Beauty in All Races
Theissue of beauty standards across the world has been a verycontroversial one. Different cultures across the globe have differentperceptions about beauty. Some base their standards of beauty of thecolor of the skin and the length of hair while others based it onsize and shape. This paper seeks to examine the different perceptionsabout beauty among different cultures and races. The paper will alsolook at the sociological perspective of the issue biased standards ofbeauty in relation to justice.
Thereare a several factors which determine the world’s perception aboutbeauty in women. Some of these factors include individual psychology,media exposure, cultural background, as well as race and ethnicity.However, race has been the single most influential factor whichdetermines the world’s perception about beauty. The perception ofbeauty is forced upon the society from a very early age depending onthe contextual environment. Thus, a child who grows in a societywhich bases beauty on facial complexion will always believe thatanybody who possesses such qualities is not beautiful. Beauty isinterpreted in different ways based on culture, as well as otherdifferent factors. For instance, some cultures will define beautybased on the bodily shape. Others define beauty based on the skin andhair color. All these factors are significant as they all relate tothe appreciation for the aesthetic sense of sight.
Anotherissue which comes to mind when one talks about beauty is appearancediscrimination. On several occasions, a high number of people getdiscriminated based on the facial and bodily appearance. What peoplefail to understand is that the appearance discrimination is a form ofinjustice. The issue of appearance discrimination exists almost inall spheres of life including homes and workplaces. Surprisingly, theissue has further effects on other aspects of prejudice related todisability, gender, age and race. These forms of prejudice can beseen not only through personal practices, but also throughinstitutional manifestation. Appearance discrimination is majorlybased on race and usually has serious ramifications on the world’sperception towards beauty. This explains why there is a difference inthe perception of beauty among the different countries in the world.
Theissue of varying beauty standards within the different parts has beendiscussed since time immemorial. A number of scholars have on severaloccasions argued that different cultures have their own standard ofbeauty and as such, would only rate beauty based on the perceivednotion. Cynthia L & Robinson-Moore (2008) deeply examine theissue of the different standards of beauty as applied in differentcontexts. They particularly focus on the beauty standards in theEuropean area where skin color is the determinant factor. The issueof social acceptance based on skin complexion is also a quitecontroversial one and has always received the greatest attention inthe European region. Much of this stems from the Eurocentric approachtowards the appreciation of beauty (Mears, 2011). For instance, lightskinned persons will always get a positive reception in the society,unlike their dark counterparts. As a result, such persons they have arelatively high level of success, as well as higher degree ofself-esteem. This trend has been quite adversarial to the publicperception towards members of certain races who happen to be dark incomplexion. The different standards of physical appearanceappreciation also affect the overall status of living of a person.Generally, light skinned people are favored when it comes todifferent opportunities such as jobs and other places which require aselective criterion (Mears, 2011).
Thereception dark skinned people receive at very social places cannoteven be compared with the one their light counterparts experience.The Eurocentric standards of beauty have produced a high level ofdifficulty particularly among the African American population to theextent where they felt discriminated(Robinson-Moore, 2008).Sadly enough, such a standard of beauty seems to favor only one raceat the expense of others. However, this Eurocentric standard ofbeauty is not just embraced by the light skinned community. Rather,it is the standard of beauty which has been heavily embraced acrossall members of the racial divide. For instance, the African Americancommunity considers the Eurocentric standard of beauty as the perfectmeasure which should be used during the selection for a marital ordating partner (Cynthia & Robinson-Moore, 2008). This hasresulted in the continuous bias especially for women with long hairand a light skin.
Beautystandard is considered as a form of social control which has a verysignificant impact on the societal values. This problem isspecifically prevalent in the U.S where beauty is defined in terms ofrace. Women, specifically African Americans, are the ones who aremostly adversely affected by the Eurocentric standards of beauty. Themajority of African American women have black hair and a darkcomplexion, therefore, find it difficult to fit in a Eurocentricsociety.
Beautyand its benefits in different societies
Anotherangle through the negative effects of the Eurocentric standards ofbeauty have on the American population is an economic one. Thesestandards have significantly affected the levels of income fordifferent communities in the U.S and other parts of the world. Forexample, there is an enhanced chance of employment for a lightskinned woman than a dark skinned one. Thus, dark skinned women loseout on the job market not because of their educational level andexperience but rather on their appearance. This phenomenon is notjust experienced just in the job market but also other institutionsof the society. The problem that comes with a Eurocentric standard isbasically grounded on the inherent covert racism which is prevalentin the U.S and other parts of the world. It is a problem that can beattributed to the social institutions which seem to favor thedomination of non-whites by whites. Surprisingly, it is not only onerace which has contributed to the problem of racial bias in theperception of beauty. In fact, both the white Americans and AfricanAmericans are equally responsible for the devaluation of the darkskin. The church is not clean when it comes to this matter of racialbias. For the longest time, the church had always considered the darkskin as the most inferior. This idea, therefore, spread to thegeneral society hence they developed a biased perception about beautyand the color of the skin.
Differentraces of the word perceive body images in different ways. This isparticularly true in the way white and black women perceive theirbeauty. In a study entitled “BodyImage and Cultural Background,”Alyson Kay Spurgas examines the relationship body image and culturalbackground. The author argues that the problem of poor body imagealways affects women from different cultural background, ethnicalaffiliation, as well as races. There is a clear attempt to connectpoor body image among women to their eating habits, exercisingculture, attitude, assertiveness and their self confidence. Womentend to be the most affected by the issue of poor body image thantheir male counterparts. While this is the real true for all women,it is majorly the white women who have been researched adequately. Itis important to take into consideration the fact that women fromdifferent cultural backgrounds are also affected by the problem ofpoor body perception. Black and white women happen to be two of themost compared races in terms of poor body image. Most of the researchwhich have been conducted identified that African Americans are lessaffected by the issue of poor body image compared to their whitecounterparts. White women tend to be more concerned with their bodyimage than black women. This explains the reason why white women tendto have an unfair perception of their own body than black women.However, this trend seems to be moving towards a different directionas the problem of poor body image between white women and black womenis almost approaching the same level. This problem is also prevalentamong the Hispanic women who tend to have an issue with their weight.As a result, such women often resort the consumption of diuretics asa way of maintaining their desired weight and consequently increasingtheir body image (Padgett & Biro, 2003). It is not only theHispanic women who have a problem with weight, Black women and Asiansalso tend to use very weird strategies to maintain their perceivedperfect body. The problem of poor body image seems to be increasingat a very alarming rate and does not affect only the white women, butrather many more women from other races and cultural background(Bjerke & Polegato, 2006). This can be attributed to theincreasing acceptance of an uniform standard of beauty across thedifferent cultures. Further, the media also has a significant rolethrough its dissemination of the ideal beauty standard (Bjerke &Polegato, 2006). The media tends to present extremely unrealisticbeauty standards which a majority of women find hard to match. Thisthen results in the problem of poor body image across almost allcultural backgrounds. While some women just accept their perceivedpoor body and live the way they are, others find it difficult andresort to other strategies just so they can appear beautiful. Theywill always resort to medical interventions such as plastic andcosmetic surgery. This places women without the financial means at adisadvantaged position as they are forced to live with theirsituation. In other cases, women will change their eating habits inorder to achieve a perceived standard of beauty in terms of shape andsize (Synnott, 1991). Women tend to adapt their lifestyle accordingto the varying message they receive from the media especially on theissue of weight loss and eating habits.
Roleof the media in determination of beauty standards
Frith,Cheng and Shaw conducted a study in which they sought to compare thepresentation of Asian and western models in magazines. The studyfound out that advertisers also have a significant role to play interms of the dissemination of the perceived standards of beauty(Frith, Cheng, & Shaw, 2004).Frith etal.(2004) established that there were a number of similarities, as wellas differences in the way Asian and Western women were presented inmagazines. They found out that certain aspects of beauty areuniversal and can be found in both the Western and Eastern culture.However, the study found out that Westerners were more liberal interms of sexual disposition that Asians (Frith etal.2004). This proved the fact that Western women are more liberalsexually than Asian women. It all boils down to the issue of beautystandards and the societal perception of beauty. While the Westernculture places so much emphasis on beauty standard, the Asian cultureonly concentrates in the natural appearance of women regardless ofwhether they meet the criterion for the standard beauty. Anotherinteresting finding is that other magazines outside the U.S haveembraced models from different countries whereby there are moreAmerican models in magazines than other races.
Beautystandards in relation to social justice
Theidea of varying standards of beauty according to different culturesand races has an important ramification to social justice. Thetendency of the society to establish a given standard of beauty is,in fact, a form of oppression. It is a form of manipulation of mindwhich makes women has a pre-conceived idea of what beauty is withtotal disregard to their unique appearance. Women tend to have toconcentrate so much on their beauty and sometimes even develop anegative attitude towards the society. As the desire to achieve theirperceived beauty standard increases, most women resort to unorthodoxmeans to appear beautiful. Such women thus fail to establish aconnection their constant feeling of failure and the money they areready to part with just so they can suppress the feeling ofinadequacy. Different beauty standards according to race are alsoresponsible for negative body image in the world. Negative body imageaffects the society indiscriminately and may even attempt to commitsuicide because they feel inadequate. According to a study by Kim &Monn (2011), adolescent who had a poor body image were more likely tocommit suicide than their peers. Poor body image can result indepression thus making such persons to consider suicide as the bestsolution to their problems (Kim & Moon, 2011)
Fromthe preceding discussion, it is quite clear that different races andcultures have different standards of beauty. This can be seen, forexample in the American society where there is a higher tendency toassociate light skin and long dark hair with beauty. The notion isalso further worsened by the media which presents a biased idea ofhow an ideal woman has looked like. Sadly enough, the variation ofbeauty standards among different cultural groups produces a negativeeffect on the minds of young girls who develop a low self esteem. Itis also responsible for the disparities in educational and economicstandards among women whereby light skinned women are more advantagedthan dark skinned women. In addition, it may be responsible for highcases of suicide among adolescents with poor body image.
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Mears,A. (2011). Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model.. Berke-leyand Los Angeles: University of California Press, Pp. 305
Padgett,J., & Biro, F. M. (2003). Different shapes in different cultures:body dissatisfaction, overweight, and obesity in African-American andCaucasian females. Journalof Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology,16(6),349-354.
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