The Beauty of other Cultures

Across the world the idea of beauty is very different. When speaking about beauty we must remember that what we find attractive may not be appealing to the next person. The view of beauty varies throughout different cultures; what we see as strange or ugly may be the exact opposite in what they see.

In a tribe near Thailand called the Kayan tribe the women wear brass rings around their necks to elongate their necks. The longer the neck the more beautiful the woman is seen as, they can start the process of wearing these rings as early as five years old. The rings push the shoulders down, which make the neck stretch. In southern Ethiopia there is a tribe called Karo who believe in scarification. This process begins at a young age up until adulthood.  Women are scared on their skin so that by the time they are finished they are ready to be married and have children.

Some might see these traditions as self-mutilation rather than the beautification of these women, and that is all perspective. However, this has been a major part of these tribe’s traditions. This is engrained in the very fabric of their culture. For some of these cultures putting on foundation and mascara is not the ultimate level of beauty. Yet, it is something that takes almost a lifetime to achieve.

This is not saying that other cultures idea of beauty is any less than beautiful then the ones listed above. There is just simply not enough space to reach all of the incredible beauty that makes up our world. The main thing we should focus on is that beauty is all around us even in the strangest things. I find beauty in the calm after a rain, in the smile on my children’s face when they are trying to convince me to give them a piece of candy; I enjoy the beauty of a good laugh, the kind that is uninhibited and full of honest joy. Find beauty and embrace it.

  

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Self- Worth and Distorted personal images

In today’s society it seems to me that a lot of people have a lack of self-worth. What is self-worth you ask? The definition is quite simple actually. Self-Worth is the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect. Is the lack of self-worth the underlying issue in the way we view ourselves in society? Is this the reason why the media can simply tell us what is fashionable or what is beautiful?

We see in magazines all the time headlines like “The must have clothing items for spring” or we could see something like a “How-to” page telling you that within a month you can look like this. We all have seen the section in a magazine that displays different celebrities with different hair colors and haircuts; and of course one has to be crowned winner for that year. Then the next thing you know your friends are all wearing pastels and stripes in winter and are sporting the same haircut. How is listening to what is in a magazine seen as the thing we must follow is beyond me. We all want to be somewhat fashionable. At least in the sense of looking put together and presentable. However, have we forgotten that we should set the trends and not just follow them?

Over the last year or so I have seen countless post on social media with women calling themselves boss b***he’s or the ever popular term bad b***he’s. Is this really what some see themselves as? Why is it that I am seeing constant posts from women who are well over twenty one calling themselves this? Why do I not see more women calling themselves powerful or strong-minded instead? Is this really what some women think is the epitome of what womanhood should be? Instead of the latter why can’t these women see themselves simply as someone with “boss” mentality? This means that they make executive decisions and can be a strong leader in the work place as well as in their personal lives. Why must we degrade our goals or ferocity to match that of a female dog? Do these women not know that they can aspire to be so much more? We see women dating men who treat them like filth and instead of standing up for themselves and getting out of a bad situation; will stay for fear of being alone or that no one will want them. When did it become the norm for anyone male or female to not think that someone is out there for them that will compliment who they are as an individual? Instead it has become a contest to just simply be with someone even if that person is not good for them. These women or men doubt their value (self-worth) and settle for whatever, instead of building themselves towards their greater potential.

What needs to happen is that we all need to love ourselves more and disregard all the negativity that is sent our way. I saw a really inspired quote the other day on “Pinterest” that I will leave you all with. It reads. “You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens- Louise Hay”.

Aging

When we were younger we couldn’t wait to be older. Now as we become older we fight to stay younger. When did we become so focused on finding the fountain of youth? Cosmetic companies have made products that are geared toward older women, their products claim to have anti-aging properties and wrinkle reducers. Women are fighting to keep the appearance of youth, all the while losing a part of themselves.

Cosmetic surgery has no doubt made a huge impact on the medical world. Many people have either received the surgery or admit to wanting some type of cosmetic surgery. Leading that trend is Botox which is used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and gently lift fine lines in order for your face to appear more youthful. In fact, Botox has been the leading non-surgical cosmetic procedure over the past 15 years. The procedure is done by injecting botulinum toxin into “troubled” areas on the face. The fight against aging does not stop there.  Women around the world go for procedures that lift, tuck, increase and smooth out all the little potholes that life has given them.

 The trouble is some of these people who use these procedures are in the public eye. Many assume that these people were born this way, while on the other side the women (and men) in the public eye feel somewhat pressured to appear a certain way to the public.  This is so that they can keep their popularity in order to remain relevant in the ever anti-aging world. You often see scenarios in sitcoms or in movies in which they show a once popular starlet who is now older than what she was when she started.  They often portray this character as bitter because she is forced to play the new younger actresses mother and this makes her feel unwanted and no longer appealing. Is this Hollywood’s way of crying out to us? Telling the audience that they also feel the pressure to stay young from us; the same way we feel pressured to appear younger because of them. Is it just an ongoing cycle in which we have forgotten to get off the ride?

Where have the days gone where people believed “with age comes wisdom?”  Since everyone is trying to freeze themselves in time, will we ever reach that unattainable wisdom that is exclusively for the aged? Now do not get me wrong I do not have anything against plastic surgery or non-surgical cosmetic procedures. I think what it all comes to down to is the fear of death. We truly do not know what is waiting on the other side for us.  I believe that scares a lot of people, which makes them want to fight the aging process because of fear of the unknown. I also believe that the media has made getting old something of a taboo, something to be feared and I don’t think that’s fair. Growing older isn’t the end of the world; it’s just the beginning of a new one. Age gracefully and enter beauty.

Skin Bleaching (women of color)

 Skin bleaching is a topic that is most talked about when celebrities of color are seen on a cover of a magazine, who appear to look lighter than usual.  Most of the time the blame is swiftly shifted towards photo shopping, or a trick of the light. The issue of skin bleaching is nothing new, skin bleaching was first used in the early 1900’s in colonized Africa , as well as in the Caribbean and in the United States. The issue of skin bleaching was commercialized in such a way that the potential buyer would see it as a way to escape their natural skin tone and join the fairer race and potentially live a life better than what would have normally been handed to them since their skin was dark.

Currently the practice of skin bleaching is a huge corner market in South Africa. 1 in 3 South Africans bleach their skin to appear “white” or what some people have come to refer to it as “whitewashing”. In an article from BBC entitled “Africa: Where Black is not really beautiful they discuss the views of some of the natives in South Africa. One woman interviewed is a local musician named Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi who explains why she chooses to bleach her skin. She states “I’ve been black and dark-skinned for many years; I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy,” she goes on to explain that she did not like her skin and says that is was definitely a self-esteem issue for her. Mnisi is not alone in her views of what beauty should be, many others in South Africa as well as Nigeria and in the Caribbean practice skin bleaching which have dangerous ingredients such as Mercury ( which can cause Mercury poisoning) and Hydroquinone (which has been linked to Ochronosis,). Skin bleaching has also been linked to skin cancer and brain damage.

Even after all of the scientific evidence that is shown to prove that skin bleaching is potentially dangerous, some people of color still opt to use these products in order to obtain what is seen in society as something needed to fit in with what is perceived as beautiful. Not only should the concern lie with the physical harm that comes with this practice but also with the emotional turmoil that is evident when a person feels the need to change their skin tone. Do they do this in order to reach a stigma of what is beautiful? Is this the result of what women of color have been taught for years? Within the pages of magazines and in the movies we are shown women who are fair in skin tone who are shown as the epitome of beauty.  Does this belief stem from the oppression of nations for over hundreds of years?

This truly saddens me to try to understand why some people would go to such lengths to reach an idea of beauty. Instead, it is plastered on magazine pages with women who all look the same; we should encourage every race to love who they are in spite of what might have been said before. Women on both sides of the color divide go through a process which changes how they would normally look just to appeal to what is portrayed in media. To me the signals of what is beautiful are all jumbled up making it distorted and brash; confusing the populous on what is to be expected of them. When will we learn that we are beautiful?  In fact, society’s idea of what is beautiful is the only ugly thing. It is time we embrace one another’s differences and enter beauty.

Big Is Beautiful (Women)

We are living during a time when one size is supposed to fit all, where did being different go? Why does everyone seem eager to look like the person next to them? Yes we do have prevalent issues when it comes to obesity in this country. However, why these people are labeled lazy and casted aside like they carry some strange disease is beyond me. It seems that we have forgotten one major thing about people who have these weight issues; we have forgotten that they are our neighbors, our friends and sometimes even our family. Because their waistline is bigger does not make them any less beautiful. We are so fast to judge and speak ill of them without once thinking about what they might be going through in order to  uphold our personal view of what beauty is.

You go to a store you begin to look for your size and you are told they do not carry “Plus-size” clothes, they go on to explain that in order for you to purchase their merchandise you must visit their website and buy clothes that way. If that isn’t a huge slap in the face then I don’t know what is. Countless stores have made this their way of dealing with their larger customers. To me this is deplorable, for a company to say that they will only cater to you as long as you do not step foot into their store really stinks. How do you think those women (Or Men) feel?  As a woman who is considered “Plus sized” I find this sickening. Not only will I be paying for fewer selections, I will also have to pay shipping plus tax and if the items I choose are too big or too small I have to pay to ship them back as well. Now how is that fair as a paying customer? What if this method was turned completely around and geared toward smaller than average women (or Men) how would that be viewed by society? Would they be ok with being banished to their computer screens and forced to virtually select their wardrobe?

In 2010 Lane Bryant aired a lingerie commercial that sent the media into a frenzy. Two major networks pulled the advertisement initially. They stated “We can’t run an ad like that during the 8 p.m. hour, because that’s family time”. (I will let you all be the judge of that yourself, there is a link provided for the said ad) http://youtu.be/VMxyZQfMmM4 Meanwhile the shows that the ad would have run alongside were shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” in which in some cases there is mild adult language displayed, as well as scantily clad women (and Men) shaking their groove things. Let’s not forget that commercial lingerie ads such as “Victoria Secret” run at the same time of night that was deemed unacceptable for “Lane Bryant”. (I provided a link of a VS commercial from around the same time the LB commercial was pulled) http://youtu.be/Mf_dvkp4GmI.  Were the television networks blowing smoke up the public’s rear ends just to justify their hatred toward the average woman’s size in America and what they represent?

I truly hope there comes a time in which women and men everywhere can judge people solely on their behavior and actions, rather than their pants size or the label that is on them. Now I am not saying banish fashion and buy rags. However, remember when you pull those clothes off at the end of the day; you are naked and left with your body and yourself. Love what you have and cherish it. Even if you are not physically where you might like to be find the greatness within you and start with that. Let your beauty shine within you and decide for yourself whether or not your body is fine by you.

Is your beauty under attack? (Men)

Men, they are often viewed as strong, independent and sometimes fearless beings. We hear daily about issues with the way women are viewed by society, but somehow we never breach the topic on the way men view themselves. Do we honestly as a society think that men don’t feel the same things that a lot of women feel? Some women complain that they aren’t thin enough or they say that they want a new wardrobe in order to appear more fashionable. However why do we think that men don’t have these doubts as well?

You flip through a magazine and the first man you see in ad or a feature piece is a perfectly sculpted, well put together male, some might even say that the man is gorgeous. He might have washboard abs that are covered in impossibly fashionable clothes. He is surrounded by beautiful women who seem to be throwing themselves at him. When men look at these ads do they not see something to strive towards? Is it possible that we have forgotten that men can feel pressured by images that they see every day as well? We often see women standing up for themselves when they feel wronged by the images that are supposed to represent who they are. Why is it that men seemingly say nothing? Are they truly the “strong silent type”?

You have companies that show muscled men selling a supplement that is supposed to give the buyer the look of the man on the screen. When in actuality the men who stars in the commercial may have worked really hard to achieve that body. Some men might work out for years and while being physically fit they still might not look like the man on the screen before them. Basically what I am trying to convey is that our sensitivity to one sex might be blinding us to the fact that our counterparts are being left to fend for themselves when it comes to their appearance. We neglect to remember that plastic surgeons and modeling agencies look for these men to fill an audience. They are told the same things that women are. You are not right. We must fix you. You have to look like this and not like that in order to be beautiful. While being healthy is great. Have we sacrificed our souls to meet an image that is drawn up by a collective few? Why can’t we all be different shapes and still be beautiful.  

I believe that men do not ignore these images.  Maybe they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps there isn’t an outlet for them to voice their opinion. I say it is time that they stood up for themselves and take back their own identities. We often hear startling facts on the pressures women face in order to obtain societies views of what is beautiful, where is the voice for the men?  If nothing is perfect then why do we fall prey to the makeshift images that appear before us? Men, it is time you rise up from the ashes and take back your image. Demand diversity in those Calvin Klein ads! Scream at the perfume ads that have Fabio riding a horse to get to the girl to hand her a bottle of her favorite perfume (Because let’s face it unless you own a horse, you’re most likely going to awkwardly watch her open the box and go yippee ) You are the real men, demand that it is shown as such. Embrace who you are, and enter beauty.