DEFINING PHYSICAL BEAUTY
By: Nasiphi Mvunyiswa
The dictionary’s definition of beauty is, “The degree to which a person’s physical traits are considered pleasing or beautiful”. But, who or what exactly determines what type of physical traits should be considered attractive and unattractive? What is ‘beautiful’?
It seems women around the globe go to extreme measures to achieve this physical beauty. But it actually varies from country to country. In most countries, the common definition of physically beauty is having a slim body, flawless skin, and basically looking like the models in the media. This is the reason most women fall victim to things like anorexia, bulimia and wasting their money on products that promise to help them lose weight.
The media is partially to blame for women feeling insecure about their physical appearance. Media always bombards women with images of thin flawless women, whether it being in the soap operas, magazines or movies. An example would be an incident that involves a celebrity that is extremely talented and also fully figured, Adele. She was recently on the cover of Vogue Magazine. The picture of Adele was photo-shopped and they made her look skinny. This sends a message to young girls and women that being fully figured is wrong and you can’t appear on the cover page of a popular magazine with your fully figured body.
The media brainwashes women into thinking that being skinny is what ‘beauty’ is. Nosihle Ngcobo (18),is fully figured. She feels that skinny girls are what is considered beautiful in society. And when it comes to clothes, they (fuller women) are not catered for. “It’s hard to find my jean size in most stores around Durban”,says Ngcobo.
Being thin and constantly thinking about losing weight is not what women from Mauritania worry about. Mauritania is on the Northwest coast of Africa. This is where, contrary to popular belief, being thin is not considered beautiful. Women in Mauritania strive to be big so they can be considered to be physically attractive. If you’re a woman that’s thin, people think you’re sick or there’s something wrong with you. Basically in Mauritania, a woman is considered beautiful if is she has a big butt, thick arms, full figure and she must have stretch marks to go along with that.
Even though not following a diet and eating whatever you like might seem nice, these women still go through struggles to achieve this physical beauty. Young girls are forced fed until they vomit from a young age so that they can get fat and look desirable. Some women even buy black market drugs meant for animals just so they can gain an excessive amount of weight. And it’s inevitable that there would be serious health problems in Mauritania.There are many cases of high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes.
There’s a Karo tribe in Southern Ethiopia, and for women in this tribe the term “beauty is skin deep” is not just a metaphor. Women have to have scars on their stomachs to be considered physically beautiful. Young girls in this tribe have their elders cut scars into their stomachs. And once a woman has enough scars, she can find a good husband, because the scars are found attractive by men.
The Karo tribe is not the only tribe with a peculiar definition of physical beauty. The Kayan tribe is found on the border of Burma and Thailand. And women there wear brass rings around their necks so they can be physically beautiful. They start wearing these rings from as young as 5-years-old and more rings are added as they grow older. The purpose of these rings is to give them an elongated neck; this for them is a sign of female elegance and beauty.
Even though having tattoos is common in most countries, for the women of Maori, it’s a way of life. Women there have their lips and chins tattooed so they can be seen as physically beautiful. To be seen as beautiful you must have fully tattooed lips and chin.
Most women even go far as doing plastic surgery just so they can look physically beautiful. Whether it being getting a new nose, tucking the tummy in or even getting a brand new set of boobs. The country which is reported to perform the most plastic surgeries is Iran. Yes, this is a country which is supposed to be filled with conservative Muslim women that cover their bodies. Even these women who constantly have their bodies covered see the need for plastic surgery so they can be seen as being physically beautiful. Nose jobs are the most popular type of plastic surgeries done in Iran. It is estimated that 60 000 nose jobs are performed per year.
Young women aren’t the only ones that are on the quest for outer beauty. Older women are always looking for products that make them look younger and more youthful. Women go as far as getting Botox and Collagen injections so they can erase their wrinkles. And there are of course those endless amounts of products sold that promise to make you look younger so you can be more physically attractive.
For women my age- twenties- being thin and having the nice expensive weave is what is mostly seen as being physically beautiful. Young ladies tend to feel unattractive if they are overweight or if they don’t have that long silky hair.
It’s clear that in different countries around the world there are different definitions of physical beauty and the definition is determined by the environment we’re around. And women around the world go to the extremes to get that status of being physically beautiful. Women feel as though they should conform to society’s meaning of ‘beauty’. This is a struggle faced by women of different cultures, different countries and different generations. But different countries’ defining beauty differently proves that there is no fixed definition of beauty, and as cliché as it sounds, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Women should stop letting society define how they should look.