What I found most interesting about the idea of women’s beauty across the world is that no two countries have the same concept or views of what makes someone beautiful, nor do some of the states within a country itself such as America, where even each coastline has their own unique opinions on what is deemed beautiful. The culture of each country shapes the outlook of beauty and really does reinforce the age old term that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. For some however, another age-old term also rings true: pain is beauty. A statement we see every day in our own America, as well as other countries around the world taking part in different practices and procedures that will make society see them as more beautiful.
While most of us are familiar with the idea of plastic surgery due to the fact we have seen numerous celebrities undergo these procedures, it is also becoming more mainstream among the public. However many of us are unfamiliar with other beauty practices such as foot binding and female circumcision. Over the recent years these taboo subjects have been the discussion in numerous documentaries and articles, often using the feminist perspective. This outlook studies and analyzes how practices such as the three mentioned, effect and reflect the culture and the women that live there. In China, foot binding is a symbol of obedience and shows good potential to be an obedient wife, and was used by many as a way to marry into a rich family. While in the U.S we might see this as a form of torture and mutilation, the Chinese view it as beautiful and a potentially well-fit house wife (The “Ideal” Feminine Body). It seems to be most common for these practices to be intertwined with eligibility and marriage into a prosperous home. This is why young girls in China with unbound feet are viewed as poor, marking them as unable to marry into a rich family. While this torture and pain may seem absurd, it is similar to the pain and risks associated with plastic surgery here in the United States; something millions take part of and spend thousands on in order to look better, younger, and potentially find a better partner.
Looking at other countries’ culture and religion such as the African and Muslim cultures, it is common for females to go through a procedure known as female circumcision or female genital cutting. This process, although religious based, is done once again for the eligibility of finding an adequate husband. Female genital cutting is seen as a way to show their significant other that they are religiously clean (The “Ideal” Feminine Body). Similar to America’s stance on the idea of foot binding in China, most are shocked by this idea, however many are unaware similar procedures are taking place in our own country as mentioned in Heather Leach’s documentary. Women are beginning to have surgeries in order to have younger and therefore more desirable genitalia. In an article posted by Lynda Newland, it was noted that often times female genital cutting in Muslim and African cultures may be less painful and less risky than female genital rejuvenation that is taking place in the United States (Newland, 2006). Although these practices may alter different parts of the body in different ways, it seems to have a common reasoning of why; to appear beautiful to that cultural standard and well suited for a partner.
While I believe men also go through pain and hard work to become more desirable to women, I think women are much more pressured to have extensive work done and go through pain in various ways in order to please a man, no matter what country or culture. Even though foot binding in China has been banned, female circumcision and plastic surgery is still legal and common in many countries all over the world. Because plastic surgery normally is not religious based, if it were outlawed, it could cause lots of social upset because our society is used to going through risk and pain in order to look a certain way and banning this choice would cause many to become angry. Many more people would also argue due to the money spent and earned each year for these procedures. However the upset would be much greater in the Muslim and African cultures if female circumcision was banned due to the fact that it is religiously based, arguing it is their religious right to have the procedure done in order to worship in the mosques. Whether these practices are society based expectations, or based off religion, there is no doubt they are done in the name of beauty and eligibility for an adequate partner.
Newland, L. (2006). Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java. Women’s Studies International Forum, 394-404.
The “Ideal” Feminine Body. Department of Anthropology Michigan State University, n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.