I think that in many different societies and different cultures, the definitions of beauty differ greatly among different spaces. Different societies and groups of people have a few different forms of beauty standards and multiple ways of achieving those standards. I think that in every society, they think that their standard of beauty are far superior than anyone else’s, and sometimes if the measures of beauty don’t add up or aren’t similar to one another, they think that a different group of people could not be as beautiful as their own. There are many different types of beauty, not just one, that we all need to appreciate and understand. Although those different societies set those beauty standard, which many times are unattainable. The most common factor among all cultures, is that people are trying to achieve their society’s beauty standards.
Before reading the articles about foot binding, I learned about it in another anthropology class of mine. It includes the breaking of the foot bones to shape the foot in a different way. Many times in a way that was into a chap that would seem attractive. Foot binding was a very traditional practice done a very long time ago, as it was a sign of upward mobility. Women had their feet bonded to fit the beauty standard, and to seem more attractive to others. For example, women who had binded feet were much more desired for marriage, which led to many families forcing their daughters to get their feet binded so that hey can move up socially and be of a more elite class (Hutchins). Foot binding has many harsh health affects, such as infections from the broken bones, and the bones actually re breaking after they had already been binded, leading to more painful complications and further infections as well as straining of the feet. One other, but fairly different sort of form of a beauty standard, and one that I have been studying for some time, is FGM. FGM is female genital mutilation, and what that entails is cutting or mutilating female genetalia. Sometimes that includes cutting of part of, or the whole clitoris, sometimes including the cutting of the labia as well. This is a practice that is more common in rural areas rather than urban areas. The practice is one that is widely practiced in Africa, among many different countries and amend many people of different faiths. This practice is usually done in non hygienic ways. Sometimes the cutting is done with a rusty razor, or scissors, and even in some instances, upwards of 30 girls are being cut with the same razor with no sanitizing in between. Female genital mutilation is practiced because of the belief that women who are cut are considered more marriageable. It is a symbol of purity and innocence, but with a huge list of health affects. Female genital mutilation can cause hemorrhaging after the practice, it can cause severe infection, and can transfer diseases especially if an unsanitary razor or cutter has been used, pain during intercourse, the risk of bleeding out during childbirth, and so much more (WHO). Female genital cutting is often done to suppress the woman’s sexuality, thinking that they won’t have sinful thoughts if they don’t really have a sex drive. Female genital mutilation has been going on for a long time, but some countries, such as Sierra Leone are taking steps to ban it all together (yahoo news).
One last beauty standard that I would like to talk about, and one that I feel very passionate about, is the concept of how beauty is measured in some cultures and societies based on the shade of your skin. In many cultures, such as mine that I have noticed first hand, is that lighter skin is deemed more beautiful, because lighter skin is associated with a more elite class, and those with darker skin were assumed to be of a lower class because doing fieldwork is what other attributed them to having dark skin. In many countries in the Middle East, South Asia, and other parts of the world, skin lightening creams are often sought after to make one’s skin lighter, because lighter skin is seen as something to be envied. I think that throughout all of this, we have learned and experiences different definitions of beauty in different cultures and societies, even in our own lives, and I think that sharing all of them is definitely an interesting learning experience.
Guilbert, Kieran. Yahoo! News. Yahoo! Web. 12 Aug. 2015.
“Female Genital Mutilation.” WHO. Web. 14 Aug. 2015.
Hutchins, Candace. “Chinese Foot Binding.” Web. 14 Aug. 2015.