Culture has a huge impact on the definitions of beauty across the world. There are many different methods that different cultures practice to make themselves more appealing to others. Methods such as plastic surgery, foot binding, and female genital cutting are among the most popular. Many people use the excuse of changing themselves for themselves, but the reality of it all is that it is stemming from the pressure of society to look a certain way. Different cultures all view beauty differently but the one thing that they have in common is the constant need to fulfill society’s image of what appears to be beautiful. Whether it is by wearing make, coloring hair, or going as far as surgery, people are always going out of their way to make themselves look appealing to others. The media, along with society, is another huge factor in creating a standard beauty image. Women idolize over other women they see on T.V. and crave to look like them. Women all over the world need to understand that you really cant look like someone if they don’t exist, most models and actresses have undergone surgeries themselves and are photo shopped in many of the pictures we see of them. Culture puts an emphasis on the superficial layer of beauty, but beauty is so much more than what is on the outside. Beauty means nothing on the outside if you’re not beautiful on the inside.
Plastic surgery has become especially popular within the last 20 years. Americans are sexually liberated, leading them to be especially concerned about looks (Film 6.1). When teenage girls are drawn in by the T.V. to watch the Kardashians they are given a false sense of reality. From the time girls are little they are held to very high expectations regarding they way they present themselves. The Kardashians, for example, have undergone so much plastic surgery themselves that the way they look is harder to accomplish than young girls may think. Lip injections, butt injections, and breast implants are not normal and our society is giving girls an image that is simply naturally unachievable, leading them to get surgery themselves. If these surgeries were outlawed today many women would not have the confidence they walk around with. Women would feel insecure about the way that they look and have to start dealing with the way that they were born. The reality of it all is that women do not feel comfortable in their natural state.
Chinese foot binding is another method that led women to the beauty that they once wished to achieve. A lovely face was a gift from heaven, but tiny feet would improve social standing (PDF 6.1). To the Chinese a higher social standing meant everything and the Chinese would do anything to achieve higher social standing. Girls with the smallest, prettiest feet would marry into a wealthy family who would pay a high price for them. Foot binding would make the women more marriageable and therefore bring them closer to the greatest love and greatest joy in a women’s life- a son (PDF 6.1). To the Chinese obedience was beauty; foot binding was a way to show a women’s obedience. Although it is hard for me to wrap my mind around this horrifying method to achieve beauty, the Chinese look at circumcision as we do foot binding. Although foot binding is now illegal in China, circumcision still exists in the United States. If foot binding were abruptly banned in the 1940’s many women would find themselves unmarried, without any kids.
Women in different countries undergo female genital cutting for a variety of different reasons. A very popular reason is religion. If you are Muslim you must be circumcised, because circumcision is the direction given of Islam (PDF 6.2). If I weren’t allowed in my church to pray unless I was circumcised I would probably undergo this surgery as well. Female circumcision is a notion of cleanliness and purification in Muslim religion as baptism is in the catholic religion. Female genital cutting has a bad stigma in the United States, which is actually harmful to the women who have already undergone the procedure. Negative messages about FGM are unfortunately beginning to color African women’s views about female circumcision and sexuality together (PDF 6.3). African women experience sexual inadequacy due to the fact that they have such a bad body image, which developed as a result of living in exile communities with conflicting view and values. Although our culture may not fully understand the reasons behind this method is not our place to judge and force women to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. FGM is already against the law, but I believe that it should be culture based because not all women are a part of the same religion. It is not ones place over another’s to make that decision.
Ahmadu, F. (2007). Ain’t I A Woman Too? In Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context (pp. 278-310). Rutgers University Press.
Leach, H. (2011). The Perfect Vagina. Retrieved August 8, 2016, fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMJcGcBc2t8
Newland, L. (2006). Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29(4), 394-404.
See, L. (2009). Footbinding. In Snow Flower and the Fan (pp. 17-34). Random House Trade Paperbacks