What is beauty?
Is it universal? Can beauty be measured? If it is measured, how does one measure it?
Is the length of your hair? The texture of your hair? The size of your eyes? The colour of your eyes? The tiny waist? The size of the breast? How skinny one is? The size of the bums? The expensive weaves we don on our heads? The wrinkle-less face? The ‘secret’ and never-to-be-mentioned monthly botox injections? The skin complexion?
“Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the infinite”
– George Bancroft (American historian)
According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, beauty is “the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it.” and “a quality that makes something especially good or attractive.”
India Arie put the body image issue in a more clear picture in her song, I am not my hair:
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
Its time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight
Like Oprah Winfrey
If its not what’s on your head
Its what’s underneath
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend? Oh
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
Do we judge other’s beauty based on how we relate with ourselves? Do we justify who we are by judging the physical appearance of others? Do we hide our weaknesses by being harsh to those who are not beautiful in our eyes? Are there not bigger issues that we can spend our energies on; terrorism, hunger, wars etc?
The tradition has always had people defining beauty with regards to the physical appearance of the object, with women, it is usually with how their bodies are shaped or any attribute that is found in their body parts. It seems like body image has more influence in defining the beauty of a woman than her intelligence or the kind of person she is.
The interpretation of beauty usually leads to comparison among the objects or people involved.
The need by many women to look beautiful has resulted in intense competition which usually leads to resentment, envy and frustration. Women around the world go out of their way to achieve what they believe will make them beautiful; because of the belief that light-skinned black girls (usually referred to as yellow-bones) are beautiful, many black young women in Sub-Saharan countries use skin lighten products to lighten their skins; in certain Asian countries, a pale, white skin is deem to be attractive and women usually apply skin-lighten products to bleach themselves. In the Western culture, women prefer their faces wrinkle-free, tanned skin, and long, silky hair (usually in the form of weaves or wigs).
Other people define beauty in simple terms; take for instance, the Karo tribe of Ethiopia, the more body scars a woman has, the more attractive she is or the Kenya’s Maasai tribe who find shaved heads and long, stretched earlobes (both men and women wear metal hoops on their stretched earlobes) attractive.
When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. Tao Te Ching
Society has planted and watered the distorted body image and has set rules for what is deemed beautiful and what is not. Hollywood celebrities and the media has not made it easy for women across the globe with this issue – one moment the media will celebrate a certain celebrity as the ‘IT Girl’ and the most ‘beautiful’ woman because she has ticked all the boxes in their physical body image requirement and the next they move and replace her with their latest ‘victim’, it has also lied to the society through their use of Photoshop. The media has even gone to the extend of ‘body-shaming’ other celebrities that they deem their physical appearance to not attractive enough. Reality stars, singers, actors and other celebrities are secretly filling up cosmetic surgeons’ labs in order to reshape their body parts to fit into the ‘required’ looks and most of them even go to the extent of lying to their followers by telling them that they are au naturel which fuels and heightens the feeling of low self-esteem and insecurity in most of these unassuming women and girls.
Women need to know that we are all different and there’s no need to ever feel insecure about their looks and that beauty is a simply a matter of individual perception or illusion. We all need to embrace our diversity and believe that beauty is subjective (or relative?) and as such, all sizes and shapes are beautiful and attractive.
We are not our bodies but our bodies hold within the real us – they beauty of a being is in how they carry themselves.