Concept Of Beauty
Anthropology, much enthrallment to my cravings to seek knowledge, has invited me to reflect on any certain area which might have sparked interest and curiosity. Thus, I center my reflections to the ‘concept of beauty’. The idea had only come into inception through a video shown in class which portrayed a brand of ‘beauty’ through the distinct meaning of it to its subscribers.
Beauty, rendered in dictionaries (Dictionary.com, 2011) as the ‘quality in a thing or a person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind’ is a much contested term in today’s dynamic world. It is not only subjective and relative but people from different cultures regard it in different ways restricted to the group’s/individual’s subjective meanings. With respect to the video shown in class in this subjective analysis only two concepts of beauty would be held for comparison since involving too many concepts around the globe would not allow a healthy analysis or a cohesive written piece.
“Beauty is not one’s own, but a reflection of one’s culture.” (Jain, 2005)
‘Beauty’ has impacted many cultures with regard to women of their culture, reflecting the patterns of gender and influences of gender on those cultures. Beauty is not a universal concept that many earlier inscriptions would call it; it’s rather a much reflective term specific within the specific culture’s manner only. There is a vast difference between what ‘beauty’ is referred to in different cultures restricted to their own regions and cultures. Like Japan’s beauty is amazing skin which is embraced with the prevalent use of ‘nightingale droppings’ which is a face wash. In Burma, the concept of ‘long necks’ is the beauty standard, thus brass rings are placed on their necks to make them elongated. In Ethiopia, scarring of a girls stomach is defined as ‘her way of attracting men’ which is a beauty oriented concept. In Mauritania, ‘big curves’ in a woman’s body symbolizes the concept of beauty which is contrastingly distinct than the standards set out by the West. Traditional Tattoos on lips and chins are made by the Polynesian women which is their concept of beauty. In the Middle East the concept of veiling signifies beauty of their women, projecting the unseen and mysterious look being the source of attraction for their future husbands who would be the only ones to have seen their wives. In South Asia, the use of turmeric, henna, ubtan and now a much commercialized item ‘fair & lovely’ is defined in terms of beauty for them which is the ‘white complexion’. While in West, the concept of beauty is all about being thin, having extensions on hair, cosmetic surgeries, tattoos etc. (show, 2008)
The video had shown the ritual of lip plates which had to be placed in the lower lips of women in South Africa which was their own definition of beauty, as it was revealed that the bigger the plate was the more beautiful you were in the tribe. (YouTube, Concept of Beauty!, 2011) While in comparison the additional video seen for comparison, is from the dove campaign which depicts the use of make-up, adobe Photoshop and much glamour which is the trademark for the western (media) beauty concept. (YouTube, 2011) In both the cultures we see differences at the bottom till up, but their own definition of beauty matters the same.
These two concepts, belonging to same time, same human beings, are so different and separate from each other. It is only, within that culture that the beauty concept prevails and holds importance to them. It is really important in the context of Anthropology to know every aspect of a concept because eventually it will turn out that each one of them held a different meaning and impact.. It is thus recommended even if one is a student of Anthropology or not, that they should not hold objections or opinions regarding it since only the ones belonging in that culture can understand it.