cultural studies

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Beauty Altered Epidemic Cultural Studies Essay

Beauty was always a necessity in life that forced women to fit into the stereotypical roles. Throughout history to modern times, the definition of beauty has changed from country to country. The Western people, best known as the Americans, have greatly influenced beauty in other countries. It seems as though everyone wants to look Western. Beauty has helped mold the world today with technology due to beauty innovations. Beauty is critical in personal development in means of self-confidence. Most importantly, society is affected just by personal appearance. Beauty is a world-wide epidemic that many women cannot help but take a part in. Nonetheless, this epidemic has more beneficial than damaging.

Beauty has grown to become critical in the lives of women in history, as well as in the present. The word “beauty” can be defined in many ways. Some factors that contribute to the significance of this word can be derived from the physical appearance of a woman to the personality within. Beauty has become a worldwide epidemic and is most often put as top priority. There are many reasons as to why being and remaining beautiful has become important to modern society, such as competition for careers in the modeling industry to the basic effect of self-confidence. Though there have been many changes from history to the present, beauty will always remain important in a woman’s life. Beauty greatly plays a role in affecting technology, self-confidence, and society.

Beauty has been around for many years, and its importance have been just as important as it is now. In the ancient times, beauty was influenced by culture. However, that ideal has slightly changed due the media. The media has come to play a magnificent role in shaping the definition of beauty in modern ages. Everyone sees beauty in a different way, which is why beauty is universal. The quote, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" by Plato accurately explains the ideal of concept in every region of the world (Heart 2010).

It is safe to say that culture has molded the concept of beauty during the ancient times. Beauty was used to declare economic class, as well as to display the ideal of a “beauty.” Egypt, China, Japan, and the United States are excellent examples to act as evidence to how beauty in these areas differs.

In ancient Egypt, there were many factors that determined a woman beautiful. For example, there are certain word parts, skin color, and body types that signify beauty. Moreover, artwork and tombs have different views of how these women looked like. First of all, Egypt used the terms “n” or “nfr” to relate something to being beautiful. For example, the verb “snfr” meant “beautifully or embellished” (Rutherford 2010). Secondly, skin color was used to relate a civilian from a goddess. According to the color what the artists of Egyptian art have used, the skin color has changed over time. However, “goddesses, [nonetheless], had yellow or ‘golden’ skin” (Rutherford 2010). Skin color is an important factor that separated mere civilian from an Egyptian goddess of royal standing because of the amount of power involved.

Egyptian art and the evidence of the bodies that were found in tombs both showcase different ideas of how beauty was depicted. The ideal form of a woman was to have “a youthful and slim figure with narrow hips” (Rutherford 2010). This might have been the case for civilian women because the bodies in tombs have shown otherwise. Also, the artwork that has been shown could be flawed because it is in the artist’s eyes as to what the ideal body type should be, which sometimes could not always be true. Therefore, an examination of the bodies in the tombs would definitely be more accurate proof. After the examining of a tomb, it has been observed that women of the lower economic class have slim and youthful bodies. When it comes to kings and queens, it is a whole other story. Sculptures have shown kings and queens being very much on the rounder side. The kings were very muscular, which probably symbolized their strength. The women were “represented in the round as being slender, graceful forms” (Rutherford 2010). The reason behind women of royalty being more “round” (which could also mean obese) could be because lower class women did not have much money. In a way, obesity in woman symbolized wealth, and in turn being more than healthy.

Word parts, skin color and body type have played an important role in Egypt by distinguishing economic class between people. The Egyptian women of higher class did not necessarily pose as the ideally beautiful woman. More women tend to follow the more “realistic” approach to beauty of being thin and youthful since not everyone could be of royalty.

The ideal of beauty in Egypt is not the ideal beauty in other parts of the world, like Japan and the United States. The geishas are viewed as being the most beautiful of women in ancient Japan primarily because of the way they looked-with elegant, colorful kimonos, and perfectly applied white facial makeup and incredibly organized hair (Green 2010). Some people mistaken geishas as prostitutes, but are instead entertainers. The occupation of being a geisha involves doing everything in their power to make their clients feel good about themselves (Patterson 2004). They are the providers of self-confidence to the men that they entertain. Geishas are more complex than may be seen. Entertaining is not as simple as it may seem. Geishas got through training to perfect their skills. But what exactly makes the geisha the symbol of beauty? Geishas are the preservatives of Japanese culture through different arts. Geishas are known for their grace, tremendous talent of breathing Japanese arts, and most importantly, their secrecy abilities (Patterson 2004). The Japanese geishas are perfect examples showing that beauty lies in being intelligent and hardworking, which overpowers the primary aspect of physical beauty.

Likewise, the United States has had its own definition of beauty. Throughout the centuries, the whites have dominated the country. Diversity in cultures was not yet introduced. There are many different stereotypes that defined what beauty really is, such as the “blonde housewife” and the “seductive bombshell” (Beauty 2007). There is a guarantee that everyone has heard the term “blonde hair, blue eyes”, and this is what it is being referred to. All these stereotypes are still used today to describe beauty. In total, having blonde hair instilled a sense of “youth, virtue, purity, or with illicit sexual pleasure” (Beauty 2007).

Beauty combined with intelligence seemed to be the norm of beauty in the past. It is common to see women that have unexplainable physical features that make men speechless. However, what made a woman completely beautiful was her knowledge and dedication. Some of those women were Cleopatra, and the four beauties of China: Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diao Chan, and Yang Guifei.

Cleopatra VII is the most legendary woman that reigned over Egypt. In her time, Egypt was under the control of Rome. It is a common misconception that Cleopatra was Egyptian, although she was actually Greek. There have been discussions on whether or not Cleopatra had the physical beauty. Regardless, she was mostly known for her dedication to protect Egypt. Cleopatra was famous because she played an important part of making the Egyptians fonder of the being controlled by Rome (Gill 2010).

Another country that has a list of the most beautiful women is China. Four most beautiful women of China are Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diao Chan, and Yang Guifei, whose beauty was traditionally compared to nature. Xi Shi had the “appearance that would sink the most beautiful fish”, Wang Zhaojun had the beauty “that would let fall the most elegant bird”, Diao Chan’s face “would let the beautiful full moon hide itself behind clouds”, and lastly, the face of Yan Guifei “would shame any beautiful flower in the world” (Wei 2005). These four beauties were known for their outmost physical appearance, as well as being knowledgeable in arts, or simply sacrificing themselves for the benefit of others. Beauty is seen through the deeds that ancient icons contribute to their time. In fact, all of these beauties would die for their country just to establish peace.

Now, let’s take a look at the present. The concept of beauty in the past is impressively the same as it is now. Factors that contribute to the concept of beauty remain similar, such as the attributes of the skin and body. In some cases, it is a matter of making sure that a woman achieves these beauty standards in order to be known as beautiful. In Thailand, having white skin is very important. The women of Thailand make it top priority when it comes to taking care of their skin color, if it is nothing near white. That is why almost every beauty product on the market has whitening agents: hand cream, body lotion, facial scrubs, and deodorant. The Thai women also make sure that not one inch of their skin is being touched by the sun (James 2008). But why has skin whitening become so popular here? The reason behind it all is basically because the Thai women have a sense of pride. White skin is associated with being high class, and they did not want to be confused with being poor. It seems as though they want to preserve a good reputation. The Japanese and Korean women also influence this trend by displaying how common having white skin is.

The Japanese may seem like they are satisfied with themselves. However, they are just like any other racial group that has an area of change. Japanese women are known for their incredibly small eyelids. To others it may seem beautiful, but to them, it could be a burden. The Japanese have an obsession with big eyes. Thus, they have discovered ways to make their eyes appear bigger than they really are. The easiest way to make their eyes seem bigger is by using tape or glue on their eyelids to create a much bigger eyelid. Another way is by using circle lenses, which “are like colored contact lenses, except the colored portion is larger than a person’s actual iris…[that] can sometimes be rather cartoon-like” (Eye 2008). This obsession has also been influenced by another group of women-the Caucasians. By having bigger eyes, it makes the Japanese women look white, in which they perceived as being normal (Eye 2008).

American women are just like Thai and Japanese women, in the sense that they are not satisfied with themselves and feel that they need to change. Instead of being obsessed with changing one’s own eyes or skin color, the Americans are obsessed with being thin. Weight loss has exploded through the media and has sent a message that being ‘thin’ is what is expected from young and old women. “It is estimated that the diet industry alone is worth anywhere between 40 to 100 billion in a year selling temporary weight loss (90 to 95 percent of dieters regain their lost weight”, which proves just how important being thin is (Beauty 2010). The American concept of modern beauty can also be related to the Barbie doll. Barbie has big breasts and a thin waist that “is an unrealistic icon that poisons our minds” (Elliott 2010). It just so happens that not only the young girls want to be like Barbie. As bizarre as it must sound, women in the middle ages have a peculiar attraction to Barbie as well.

Different physical features of one country can greatly influence the concept of beauty in another country. No matter what country a woman belongs in, it is hard to accept her own physical features that in fact make her special. There is a constant need to look more like someone from another country. The media also plays an important part of showcasing the exact the stereotype of beautiful. This leads to peer pressure, which could also be the reason why women are insisting to change. However, it could be linked towards each individual and their perception of beauty. If a woman is content with her own self, there is no such need for change.

Beauty can be expressed through varying routes. Unlike men, females put in a lot of time and effort in order to look their absolute best. Beauty is expressed through the means of hair, nails, and makeup. These are a part of a wide spectrum because there are no boundaries as to what women can do. First, hair can be cut, with addition to colored (full-head color, highlights, stamped) in shades of browns, reds, and blondes. Styling of hair includes being straight, curled, and wavy. Extensions could also be applied to lengthen hair and add volume to hair. Secondly, nails have become more popular because "women who are particular about beauty will normally want good looking nails as well" (Pearson 2009). In ancient China, "nail color often represented social class. Royalty started wearing black or red nail color, [while] lower ranking women were only permitted to wear pale ones" (Bellis n.d). However, the art of nail design has advanced. In addition to the manicures and pedicures, gel or acrylic nails can also be applied. Fake nails are glued to each nail, and then it could be decorated with designs and three-dimensional art. Lastly, makeup plays a big factor in expressing beauty. In is obvious that the cosmetic isles take up a lot of space in department and drug stores. Why is it like this? Well, it represents just how important beauty has become. Makeup is the easiest application that could enhance any woman's appearance. Just adding mascara and eyeliner could define the appearance of the eyes. Cosmetics are also used "to cover up our little flaws", which majority of women want to hide (Zivkovic 2009). Women have always made use of opportunities to enhance their appearance through having a makeover of their hair, nails, and makeup.

The beauty industry has influenced the lives of women all over the globe. Beauty plays a critical role in affecting technology, self-confidence, and society. Beauty has caused technology to advance. The media has altered the minds of citizens, and has in turn, improved technology itself. Technology has advanced due to the uproar of surgery procedures performed, various types of pills being created, and many styling products and tools being created. Surgery is the most severe way to enhance a woman's appearance. It costs a lot of money and puts the patient at risk of death; although, that does not make patients change their mind about enduring the procedure. According to Plastic Surgery Research, "over 10.2 million cosmetic surgical [ie. Breast augmentation] and nonsurgical [ie botox] procedures were performed in the United States in 2008" (Plastic 2010). Why could it be that so many women want to risk their lives merely to look good? It just so happens that the top three procedure done on women is breast augmentation, lipoplasty, and eyelid surgery (Plastic 2010). It could be seen that these procedures actually relate to the modern concept of beauty in certain countries. For example, the breast augmentation and lipoplasty procedures could have affected American women because they want to look more like Barbie. On the other hand, the eyelid procedures performed could most likely be done on Asian women, which abhor their tiny eyes. Also, there has been $1,326,367,287 worth of expenditures just on Botox injections at $417 each session (Plastic 2010). The cosmetic surgery industries are making billions of dollars on less-than-life-saving, yet unnecessary procedures.

Technology has also upgraded due to the innovations of pills. Pills take a much less severe approach to achieving beauty. There have been many manufacturers of pills that aid weight loss, breast growth, skin whitening, and hair and nail growth. One of the most popular trade names of weight loss pills is Hydroxycut, which created more than one kind of formulation. Though it may be a safer route, Pharmacist Kristi Monson says that “there is a lack of reliable and validated scientific evidence to support a conclusion that Hyroxycut is effective for weight loss”; and its side effects include insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, high-blood pressure, and a rapid heartbeat (Monson 2010). Just like surgery, some weight loss products can also put people at risk. On the contrary, pills that aid in breast growth, skin whitening, and hair and nail growth do not have impose a serious health risk particularly because they are all natural. This means that they are made from herbs, and plant extracts. For example, Tobustan are pills that promote breast growth, which contain natural ingredients like fenugreek seed extract, pacific kelp, and fennel seeds (Tobustan n.d.). Cosmetology and hairstyling industries are also to credit for technology advancing. Makeovers are the easiest way to change a woman’s appearance. An area that results in drastic change is the hair. Hair is so versatile that anything could be done to it. There is an abundance of tools invented to style hair, such as hair brushes, curlers, wavers, dryers, and flat irons (Hair n.d.). In addition, there is also a wide range of hair products to choose from like gels, mousse, creams, hair spray, etc. From surgery, to pills, and hair styling products and tools, there is absolutely no doubt that beauty has taken over the universe. It is definitely proven through the advance in technology.

Beauty also takes part in providing women with self-confidence. It is proven that when a woman looks better, she will definitely feel better about herself. This is the case for just about anyone for that matter, male or female. When a woman feels good about herself, she is more social and can feel good about dating. David Zinczenko says that "it's that confidence that shows she could be a little bold and little daring" which in turn makes men stay in love (Zinczenko 2007). Men are attracted to women who have self-confidence because it shows that she does not need him, which could be appealing to them. In return, women can find their soul mate, which could increase their self-confidence even more.

The last thing that beauty influences is society. A study in Canada and the United States, launched by Dr. Daniel Hamermesh, has collected data "which reported that less attractive people earned less while the more attractive people earned more" (Beauty 2010). Beauty takes a toll on society because it makes society seem shallow. It is quite fascinating how much beauty takes part in society, in means of salary. Businesses will most likely employ the female who is better looking, simply to uphold their reputation. This standardization makes it difficult for the less beautiful due to jobs not willing to hire them. Beauty is such a big factor that advances technology, boosts self-confidence, and affects society.

Beauty has advanced technology due to the increase of women “needing” to keep up with the trends in order to live in such a shallow society where beauty is everything. The media is to blame for the stereotypical beauty that some citizens are forced to look like; thus, surgery operations have become more popular through the years. On the less severe scale, many different types of pills have been created to promote more feminine beauty, and more hair products and tools are created to enhance beauty. However, these technology advances have caused many women all over the world to feel better about themselves with an increased self-confidence. This process of beauty is like a chain-reaction where one thing affects another. Being beautiful also affects society, in means of getting paid more by appearance. Beauty has definitely affected technology, self-confidence in women, and society. Beauty has also evolved from the early ages in Egypt, Japan, China, and all other countries of the world for that matter. Beauty is a word that has many different definitions. Those definitions vary from person to person. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. It just takes an internally beautiful person to see the beauties in everyone.


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