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Beauty: Across Cultures and Time

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Cynic, Sep 14, 2007.

  1. Cynic

    Cynic Well-Known Member

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    Some of the photos in this post are graphical in nature. View the images at your own discretion.​

    Beauty: Across Cultures and Time
    by Cynic

    Imagine: A seven year old girl sitting in a chair. Her mother is giving her a foot massage. Suddenly, her mother begins to break her little toes (four on each foot) one by one. The little girl tries not to cry, but tears manage to escape her eyes. Afterwards, her mother wraps her feet with wet bandages and tightens it until her toes rest under the sole of the foot. Once dried, the bandages would force the sole closer to the heel. By having tiny but disfigured feet, she would become desirable by men and suitable for marriage. Unfortunately, she was to endure a life of immense pain and disability.
    Humans have been modifying their bodies to enhance their aesthetic appeal for thousands of years. Across cultures and time, the standards of beauty and the methods for beautifying oneself change. What one culture finds beautiful, another culture may not. These differences elicit a question philosophers have been trying to answer for many years. What is beauty?
    In many western cultures, such as the United States, fit and lean is beautiful. Men work out to produce six-pack abs, large pectorals, huge biceps, and tight buttocks. Women carefully primp their hair, daub their faces with makeup, and go on diets to keep off those extra pounds. And for whatever reason, being muscular or thin is not enough. Millions of cosmetic surgeries are performed every year in the United States. Among these are breast enlargements, butt enlargements, tummy tucks, nose jobs, and face lifts.
    Many African cultures have their own concept of beauty. At age 10, girls in Togo undergo their first scarification ritual, where decorative designs are cut into their midriffs to emphasize attractiveness.

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    In tribes such as the Mursi and Sara, women’s lips are adorned with clay or wooden plates, which stretch them to incredible lengths.



    [​IMG]

    In Nigeria, women undergo a process of deliberate fattening. Obesity (especially of the buttocks) signifies beauty, fertility, health, and prosperity in many parts of Africa. Amputation and mutilation was practiced amongst the Mongoni tribe in Nyasaland. The unique Mongoni idea of beauty was corpse-like. They hacked fingers and toes. Chunks of flesh were carved from their bodies and faces until they looked cadaverous.

    There are diverse practices and concepts across Asia. In China, “foot binding” as described in the opening of my article, was a widespread practice for over a thousand years. Foot binding was practiced exclusively by women and initiated when a girl was between the ages of four and seven. It was a continual process of fracturing and constricting the foot, which resulted in tiny feet and a stylized walk that was considered aesthetically pleasing. The ideal foot was three to four inches in length.



    [​IMG]


    In Myanmar, a long neck is associated with beauty. Paduang women wear coiled brass neck rings, which are rarely removed. The neck rings disfigures the collarbone and upper ribs, giving the illusion of a long neck. Near the coast of Indonesian Sumatra, is an island where the Mentawai reside. Teeth filing is a common practice there. Almost every woman wants their teeth filed until they resemble the serrated teeth of a shark. Every Mentawai husband is turned on by this. Perhaps it enhances their love lives.

    [​IMG]

    Other fascinating ideas and practices lie in the distant past. In much of Europe, women wore tight corsets that emphasized curves but also deformed ribs and internal organs. Middle Eastern harems were comprised of women who were intentionally fattened for aesthetic reasons. The Ancient Maya Indians believed that cross eyes were beautiful. This condition was deliberately induced by holding objects between a baby’s eyes.
    Now, back to the age-old question, “what is beauty?” Obviously, there is no single answer. Whether beauty is inward our outward, the differences in each culture demonstrate the relativistic and subjective nature of beauty. Or put more simply, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

    James, M., Henslin. Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach. Prentice Hall College Div, 2007

    Karen, Huffman. Psycholgy In Action. John Wiley and Sons, 2007

    Paul, Edward, Theroux. Fresh Air Fiend: Travel Writings. First Mariner Books, 2001

    “Body Modifications and Mutilations.”Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.

    “Foot Binding.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 12 September 2007. 12 September 2007.

    Steve J. Ayan, Iris Tatjana Calliess. “Abnormal As Norm” Scientific American Mind April 2005: 12-13

    Louisa Lim. “Painful Memories For China’s Footbinding Survivors.” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts.
    19 March 2007 <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8966942>

    Images:
    National Geographic Channel: Photo Collection
    Image:Mursi woman.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Bound_feet_%28X-ray%29.jpg
    http://neatorama.cachefly.net/images/2007-03/bound-feet.jpg
    http://channel.nationalgeographic.c...boo/images/primary/taboo_beauty_teeth_461.jpg
    http://images.usatoday.com/news/_photos/2006/09/25/models1-large.jpg
    http://images.usatoday.com/news/_photos/2006/09/26/model-large.jpg
    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/18/68995748_5c3a5b6b02.jpg
     
  2. fullyveiled muslimah

    fullyveiled muslimah Evil incarnate!

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    One thing that is common among them all for "beauty" is that the burden of beauty is mostly carried by women then men, although there are practices that focus on men more. It is mostly upon our shoulders that we must maintain whatever is physically considered beautiful in the society we live in. Much to my horror some of that is still practiced today. One reason why I appreciate Islam so much is that we (meaning all muslims) are forbidden to undergo permanent physical altering to enhance beauty or for cultural reasons. Things like unnecassary cosmentic surgery, tattoo's, restructuring of body parts are all forbidden. Whatever you look like is what it is and is to be appreciated as beauty, because someone will find you attractive.
     
  3. fullyveiled muslimah

    fullyveiled muslimah Evil incarnate!

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    I just went to read an article about foot bindign and it almost made me cry. It was a terrible practice and way of life for those women, who felt they had no choice but to undergo this man-made handicap.
     
  4. Cynic

    Cynic Well-Known Member

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    I was shocked the first time I read about it (which was last weak). Anyways, some of the beautification methods almost seem like subjugation. And if you've noticed, all beautification methods have everything to do with the outside, but little to do with the inside.
     
  5. jamaesi

    jamaesi To Save A Lamb

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    I've never seen a picture of footbinding as horrible as the one you've posted here, Cynic. I haven't been able to post in this thread for awhile because... I'd just look at and cry.


    Beauty comes from within. It's not the make-up you put on, that's just make-believe. It's not your clothing being in style, it's just someone trying to look like someone else who is trying to look like someone else so no one longer knows what they really look like or who they are. It's not your body, your worth and value and beauty as a human doesn't come from the size of your feet, the measurements of your waist and chest, the shape of your stomach... Beauty comes from who you are, not who you can dress up to be, not how many things you can put on your body until you forget your features.

    My make-up, my clothing comes from my ancestor, my life, my passion, my values. My body, however well it works or doesn't work, however it looks... it's mine, it's me, not for anyone to decide for or change.


    Some of the most beautiful people I know would never win a beauty pageant... but why would they ever want to?
     
  6. Aquitaine

    Aquitaine Well-Known Member

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    This isn't "Beauty" this is torture and oppression! :(
     
  7. Penumbra

    Penumbra Veteran Member
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    'Tis a five and a half year old thread, man. o_O

    Still a relevant concept, though.
     
  8. Aquitaine

    Aquitaine Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I wanted my sentiments to echo through time lol. :p
     
  9. Kerr

    Kerr Well-Known Member

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    As far as thread resurrections goes, I can understand this one :p.

    I am quite tolerant of other cultures and other views, but when it comes to things like foot binding... that a bit over the line for me and I shudder at the thought. The potential harm just seems too great to be worth it. At least in my opinion.
     
    #9 Kerr, May 25, 2013
    Last edited: May 25, 2013
  10. Aquitaine

    Aquitaine Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely. There must always be a clear line drawn between allowing Cultural Rituals & Freedoms, and protecting the basic Human Rights of individuals.


    All this mutilation just to try and please a subjective concept such as Beauty?! Crazy.
     
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