Regardless of how beauty is defined (this question will be revisited), several cultures tend to subconsciously and consciously perceive a person’s physical appearance as a reflection of his or her character—it is assumed that those who are lovely must take care of themselves and therefore are somehow “better” than those who are ugly and perhaps care very little about how he or she appears to others. With this association in mind, it seems that being attractive is almost universally advantageous. And as globalization encourages and forces cultures to come into contact with each other, it becomes increasingly important to conform to globalized notions of beauty in order to appear beautiful in any society or culture. However, the globalization of beauty of course comes with its consequences and concerns, particularly in relation to the media, cosmetic surgery, the workplace, and colorism.
Beauty and Media: Often, for women all over the world, the media determines what is considered beautiful. Due to globalization, the manifestation of beauty is becoming homogenized into one global ideal. Western features, such as white skin, blond hair and blue eyes, have become particularly prized features. While value for the Western look may be rooted in the legacy of colonialism and White supremacy, the media today is most commonly accredited for delivering this global notion of beauty to cultures around the world through various channels such as TV advertisements, magazine ads, cinema, TV shows, etc. When confronted with all the media images, women are pushed to abandon their culturally determined ideas about beauty and strive for a global, Western ideal.
Plastic Surgery and the Ideal Beauty: Although ideas of beauty are culturally defined, there are white features that are desired by women around the world. Women are going to extremes to adhere to Western ideas of beauty. All over the world, women go through cosmetic procedures in the pursuit of a more beautiful look. Physical appearance is part of social interactions and relationships. In the United States appearance is associated with personality traits and contributes to stereotypes. Women’s bodies are often the images that represent human beauty. Plastic surgery is a popular practice around the world that helps women become more beautiful. In Asia, many women undergo eyelid surgery in order to obtain a larger eye and acquire a double eyelid. In the Middle East, nose surgery is popular and allows women to achieve a straight and ideal nose shape. The United States leads in number of cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures. What does this say about the “ideal Western beauty”?
Standards of Beauty in the Workplace: The value placed on beauty in our global society is particularly apparent in the workplace. Studies have shown that people who are perceived as ‘attractive’ are more likely to succeed in their work. According to Hamermesh and Biddle, there is a ‘beauty premium’ in the labor market. In other words, wages tend to be higher for attractive people and lower for unattractive people. It is also likely that the more attractive person of two equally capable candidates will typically be chosen for a job over the less attractive person, and attractive people are more likely to receive a raise over unattractive people. Whether or not any of these claims are true, the ‘beauty premium’ is an idea that pervades global society to a point where millions of people are altering their appearances dramatically in order to succeed in their jobs.
Skin-Lightening and Colorism: Women’s efforts to conform to a homogenized standard of beauty have definitely come with consequences. For example, the practice of skin-lightening has perpetuated colorism, a preference for and privileging of light skin over dark skin. Though colorism is manifest in various forms in different parts of the world, it is certainly present in a large range of societies that were exposed to colonialism and White supremacy ideology, namely: the African diaspora; African America; India and the Indian diaspora; Southeast Asia (especially the Philippines); East Asia (Japan, Korea, China); and Latin America. While some believe that modernity and capitalism give women the choice to make themselves lighter and improve their social status, others believe that the sale of skin-lightening products (sometimes toxic or containing high levels of mercury and leading to health hazards) is the mark of cultural imperialism and the remnant of colonial legacy. Many women still give in to the idea that being white is right, skewing one’s own identity and cultural norm of what it means to be beautiful.
Review: Chapter 50 Lechner and Boli- Bollywood Versus Hollywood: Battle of the Dream Factories, Tyrell
22–Chapter 48: Lechner and Boli- Cultural Imperialism, Tomlinson
–Glenn/ Yearning for Lightness: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27821646?seq=1
-Whiteness- bleaching and identity- Japan: http://mcu.sagepub.com/content/10/1/73.full.pdf+html
–International plastic surgery-http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2013/jan/30/plastic-surgery-rise-botox-breast-implants
— Beauty in the work place: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/2117767.pdf
–NY Times: “Creams Offering Lighter Skin May Bring Risks” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/16/health/16skin.html?pagewanted=all
–Casanavoa/ “No Ugly Women”: http://gas.sagepub.com/content/18/3/287.full.pdf+html
–Nose jobs in Iran 2009: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-692495.html