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Africa Speaks

Beautiful Woman

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June 06, 2004
by Leslie

Today's society is indeed a complex one. We have witnessed the rapid advance of computer technology and significant contributions in other scientific fields. We have also observed the ever-changing standards of beauty. Imagine the new phenomena: white women with caramel coloured skins, Afrikan women with straight hair, people looking decades younger than their actual age… Strange things have definitely occurred within recent times. Why then are people in the West so critical of other traditions concerning aesthetics? Some view body mutations and mutilations as taboo. But aren't we here in the West guilty of the same?

Females today are forced to acquire the 'Hollywood' image in order to gain the admiration of the equally ignorant males in society. Imagine what females endure on a regular basis: hours in the hairdressing salon using harsh and lethal chemicals to straighten out their natural kink; the ritual of painting their nails; tanning lotions for white females and bleaching creams for their black counterparts; painting their faces daily; depriving themselves of food in order to fit the socially acceptable size; not to mention the million and one cosmetic surgeries to 'fix' what starvation didn't. All this and more in the name of beauty. Beauty? How can a woman with a bust size of 46DD in a thin frame be beautiful? I think that that is quite abnormal and extremely ludicrous…not to mention ugly! Females today undergo varying degrees of torture to achieve the desired look; females in both Western and non-Western cultures. Many of us are aware of females in parts of Asia and Afrika who wear coils to elongate their necks and of the females (and sometimes males) who file their teeth to appear beautiful. We may also be aware of females in Northern India who go to great lengths to maintain their fair skins, and those in Afrika who mark their flesh as part of their tribal rites. How can we view these practices in other parts of the globe as abnormal and primitive when we do the same here on our end? Why do females still undergo such pains to be 'beautiful'?

Women all across the globe have always altered or 'enhanced' their appearance to increase their marriageablity. In the Shakespearean epoch, females with a milky-white appearance were considered the most beautiful. This was a symbol of wealth and status, as fairness indicated that they did not have to work and face the brunt of the sun. This legacy translated to the slavery and post-slavery epochs where fair-skinned females were the most desired. Thus, many Black mothers were happy to produce brown babies; this was a chance for their children to move onto a higher rung of the social ladder. Females in other societies were also judged by different criteria to determine their beauty and desirability. For example, females in some parts of West Afrika would ensure that they are fat to lure the opposite sex and become possible prospects for marriage.

Today, many females have had the opportunity to become educated and work in traditionally male-dominated fields. This phenomenon grew in intensity particularly during the Second World War, when females had to replace male labourers who had gone off to fight. Females today are employed as scientists, engineers, university lecturers and even astronauts and military personnel. Thus, many females generate their own incomes and are no longer dependent on males for their economic survival. They do not need to impress males in order to achieve economic stability. They can do this all on their own! Why then are these females still employing ridiculous and hazardous measures to make themselves 'beautiful'? The simple answer to that question is: low SELF-esteem. Females feeling horribly about themselves today is a product of the years of being told that they were ugly and undesirable. Many females believe that society needs to see them as beautiful for them to accept themselves as beautiful beings. What makes matters worse is that most females do not fit into the Western ideals of beauty. Although the image of the perfect female is slowly changing from white to brown, blond to brunette and thin to thick, black, Afrikan females are no way close to making the list.

Females have endured much pain trying to live up to the changing images of perfection. What females need to do is to understand the reasons that they have been prized mainly as 'beauty' and predominantly sex symbols. Males have regarded females as property and their prized possessions…some of them still do. Thus, women were forced to live up to their fantasies. Failure to do this would have resulted in rejection, which would have meant poverty and/social ostracism. Females were to provide for their husbands sexual needs at any given time and under whatever circumstances that her 'master' thought was best. She was his virtual slave. Fortunately, females have been liberated somewhat as a result of the clamouring of human rights activists, particularly feminists. At least now females have an understanding (although limited) of their greater role in society. They can do anything that males can do and more. No longer are females confined to their homes and to their bedrooms.

The way that one perceives beauty is a result of one's social conditioning. Thus, the way that people view 'beauty' differs from one society to another. In reality, 'beauty' is intangible; someone who is attractive today may be quite repulsive on another day. 'Beauty' in the conventional sense is the way that males feel to 'have' their females during a particular season. Today they want them tall and fair and tomorrow they want them short and plump. Females do not need to put themselves through such torment. There is no longer the need for females to be 'beautiful' for males but for themselves. Whatever the physical description women are beautiful…and by that I mean perfect. Each woman displays her uniqueness in her own way and that's what makes her phenomenal. 'Beauty' is knowing, understanding and loving one's SELF totally. It is only then that a female has reached WOMAN-hood and is truly beautiful.