The Attainment of Beauty & Attractiveness across Cultures What is beauty? Beauty is defined as “the quality of being physically attractive or the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind” (Merriam-Webster dictionary, 2014, para. 1). Heine (2012) has found that beauty and attractiveness can vary across cultures. Although, there are specific features of a person that seem to be considered as beautiful and attractive across all culture spectrums. These features are: complexion, bilateral symmetry, average sized facial features, and biracial faces. However, weight in regards to attractiveness and beauty varies drastically across cultures. Through this discovery, there may be a correlation between the perception of beauty and attractiveness in each culture and its effects of body dissatisfaction and eating disorder rates. Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? We will examine how what is considered to be attractive and beautiful can have both similarities and differences across cultures. In addition, we will examine eating disorders, and how they are influenced by the beauty standards that are set in specific cultures. Who Defines Beauty? First, one must ponder a couple of questions: who defines beauty in today’s culture and society? Does the mass media industry define beauty? Everywhere one turns in advertisements, commercials, TV shows, movies, magazines, etc. someone is telling us what “beauty” is. The allure of celebrities and the beauty they exude, definitely influences the beauty those in the Western culture strive to be and are attracted too. Television, movies, magazines, advertisements that come from the Western culture have influenced cultures around the world. Due to the high i... ... middle of paper ... ...ychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Merriam-Webster. (2014). Beauty definition. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beauty Nasser, M. (2006). Eating disorders across cultures. Psychiatry, 5(11), 392-395. National Institute of Mental Health. (2014). What are eating disorders?. NIMH. Retrieved rom http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders.shtml Soh, N. L., Touyz, S. W., & Surgenor, L. J. (2006). Eating and body image disturbances across cultures: a review. European Eating Disorders Review, 14(1), 54-65. doi:10.1002/erv.678 Soh, N., Surgenor, L. J., Touyz, S., & Walter, G. (2007). Eating disorders across two cultures: does the expression of psychological control vary?. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 41(4), 351-358. doi:10.1080/00048670701213278
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Literature regarding eating disorders in non-Western cultures in general is scarce. Very few studies address disordered eating in cultures outside of the Western and Westernized world. This could be because of the perceived lack of eating disorders in non-industrialized countries or even because there is an overwhelming amount of concern over eating disorders in Western society. However, there have been several studies done on binge eating and dietary restraint in non-western citizens and in non-Caucasian women in the United States. Women who are not from a Caucasian background face different societal and traditional pressures than do Caucasian women in Western cultures, but some of the women in those cultures were found to have binge eating disorders as well as negative body images. These women may exhibit eating disorders for the same reasons women in western cultures do, such as extreme concern over shape and weight, low self-esteem, and emotional disorders (Becker, 2003, 425). Through acculturation to Western ideals and exposure to Western norms, they may have developed a “Western” perspective of body image. However, they may also face pressures based on their own cultures' traditions such as feasting, idealizing more robust women, and using meals as their primary means of socialization (Becker, 2003, 430). The few existing studies on this subject seem to agree that a fusion of the two factors determines the appearance of binge eating and dietary restraint in non-Caucasian females.
Throughout history, people have placed irrefutable importance on beauty, resulting in the struggle to fit in, and the distraction from individualization. Although cultures apply prominence to different areas, beauty and the fascination of the body remain common threads. Ideally, beauty would be open to interpretation and appreciation no matter where it appeared on the continuum. In her book 'Molly Brown', Margaret Hungerford, a late 19th century novelist, famously suggests, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Yes, there is no disputing that different people are drawn to distinct characteristics of people, which is essential for reproduction and acceptance. If we were all inclined to the same characteristic of one's personality or body image,
“The Globalization of Eating Disorders.” The McGraw-Hill Reader. Muller, Gilbert H. 12th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. 639-642. Print.
Soh, N., & Walter, G. (2013). Publications on cross-cultural aspects of eating disorders. Journal of Eating Disorders , 1(4), doi: 10.1186/2050-2974-1-4
Beauty is an omnipresent characteristic that plagues societies’ youth today because mainstream media has them convinced that inner beauty is less important than physical beauty. Unfortunately the media’s warped sense of what true beauty is has been advertised in such a way that it has become an unhealthy observation for today’s youth. The expectations of beauty are unacceptably stereotyped, which creates unrealistic idealistic goals for our young people to try to achieve. It is crucial to mention that as a society we need to strive toward teaching the proper balance between both aspects of beauty to offset the portrayal of what true beauty is by the media.
What is beautiful? According to “The Oxford Dictionary” beautiful is pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically, but who decides what is beautiful? Do we decide for ourselves what we find beautiful, or attractive? Or does the media decide for us? Depicting “perfect” women, with the “perfect” waistline, or “ideal” men with the “ideal” muscles; making celebrities even wishing to look like themselves. Susan Bordo, author of “The Globalization of Eating Disorders” stresses the dangers and effects media has on women and men globally, putting out “false normals” that can only be reached by photoshop, or body modifications.
Pate, J., Pumariega, A., (1992) Cross-cultural patterns in eating disorders: A review. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,31, 802-809.
Beauty has become a word with a degrading value. Women in America are used by the word to create a new world of consumption. The beauty industry has been contradicting itself for years, sending mixed messages to women across the country. Western cultures have placed high-risk standards on the ideal image of beauty, creating unrealistic and unnecessary desires among women. Advertising attractiveness has become an outrageous competition within oneself and has destroyed the God-given self-purity that sets individuals apart; therefore the industry needs to create true, a more diverse image of beauty and stop limiting human elements.
The rise of clinically diagnosed cases of anorexia nervosa nervosa and bulimia nervosa nervosa are increasing over the decades. According to Barlow,Durand and Stewart(2012), eating disorders are found to be more prevalent among women, specifically between the ages of 12 and 25 years of age. Prior to modern research, researchers saw eating disorders as a Western phenomenon due to the fact that non western countries did not have such a wide variety of food available to them. This perspective is now changing. Individuals in other countries (non-western) have been diagnosed with eating disorders as well, however it is not as frequent as the United States or Canada for example(Barlow et al., 2012).
Outward beauty in America is not a standard for a country in African or Tonga where access to media sources are limited. American values slim women with light skin, straight hair and European features as beautiful, whereas some other countries find a woman is beautiful if she has wide hips and a darker complexion. However, America’s requirements are slowly spreading across the world because of media. Women now are bleaching their skin, obtaining plastic surgery to be skinner and look more European. But the change of an outward appearance does not correlate to a person’s inner beauty. Yes, some people are only fixated on a person’s outward appearance, but looks do not last forever, and outward beauty is not
The definition of beauty has been distorted through out time. When most people think of beauty, the first thing that pops into their mind is the physical appearance of someone or something. Beauty is not based only of what is on the surface. There is no standard of perfection when it comes to beauty. There is no right or wrong when it comes to beauty, only what one believes is the truth. Beauty is the way one feels about themselves as well. There are many companies that have changed their way of advertisement. Many artists have incorporated what makes a girl beautiful into their songs. Plenty of people have changed their minds and opened up to the idea that beauty is more than skin deep. The dictionary definition of beauty is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses…” A great deal of the human population is now convinced that beauty is not only something that is pleasing to the sight, but to other senses and emotions as well.