Beauty: What is it, anyway?

I was browsing through Quora the other day and found a category of questions on Beauty. And this list of questions really made me think hard. What have we converted “Beauty” into these days.

Let’s start with the basic perception that most of us have about a typically beautiful person in India. If I ask you to imagine a beautiful Indian woman, who would you imagine? Aishwarya Rai? Aaliya Bhat? Katrina Kaif? Deepika Padukone? These are the answers you’ll find the majority of the people mumbling. Give and take a few persons. We are talking majority here. Now, go back to this list and see a trend. These are women who are conventionally attractive. Smooth skin. Bright eyes. Well made up faces 99% of the times when they even claim to be bare faced and natural looking. Are these regular women? No. These are women whose profession demands them to look a certain way. And they are out there to please eyes. Hence, they are bound to be “beautiful”. And since these are the popular faces which are bombarded at us from every billboard, social media, advertisement and movie trailer, it becomes fairly normal for the human mind to start perceiving this as the ONLY definition of beautiful.

Coming to terms with the fact that a lot of women aspire to look and dress up like these beautiful women. Why? Because the conventions that we already have about how a beautiful woman should look like. Let’s talk about what the standards of beauty are for an Indian woman. A woman who is fair as a river of milk, whose underarms are even fairer, whose arms and legs are free of hair, whose eyebrows are always shaped perfectly, whose clothes are from the latest season, whose tummy is as flat as the flat 42″ TV she watches, but no, those large digits are suitable only for televisions. If your waist is anywhere above 30, you are screamed and shouted at from every imaginable source to shove down mug after mug of hot green tea which will melt away those love handles and give you a tummy as flat as that of Shraddha Kapoor. Hahaha. Now, are you getting my point? These are media-propagated perceptions of beauty. Because every big brand wants to grab your attention and wants you to give your hard earned money to them so that they can provide you with a bit of their product that will make you look and feel beautiful. But. And this is a big but (Propagators of green tea, thankfully we are not talking of a big butt :P). We always forget that it is these brands themselves who have fed us the image of beauty that they want to sell us.

And those who fall away from these narrow standards have been made to feel, at least once in their lives, if not more times, inadequate. Not beautiful. Even ugly. Haven’t we seen enough cases of dark women who were made to feel impure, asked to rub ubtan after ubtan to clear up their complexion, who never thought twice before buying themselves several categories of fairness products? These women are not fictitious women. These can be found in your own homes, in the form of your mother, sister, wife or cousin. It’s that common a phenomenon. And why only women. Even men have their fair share (pun intended) of fairness products now. And lo-and-behold, the latest fad doing rounds these days are, hold your breath, vaginal whitening creams. Slow applause. Because we had run out of places in the woman’s body to whiten.

Just close your eyes for a minute and think. Are we that stupid? How come we have been that stupid? How come we have never realized these things till now? Do we really need to please so many eyes? What are we achieving by making generation after generation of people with low self esteems and even lower morale? Why is it that we let the media influence our eyes so much? Why is it still so hard for us to let go of these conventions and just clearly get used to a bigger variety of beautiful? If we have embraced globalization so wholeheartedly in our trade and commerce and our brand choices, why can’t we as easily open our arms and hearts to a bigger definition of beauty?

Why do our memes always make fun of the large-lipped full bodied black woman? Why do we find a woman with a hint of hair on her arms disgusting? Why do fat humans have to suffer so much shame and lame talks everywhere? And to top it all, why are fat people portrayed as stupid by the popular media? Isn’t it strange that only a certain body type is sold to us as desirable, while a 100 other body types are just NOT portrayed in the media? Don’t you think it’s a trick? Because they know that the majority of the people DON’T look like this. And they know that the majority of the people will keep paying them money to be able to look like this. Now do you understand? They are clearly feeding off our insecurities. And we happily keep obliging. Because, who has the time to think?!

Now, going back to my main question. What is beauty, anyway? So let me answer this simply. Beauty is a way to sell us products and services and everything imaginable that is sold in this world. Every brand has a face attached to it. Most often, it’s a face the majority of the humans will find pleasing to look at. Beauty, hence, is a modern myth. Till the educated human being helps break the conventional image of beauty and starts accepting the broad variety that exists in the human form. Till that time, beauty is something whose parameters will remain between two fixed, firm lines, sometimes budging a millimeter here or there, but not more.

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