The Unfortunate Western Ideals of Beauty
Have you ever wanted those hot new sneakers that everyone was buying, just so that you could say that you have them too? Wanting that new hairstyle to fit in or the new fashion sense that was breaking the internet? I have. Simply the means of meeting the societal norms within a society, wanting something that everyone else has. The Western civilization’s views conquer all others as they are depicted as being civilized, advanced, and above all. Failing to have the acceptable beauty qualities of a particular society is commonly referred to as “social suicide”: where women fail to present themselves as the perfect woman. The two astounding authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Toni Morrison, along with famed singer and songwriter Alessia Cara exhibit the worth of beauty through the West’s eyes in their work. Adichie’s “On Monday of Last Week”, Morrison’s Bluest Eye, and Cara’s “Scars to your Beautiful” provide the audience with a depiction of women’s natural beauty as they are influenced, which may lead some to themselves emotionally and/or physically damaged. The work of these artists all elaborate on the standards of Western feminine beauty expectations within a society through the requirements and approval of women at higher authority.
Will a simple imperfection keep one from being considered beautiful? Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye elaborates on the main character, Pauline, who struggled throughout her childhood due to an unattractive limp. Finding the love of her life, Pauline entered a new community with different feminine expectations than Kentucky as she says, “The women in the town wore high-heeled shoes, and when Pauline tried to wear them, they aggravated her shuffle into a pronounced limp” (Morrison 117). Revealing that she cares about what the women think or else she would have not even “tried to wear them.” And the women in Ohio were “amused by her because she did not straighten her hair. When she tried to make up her face as they did, it came off rather badly” (Morrison 118). The fact that the women were “amused” by her demonstrates the strain and rudeness of women of higher status who believe they are truly more civilized. Pauline was tired of not being as good as the higher status women as “Their goading glances and private snickers at her way of talking (saying “chil’ren”) and dressing developed in her a desire for new clothes” and “Taking jobs as a day worker helped with the clothes, and even a few things for the apartment, but it did not help with Cholly” (Morrison 118). Her need only grew more issues with Cholly, financially and emotionally. Pauline’s eagerness to be more like these women was seen to be more crucial than satisfying her husband and “The sad thing was that Pauline did not really care for clothes and makeup. She merely wanted other women to cast favorable glances her way” (Morrison 118). This only deepens the fact that someone can only care for their appearance towards others and how they can be seen in society. Pauline’s eagerness grew as she “fixed [her] hair up like [she’d] seen hers in a magazine. A part on the side, with one little curl on [her] forehead” (Morrison 126). Pulling from professionals, Kamara imitated work of those she respects, to create an exemplary figure for her executive. The eagerness to blossom into these professional models, places a clear emphasis on the lack of self-worth. The Western civilization sees themselves as the more advanced and moral class as they look at others and think poorly of them, knowing that they are superior and sophisticated. As they make fun of those below them, causing disruptions in personal relationships and financial assets.
Will the thought of those you admire inspire you to alter yourself? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “On Monday of Last Week” empowers women to recognize the power of pleasing those we treasure as Kamara excessively alters herself throughout the text to satisfy her latest employer, Tracy. Tracy placed a distinct emphasis on herself by failing to introduce herself to Kamara for days. Initially meeting Tracy, Kamara was overjoyed, nervous, and surprised how unique and special Tracy was as “Their eyes held and suddenly Kamara wanted to lose weight and wear makeup again” (Adichie 79). Kamara simply notices a new interest in her and wants to be the equivalent to Tracy’s natural beauty. Kamara, now, focused on her appearance at work and pushed to be admired by Tracy. She had believed that Kamara could be an artist’s model. Furthermore, she put physical effort in improving her overall appearance and “stopped eating fried plantains and had her hair braided in the Senegalese place on South Street and began to sift through piles of mascara in the beauty supply store” (Adichie 79). Changing her diet, amplifies Kamara comparing herself to Tracy and does not present herself physically, as an artist’s model. Basically, the colonized was spending money on new beauty factors to satisfy the colonizer. When Tracy looked at Kamara “Kamara felt, first, like an adored little girl, and then like a bride” (Adichie 86). She felt loved and adored; which she no longer felt at home due to her failing relationship with her husband, Tobechi. She enjoyed interest in herself as she had been cast aside for some time now. When Tracy looked at her “She was extremely aware of her body, of Tracy’s eyes, of the space between them being so small, so very small” (Adichie 86). Tracy was the superior being, and knew it, so she took advantage of Kamara. The valorized looked down upon the marginalized, knowing their value. And Tracy had taken advantage of Kamara and soon moved on to another uncivilized soul, Maren; where she, too, asked Maren if she had ever been an artist’s model. Rapidly and swiftly, Tracy, the West, geared towards another colonized fellow, proving that the West can take advantage of what they wish with no consequences.
What does it take for a woman to be considered beautiful? Alessia Cara’s “Scars to your Beautiful” amplifies and confirms that not every woman needs to be exhibited as a trophy or a princess in society. She begins her song with “She craves attention, she praises an image. She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor” (Cara). Cara advises that women want to be created and/or made into the ideal women, made into something they’re not. Women crave to sculpt themselves into a superior being to be displayed, admired and praised as they inject botox into their beautiful faces and liposuction into their behinds. But, Cara continues to play with the fact that “Maybe we have made her blind. So she tries to cover up her pain” (Cara). Implying that the Western world has pushed women to meet the societal norms of possessing the ‘perfect body’; where society has blinded women from the destruction that can be placed upon their body. To add, teenage girls are targeted for depicting and satisfying the terms of these professional models, but Cara says “She has dreams to be an envy, so she’s starving. You know, “Cover-girls eat nothing”. She says, “Beauty is pain and there’s beauty in everything”. “What’s a little bit of hunger?” (Cara). Hinting at that models are pretty and nice to look at, but they are “starving” as they drive to keep their presentable structure. Sadly, there has been a rapid growth in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa rates over the years as more and more teenage girls and young adults desire to have the ideal figure; and they believe that they will never until they are considered ‘skinny’. Women will do anything to be what they admire; no matter the consequence or hurt a person can go through by not eating the correct proportions or treating your body properly. The West’s views and modernized propaganda have geared teenagers and young adults to exercise, follow popular beauty and clothing trends, and eat healthy to perfect their overall being. But, it has only caused harm.
Within their works, Adichie, Morrison, and Cara elaborate on the West’s feminine beauty standards within a society and the detrimental aspects of them. Western culture has not only geared teenagers and young adults to portray themselves at their level of class and sophistication but has caused women to think poorly of their natural selves. Natural beauty is beauty itself as women are beautiful and unique in their own ways. And the West has shoved the colonized towards their needs and how they want everyone to live. They have taken advantage of those of lower class and generated constant disruptions throughout their daily lives; as women desire to be accepted and welcomed. But, what can women gain from the misuse of power in feminine conformity? The answer is nothing. Women should not be compelled to adapt to others’ standards and rather find comfort in their own. They should feel free to express themselves in their own ways — such as their physical appearance. However, the colonized people can be depicted as wanting to be just like their colonizers, to get to their level. At the end of the day, Western civilization has caused detrimental effects on those below them and those who believe in following the status quo.