check serif;”>Miceala O Donovan discusses the controversy surrounding westernizing beauty procedures
We’re all familiar with the concept of globalization. The world-wide domination of Ikea, Justin Bieber and Starbucks are a few well known examples. But while a universal standard for what constitutes a perfect cup of coffee is one thing, something slightly more disturbing has emerged in recent years. As our planet seems to become smaller and ideals become increasingly integrated across each continent, we have seen a gradual homogenization of the concept of the perfect human face and body. Alongside the technology that made globalization possible, ships, planes and the internet, the cosmetic surgery and beauty industries have advanced in equal measure. So as we become more connected as a planet, it seems that we are aiming to look more and more alike too.
The ideals of the west have been projected by the mainstream beauty industry as a standard of perfection to aim for. Most young women of our generation grew up with the iconic features of Mattel’s Barbie seared forever into our subconscious minds as an obvious representation of this. So it’s not unusual to spot that familiar long, straight blonde hair, those big blue eyes and fixed, shiny smile on one of the music industry’s biggest stars of 2012. The unusual thing is that Nicki Minaj isn’t Caucasian like Barbie, but black and Indian. Nicki is proof that with enough money, effort and science anyone can force themselves into the Barbie mould, regardless of race.
Though Nicki’s look is an extreme example, there definitely is considerable pressure on girls and women of all ethnic backgrounds to conform to certain standards of western beauty. In recent years a procedure called blepharoplasty or “double eyelid” surgery has become the most popular cosmetic procedure in places like Tawain and South Korea. It is argued by some that this process of altering the natural eye shape common to some Asian people in order to make their eyes look “more western” is an obvious example of the influence of western beauty. For younger people or those who cannot afford the surgery, there are beauty products available that help to glue or tape the eyelid into this desired shape. A quick YouTube search for demonstrations on how to apply these products prove that their use is widespread.
The beauty industry enforces Western ideals in other areas too. In the documentary ‘Good Hair’, presenter Chris Rock explores the perceived stigma that surrounds the texture and appearance of black hair left in its natural state. The black hair industry is worth 9 billion dollars in the US and this makes up eighty per cent of the overall amount spent on hair products, showing the pressure felt by black men and women to change themselves in order to fit into the West’s concept of what is attractive.
There doesn’t seem to be room for difference in the beauty industry, be it racial difference or other, and inevitably this leads to people spending more on products that will “fix” that part of themselves that stands out. Be it a serious procedure like surgery, or just a small thing like covering pale skin with fake tan, the industry profits as long as it keeps everyone, everywhere, longing to be one version of “perfect”.