This post is too long to be graded, but I figured I’d throw it in for good measure:
The connection between a “beauty ideal” and ethnicity is devastatingly evident in popular culture. Music, movies, TV and even video games would have us believe that white women, Asians, Latinas and black women each have their own, specific realm of what is considered attractive and strive to achieve this by any means possible. To me, the most surprising thing is the lack continuity of this ideal within academia and the medical profession, which each make their own, if not contradictory, claims regarding the relation between a female beauty ideal and ethnicity. Before we move on to the set of contradictory ideals women face, let us begin with a look at beauty in popular culture.
White women of European descent for the most part, expected to be trim, toned, with shapely breasts and buttocks (cellulite is a no-go). Just look at Angelina Jolie as Laura Croft, (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/98/Lara_Croft_film.jpg), the wet dream of countless teenage boys of the early 2000s. Shape Magazine, a periodical dedicated to health and fitness features white women on 11 out of 12 of its cover photos. (As an interesting side note, the magazine touts the importance of health, as being connected to attractiveness, begging the question if the healthy living crave is a white monopoly).
Asian women are expected to be lean, elegant, dainty, and cute. The Japanese cultural ideal of kawaii, a preoccupation with “cuteness”, is highly evident in the emerging “Lolita fashion”, of young Japanese women. Body ideals within the kawaii trend include small breasts and lack of body hair (this is also evident among men, who shave their body hair to appear more asexual or prepubescent). Indeed, “”Japanese women see value in youth and want to combine childishness and cuteness with sexiness and glamour,” (Nonomura).
Hispanic women, and even more so, black women ought to be “womanly”, or “curvaceous” with large breasts and buttocks. Here, I must unfortunately turn to the clichés of Jennifer Lopez or Beyance Knowles, both know for their, by European standards, proportionately large buttocks. Music, Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back” (Which, if you have never watched the video, as I hadn’t, I recommend it in context of this class. Its hilarious!) Kid Shawty, in which black women’s behinds are on near constant display and lyrics like “Throw yo ass in the air, bigger than a tank.”, are not uncommon.
It is also made evidently clear that men of each of these ethnic groups are almost exclusively attracted to women which present these particular characteristics.
At the same time, however, Meredith Jones in her work, “Skintight: An Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery” would have us believe that there is one ideal of attractiveness; The white one. She claims, “Lists of popular procedures for various groups show that ethnic cosmetic surgery usually aims to Aryanise features to some extent.” And goes on to list the varying facial plastic surgeries requested by ethnic clients, “Wide noses are narrowed, flat noses are raised, cheekbones are heightened, thick lips are thinned, slanted eyes are rounded.” Never does she mention bodily plastic surgery, which seems to go in entirely the opposite direction, where the ethnically defined ideals of beauty I outlined earlier are expressed, rather than hindered. The perfect example for this is the website of plastic surgeon, Thomas L. Roberts III, M.D., a specialist in buttocks augmentation. He uses his highly accredited medical expertise and his “8 years” and “more than 600 buttocks augmentation” to make a claim for “…the striking differences in the various ethnic ideals of beautiful buttocks.” Underneath a list of his medical accomplishments, the website asks, “What is your ideal buttocks?” and depicts four women; a black one, an Asian one, a Hispanic woman, and a white one. Following this link, one can search for the buttocks ideals related to one’s ethnicity. For a Caucasian patient, “Any fullness of the lateral thigh is considered objectionable.” Asian patients “ preferred buttocks that are small to moderate in size, but shapely.” Hispanic women are partial to “…buttocks that are very full…”, and black women consistatly ask for very full buttocks, and a “shelf-like” shape. Dr. Roberts claims that, “A woman with a very full, prominent trochanteric area of the lateral thighs is considered attractive by both men and women in this culture.” Here, instead of using Youtube orHollywood to make claims about ideal body image and ethnicity, we see a medical doctor, using science and medicine, to make claims about what is and what is not attractive within certain ethnic groups.
Consider, for example, an asian woman with the body shape ideal of a black woman. What would she be in her culture: a beauty or a freak? What about when these surgeries go awry? Or are performed to an extreme? Here too we have a modern day freak discourse, within the context of ethnic beauty ideals, and drawing the line between ethnicity, beauty, and the freak. An article in the Sun, a British tabloid newspaper (and in my opinion the perfect example of a modern day freak show) shows a young, black woman whose buttocks have been operated on to the point of…well…freakishness. The most telling here are the comments made by readers of The Sun, asking themselves why anyone would get a buttocks augmentation surgery, and making jokes. A comment by Terry01 claims, “Some people have a wierd idea on what a womans body shape should be, looks totally ridiculas and out of proportion.No wonder the person is standing as i would think sitting would be out of the question.” Although the botched surgery is extraordinary, I must ask myself how many people viewed this site, just to get a freak show…
sources (ish)..hope thats all I used…