Sailaja N. Joshi

“It” Beauty: Where tradition and globalization collide.

In Presentation of Self, Social Change, Uncategorized, United States, Women in Society on September 16, 2010 at 9:44 am

CNN recently published an article entitled, “Is ethnic beauty the new ‘it’ factor?” Now the fact that we’re having this conversation makes me incredibly excited because it means America, is starting to accept a wider definition of beauty.

The article goes on to talk about how there has been a great call for ethnic women (Beyonce, Kim Kardashian) in fashion magazines in an effort to appeal to a global ideal of beauty. In addition, more white women are tanning and straightening their hair in an effort to emulate their Asian sisters.

It’s wonderful that the definition of beauty is beginning to expand to include other races, though I can’t help but think that this article is a bit short sighted. It discusses how American (read: white) women are changing their bodies in order to emulate a more ethnic ideal. I’m glad American women are embracing their ethnic roots, or wannabe ethnic roots, but what about the REST of us non-white Americans?

So we talk about American women embracing an ethnic ideal, but perhaps it’s the other way around for women of ethnicity? Let’s take our girl Beyonce for example. She’s curvy. She’s tan. And she’s got, (hold the phone) blond hair.

Now, considering Beyonce’s roots and ethnicity, I’m to go ahead and say she’s not a natural blond. In fact, she’s probably far from a natural blond, but the point here is that she morphed herself to meet an image. And that image at the time, was that of (perhaps) a Stepford Wife.

It is telling that she, as a women of ethnicity, was attempting to morph herself into an image of ‘ideal American beauty.’ It seems to me that while CNN reported about white women going ethnic, they failed to point out that some ethnic women are going white.

In the world of Anthropology, we often talk about the Anglo-perspective. Where, we as Americans considering our point of view, to be the world’s point of view. With globalization though, we are quickly learning that we are NOT the only one’s on this planet and in fact, our perspective is very often not shared globally.

I think this CNN Article, does an excellent job of pointing out the shift in ideal beauty in America, but does so from a decidedly Anglo perspective. As we embrace ‘ethnic’ beauty, perhaps its time we also examine ethnic beauty and understand how THAT is shifting in this global marketplace. Moreover, how do we define ethnic beauty in this global world? Is it simply the opposite of what the norm once was or is it something more?

Only time, and this Anthropologist, will tell.


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