…Thoughts on beauty and emancipation from unnecessary shakara
A very good friend of mine got married some years ago while I was out of the country, let’s call her Joy.
I had to make do with viewing the pictures and videos on Instagram as I couldn’t attend the wedding. Scrolling through my feed, I saw the picture of a bride that a makeup artist friend of mine had posted. She looked beautiful and her makeup was perfectly done: her face was a true work of art. I marvelled at my friend’s prowess, dropped a comment on the picture, and kept scrolling through Instagram.
Eventually, I saw a picture that Joy had posted. Lo and behold, it was the same picture that my makeup artist friend had posted! How did I not realise that Joy was the bride in the picture I had commented on? I was shocked!!! I mean, she looked nothing like the person I knew yet, she was so beautiful and all her facial features were perfectly accentuated.
Beauty and beauty routines have fascinated many women for a very long time. Indeed, the obsession with beauty has transcended centuries and cultures as literature from different parts of the world provide evidence of the various things that people have done to enhance their features. From using charcoal or liquid from tree roots and stems to intensify the smokiness of the eyes or mixing different kinds of oils and spices to moisturise the skin, to some absurd practices such as drinking liquid gold which was popular during the Renaissance as it was believed to harness the power of the sun and keep one eternally youthful, ultimately with dire consequences.
The beauty and fashion industries strongly aided by the media (both traditional and social) have always set very high standards for beauty. For a very long time, print and TV adverts, movies and television series, and music videos showcased women of a certain body type featuring similar skin tones, perfectly carved cheekbones, collarbones, and body structures. Products that were marketed to the generality of women were designed for and promoted by few women who fit a certain mould. More recently, social media, not to be outdone, also features a wide range of influencers and wannabe influencers who target different types of women as they push various products and services. And brands only engage some of these influencers on campaigns because they fit a certain “aspirational” look which they want to project.
Some taglines and conversations on traditional and social media could even throw subtle or overt shade at women who don’t fit “the standard” whilst encouraging them to use these products in achieving the perfection that the ads promote. Even now that brands are more conscious of the need to appeal to a wider range of women, some still push forward perfection laced subliminal messaging that could encourage their audience to do things that may be detrimental to their physical and emotional health.
And why do women focus so much on their beauty? Many insist that their beauty routines are inspired by men, however, many of the men say they would rather women wore less makeup so they looked as close to natural as possible. Initially, I never understood why women would think men influenced their beauty regimen but as I thought about it, I began to wonder whether that mindset is rooted in upbringing.
Traditionally, women were groomed for marriage and everything they were taught to aspire to, revolved around pleasing their husbands. Many of our indigenous cultures advocate that women must fit a certain physical standard and even some modern parents have sustained these requirements. Could this be the reason such women believe men prefer perfect looking women? Is it possible that such women really don’t know what men want or they just want to look beautiful for themselves and need an excuse to do so?
Women have been known to go to extreme lengths to enhance their features. The use of skin enhancement creams and lotions AKA bleaching creams is one way and undergoing elective surgical procedures is another. Black has always and will forever be beautiful but why are some people consumed with the need for fairer skin? In the heydays, global representations of beauty were traditionally Caucasian women which was probably the reason many dark-skinned women sought to be lighter but with increasing awareness, more women now recognise the dangers of bleaching. In this vein, I also wonder if toning is a different practice or just another name for bleaching?
And what about body enhancement procedures? Butt lifts, breast augmentations, tummy tucks, liposuction, and all other forms of body-altering surgeries. The need for attaining an hourglass figure is overhyped, Rome wasn’t built in a day neither can anyone’s body. All these procedures come at a high cost; financial, physical, and emotional, and many have died under the knife. Some others have had to make repeated visits to surgeons to correct or update procedures they have had before. Are all these things worth it? To be honest, only the providers of these services smile consistently as very often, women tend to regret these surgeries.
But all is not lost; some women challenge the norm and are comfortable in their skin, whether it’s free of makeup or features barely-there makeup, whether they’re svelte or chubby. The memorable “I woke up like this” line from Beyonce’s “Flawless” song provided an anthem for many women to celebrate their natural beauty, encouraging them to love themselves as they are, explore going natural, maintain minimal makeup, and use organic skincare products.
Am I against women wearing makeup? Not at all considering that I do not even have a say in the matter. Some of the images we see these days make one wonder whether beauty hasn’t become the beast after all. If some women are comfortable wearing destiny changing makeup that significantly alters their look, that is their prerogative. However, I have always believed that makeup should only ever be as subtle as the “b” in subtle; barely there but enough to accentuate one’s natural beauty. As for all other skin altering procedures, my mantra has always been “do not do anything permanent to your body because you could have a change of mind tomorrow”.
Anyway, who am I to express such strong views about beauty when I am not a woman? As you ask yourself what rights I have to share my thoughts on the topic, just remember that opinions are a dime a dozen, everyone has one, and all I have done is share the way I see things today.