One of my favorite stories from Aesop includes Jupiter & The Monkey.
Jupiter issued a proclamation to all the beasts, and offered a prize to the one who, in his judgment, produced the most beautiful offspring. Among the rest came the monkey, carrying a baby monkey in her arms, a hairless, flat-nosed little fright. When they saw it, the gods all burst into peal on peal of laughter. But the monkey hugged her little one to her, and said, “Jupiter may give the prize to whomsoever he likes. But I shall always think my baby the most beautiful of them all.”
Beauty is a concept that is quite personal and yet universal. If you refer to nature, scenic views, birds & bees, you would find consensus but at the same time, not everyone would agree a baby frog is beautiful. It is an opinion based on perception or so has been moulded into one through years of propaganda and stereotyping what it means to be beautiful.
Curvy was always IN
If it really means that much to you, would you go through all the trouble to fit the beauty ideals of the society through the centuries? The earliest pornographic materials known to mankind date back to 35,000 years ago across Europe and neighboring regions. These priceless artifacts now known as Venus Figurines provide an insight into the standards of beauty from the age of prehistoric man. Most Venus Figurines have enlarged body parts typically featuring a swollen tummy, large breasts, and large thighs.
Except for the times when there were famines and droughts when people would starve and look sick, being curvy and full figured spoke of your wealth, health and earned you beauty points. This changed of course, in the past 100 years and now we have anorexics, bulimics and more such people trying to fit the beauty bill.
What actually happened
You know how us humans are different from other animals? We are not so much crazy about survival via food as we are about money. So during the past century the upper class of the society decided to separate themselves from the middle class by reducing on food consumption and look different – skinnier, definitely less healthy, and set a different ideal because they walk all over earth. So that urge to differentiate class, eventually ended up creating a beauty stereotype which is not really new but is certainly going overboard this time as the current beautiful is doper, skeletal, size negative.
Makeup wasn’t to hide flaws
Have you read about tribes or seen pictures? All that paint, otherwise known as makeup is actually just for camouflage in the vibrant jungle. Let’s fast forward a few centuries and listen to the grandmothers of ancient India. Kohl, turmeric, kumkum, etc., were used for their medicinal purposes rather than enhancing beauty. Shift across the globe to Europe during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The trend began many decades after her majesty started painting her whole face white. None of the subjects ever dared to try anything more than face paint and powder as it would have been considered promiscuous.
We needn’t talk about the Egyptians and Cleopatra do we? That’s a whole other story.
The makeup business really took off when Hollywood had to reach for paraphernalia to compensate for the washed out look under lights and camera. It began with a slight exaggeration of just eyes and lips until Max Factor broke the industry with his cosmetics. After this, marketers began to tell women anything and everything under the sun to use their products. What’s more annoying is they invented more products and made up more nonsense to brainwash women into thinking “I’m not good enough to get out of bed without makeup.” And, that’s where we are today.
Hairfree female humans
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Men often shaved parts of their bodies right from the invention of razor. It was often related to the era’s climate or profession or fashion.
Since the invention of razors, miniskirts, microminis and bikinis, brands began advertising to women the benefits of shaving until we began to think that the only places it is okay to have hair would be eyebrows, lashes and the scalp. Every other area needs to be baby butt smooth. Needless to say different kinds of wax treatments, laser therapy, epilators, creams and all sorts of other products were born and the need to stay hair free was ingrained in our brains forever.
In fact, I very well remember an episode of Sex and The City that introduced women to Brazilian Waxing.
Breaking bones is not new
Throughout history women have been going through pain to fit the beauty ideals of the society. Tight corsets, bound feet, walking on stilts were just precursors to plastic surgeries we have today. If we have learnt anything about the pain women needed to go through for a gain from memoirs of a Geisha, it is the fact that more than half the world is stuck in a haze that tells them to lie on a bed of needles, get a facial with bull semen, eat placenta and a whole lot of tormenting things to stay beautiful.
The obsession with pale skin is not new to the world. Before the Renaissance, pale skin indicated a sense of purity and wealth while reddened cheeks or tanned skin was a sign of lower class, riot and sin. You’d either have to stay in all day avoiding the sun and risking a deficiency of Vitamin D, and also restrain your urge to stay by the fire in winter. If everything failed, and color made it to your cheeks you’d fake the pale tone by painting your skin with poisonous titanium paint that would make your veins blue.
It’s all a lie
The ideals of beauty are just a bunch of lies spun in a web around the world to serve the purpose – to maintain societal differences in classes, propagate businesses, and satisfy a wide range of idiosyncrasies that powerful people had in the era. Why else would beauty ideals differ with not just time but region?
You don’t have to hide, or change, or put your body through any process to look and feel beautiful. Each of us are unique, and beautiful in our own way. Own your body the way it is. Love yourself first, just the way you are. When you begin to see beauty within you, the world feels like a more beautiful place.