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Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Psychology of Beauty - Media affects body image

Self-grooming and the desire to look good probably predate Narcissus and there is nothing wrong with wanting a few appreciative nods. But freezing your facial expressions with those needles and using scalpels to thin that 'bulbous' nose to a size never satisfying are a different desire all together, one that is nudging us closer to the approval of an elusive pseudo-self far removed from reality.

There was a bizarre news on the Internet recently about sharp spike in the number of women visiting the cosmetologist's cabin as Valentine's day approached.  From Botox to Juvederm, forehead to chin, these miracle makers promise you a skin you wore 20 years ago, never mind the love.

We are living in an incredible age. The dark-skinned wants to be fair, the fair wants to be fair-er, the fair-est wants to be marks-free, the marks-free wants to be perfect skinned, the perfect skinned wants to be something that cant be figured out and faithfully awaits a beauty brand to invent some new flaw and dedicate a new range for removing it, the straight-haired wants to go noodled, the noodled wants to be thin, thin wants to be size 0, size 0 wants to maintain it. The illustration can be more comical and never-ending.

But the fact is that Indians are equally obsessed about the looks of our daughters - especially if it affects their prospects in the marriage market. In the good old days, our grannies told us not to play outside because we would get dark and no one would marry us. In 2012, Fair and Lovely tries to convince our daughters that dark girls are unemployable and fair skin is all they need to get a great job and make their parents proud. The leggy model on TV screen says that marks look better on a Dalmation that on your face, and the story continues on matrimonial pages as 'Wanted a Fair and good looking bride/groom...'. Everything is our living world is contaminated with a certain definition of beauty.

That “imperative to be hot 24/7” is here. According to 2010 statistics, India is number five on the list of nations demanding plastic surgery. The only female role models that get any media attention are film stars, models and those who are a size zero.

What many young girls don't realize is that there's always someone thinner, prettier or more surgically enhanced around the next corner. It's not a race you can win. In this cruel new world, a beautiful face will get you so far, but no further. It may get you an NRI groom or a job in the glamor world, but give it a few years and both may evaporate into thin air, unlike the more lasting gains of education and yes, hard work.

Of course, it's difficult to convince self conscious teens that looks aren't the most important thing, especially given the pressure from Bollywood, the media, and society in general. But we need to try. So should we stop calling our daughters pretty? Definitely not. But perhaps we should also attempt, at least occasionally, to praise not just their looks, but also their brains, courage and determination. Or we may just end up in a dumbed-down world where everyone's forgotten what a real woman looks like.

This video says it all.

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