Saturday, September 19, 2009

West is beautiful

Tyler Cowen’ quoting from a book by Anne Applebaum asks “Where did all the gorgeous Russian women now gracing the covers of Vogue and tennis courts come from? Where were they a decade or two back?”

The answer, as the author explains, is that the beautiful women were there all along. But, they didn’t have the clothes or the cosmetics to enhance their looks, and couldn’t use their faces to launch international careers.

Cowen ( or rather Applebaum) uses this example to make a generalization that ‘open’ and ‘globalised’ markets bring in benefits in all spheres of human activity, just as it brought the beautiful Russian girls to the cover of Vogue.

Unfortunately, what open markets and cosmetics also do is to come up with a single standard of beauty- one that appeals to western sensibilities.

The book “Anthropology matters” ( courtesy : Google Books) points out that Western influence is distorting perceptions completely in Asia and Africa. In Nigeria, where plumpness was considered a sign of prosperity, good health and sexuality, (they even had ‘fattening’ rooms in which teenage girls used to be kept locked), women are under increasing pressure to conform to the thin ideal. Asian women in Korea, China, and Philippines are undergoing cosmetic surgery to remove folds and to create double eye-lids to conform to Western standards of beauty. And, all over the world, when it comes to cosmetics, the major western brands are sought after.

Almost all Bollywood stars follow a Western- and often bizarre- style of dressing and in their use of cosmetics. Anorexia has them all in its vice-like grip. My ode to the plump heroine of yesteryears captured my thoughts on this subject.


Balajisblog said...

Raj - We live in a state that built a temple to Khushboo. Further, in rural TN, given a choice between Namitha and Aishwarya Bachchan, I am sure majority would plump ( pun intended ) for Namitha. I believe Nagma, who vanished from Tamizh moviedom almost a decade ago, is a very popular Bhojpuri movie star - I saw a recent snap of her in a Hindi mag, and I can swear that she has not seen the inside of a gym in the past 10 years.
When was the last time you saw a totally manjal smeared female face ? Let me tell you that it is a natural suppressor of any urges that a man may feel. In this regard, I would like to think that the companies engaged in mktg cosmetics have done something reasonably decent - am not saying all of it is good / correct, but, a moisture lotion smeared face is any day better than a manjal smeared face - speaking purely from a man's point of view...if you know what I mean.

Raj said...

Balaji, so turmeric turns you off, eh? You have been hopelessly conditioned by these western brands. 20 years back, I am sure that you were flirting with turmeric-plastered girls. De-toxify your mind, man.

Balajisblog said...

Raj - Unfortunately for me, not a single member of the opp sex thought it worthwhile to flirt with me 20 years back. You must understand that during my days in the campus, the female vs male ratio was something like 1 : 10. You know me as a very pragmatic salesman, and I never used to even respond to enquiries where I sensed severe competition. Where do you think I picked up that approach ... Of course, from my campus dating attempts !

I once stood in a queue for 2 hours in Tiruvallur temple right next to a turmeric double plastered village belle, reasonably well proportioned. The problem was that she had also ronsured her head and that had a double coat of sandalwood paste.

Turmeric has its medicinal advantages - I think it is an extreme contraceptive - keeps men at least 3 feet away...Balaji

Raj said...

My commisserations,balaji. If the woman's head was tonsures, it must have been quite a task to determine where the turmeric ended and the sandalwood paste started.