From crazy contouring to Kylie Jenner’s lip plumping, the United States has developed its own standard of feminine beauty that has become the inspiration of beauty around the world. Globally, the beauty ideal is the European standard, which emphasizes skin tones and hair types that exclude many women of color. An example of this ‘European influence’ is a trend in Uganda known as skin bleaching. Has this standard of beauty made women of color so self- conscious that they believe in order to be beautiful, they must alter the color of their skin?
Skin bleaching has been commonly practiced in Uganda to achieve a fairer skin tone. Women are willing to apply carcinogens and harmful chemicals on their faces just to fit in the beauty stereotype. According to the Columbia Social Work review, black women are in risk of internalized self-hatred due to their skin color because of the media’s portrayal of women. German photographer Anne Ackerman lived in Uganda in 2013 and visited various parlors and salons to document the practice of this trend.
“I am learning that there seems to be a serious pressure for women to fit into dominant beauty stereotypes in a society based on the belief that the fairer and lighter is associated with beauty and wealth,” Ackerman said.
Unfortunately, Uganda is not the only country influenced with this standard. In India, Indian women are raised believing the lighter your skin, the more beautiful you are. There have been commercials on TV advertising soaps that could “lighten your skin”. This has become so common, it has been even labeled as “Snow White syndrome”. Is applying harmful chemicals such as bleach to your skin truly what you have to go through to be beautiful? The media in India portrays women of lighter skin tones; many Indian women were rejected from acting in commercials and movies because they were deemed too dark.
Besides skin tone, body image has also been a factor of the European standard. Many countries have this standard that women should be tall, thin, and have curves commonly altered by plastic surgery. Iran has the highest rate of rhinoplasties, and South Korea has become the plastic surgery capital of the world. In South Korea, women are changing things from eye shapes to the structure of their foreheads to achieve the “doll-like” look. It has become a norm in South Korea to openly call out someone for not being at their standard of beauty. Most people regarded as “unattractive” are likely to be mistreated. Koreans typically associate lighter skin with youthfulness and beauty.
Around the world women are told to follow this one set standard of beauty. This standard, without a doubt, has damaged the self-esteems of many women of color to the point that they are relying on chemicals and surgery to be beautiful. Women are all beautiful regardless of skin tone, height, weight, and even social status; this is the standard that needs to be set.