September 22, 2021 / Source: The Bizz USA
By Aaryana Sharma
The 21st century is the age of challenge and change. More than ever, we are challenging past social norms and redefining future rules, regulations and criteria, which couldn’t be more applicable to Eurocentric beauty standards. Ever since the age of colonization and the age of European dominion, certain standards of intellectual capacity and beauty were defined by European colonists. Intellectual capacity is often defined as the ability to speak and understand a European language-- namely English in British colonies--and the ability to adhere to bias and norms of white beauty standards. Today, these are referred to as Eurocentric beauty standards.
These beauty standards and intellectual criteria had detrimental effects on the societies they colonized. For example, concepts like “Fair and Lovely” replaced traditional beauty standards in regions with people of color. By focusing on these beauty standards, people of color often feel insecure and feel the need to fit into the molds of Eurocentric beauty. Unfortunately, markets have capitalized on the demands of Eurocentrism, resulting in brands producing wide varieties of whitening creams and supplements to adhere to these beauty standards.
But the problem lies further than the need to look “fairer”. Eurocentric standards also affect how individuals of color perceive certain bodily features. For example, many south Asians find their nose structure to be problematic. Many believe their nose is too large or oddly disproportionate from the rest of their face. Their perception happens to support the standards of Eurocentric beauty in which facial features are smaller and more subtle. However, this feature has been celebrated throughout South Asian history. This can be identified particularly in Mughal paintings which feature women with large, slightly pointed noses, adorned with jewels and ornamentation. These pieces of art celebrate and admire the beauty of South Asian biological features, challenging Eurocentric beauty ideologies. A tribute and thesis on the development of Eurocentric beauty standards in relation to South Asian interpretation of the nose by Simrah Farrukh can be found here and here.
But this is not a single-sided story. As mentioned previously, this is a trend seen in various regions. Along with questioning features such as the nose, in many African cultures, their hair is seen as a symbol of representation and unique identity. As white colonizers took over empires in Africa, they imposed Eurocentric standards of long, straight hair as opposed to the different traditional styles indegenious Africans used as a symbol of their culture. Even today, Eurocentric beauty standards result in many individuals of African descent to adopt practice, such as straightening their hair. Typical hairstyles like “locks” have been considered unprofessional, highlighting the continuity of Eurocentric influence in modern day society.
Similarly, artists such as Frida Khalo of Mexico resisted colonial movements by expressing her opposition to Eurocentric beauty standards. Her art featured portraits of herself with visual facial hair to represent natural beauty, and disencourage Eurocentric standards.
But Eurocentric beauty standards are slowly diminishing. As a result of social media and the instantaneous, long-lasting influence by diverse groups of people, pre-existing hierarchies in beauty are being redefined. Movements for inclusivity and body positivity encourage the representation of models and artists of color, the acceptance and understanding of traditional customs, and the ability to educate through authentic narratives. Slowly we can dismantle the definition of beauty, redefine, and radicalize our reality. One individual at a time.