Monday, September 27, 2010

Beauty & the Witch

Pretty girls should behave pretty. If a good looking woman displays a flash of temper, or did something nasty, people would say she has a dark side. Point being good looking and bad behaviour don't go together. However, if a cosmetically challenged woman did the same, her attitude would not be deemed all that surprising. In fact a lot of people would say - she looked like a bitch to start with!

Fairy Tale Syndrome

I think whether we realise it or not,  a lot of us judge people, especially women, in a superficial manner. A beautiful woman must have a beautiful personality just like the heroines in most fairy tales, and the not so hot looking woman who acts difficult is probably like the Wicked Witch of the West, cos she kinda looks it with that big fat wart on the tip of her nose.

As most of us have been brought up on a diet of myths and legends of long suffering beautiful heroines who triumph in the end or die a martyr, all the way refusing to show their claws if any, we kinda expect that of beauties, if a woman looks graceful and feminine, she must ooze that from her very pores as well.

What most people fail to realise is that, the age when women walked about in flowing graceful gowns, their feet shod in impractical satin slippers, were dependent on men for their well-being and had the leisure of dabbling in embroidery, music and poetry has passed. In fact in those days physical beauty aside, a woman was also judged attractive by how well versed she was in the finer arts, especially among the upper classes.

Beauty or not, women these days....let me correct myself. Not these days, but for a very long time now, the role of women in society is no longer about being show pieces, we do a hell of a lot more than that, we have to do a hell of a lot more than that to survive.  The world has changed tremendously since then and so have we.

Yet despite all this change which on a superficial level has been accepted. People generally (especially in the society which I live in) still expect women, especially the pretty ones, to display all the tender feminine qualities of fairy tale heroines. We can climb mountains, perform a bypass surgery, direct a movie, pilot a plane. However while doing all these, we must still possess all those genteel feminine qualities that the poets of old waxed lyrical about.

Even animals evolve to suit changing climates, but women are supposed to stay the same....? In today's world, or even the world of a few decades ago, the virtues of folk and fairy tale heroines would not cut it. Cinderella would be labeled a wuss for not standing up for herself, and the Little Mermaid's sacrifice for the sake of true love would be labeled an absolute waste of such good singing talent for a man who did not care about her. In fact there is already some amount of debate on what kind of examples fairy tale heroines are setting for little girls these days.

Bad Witch or Smart Witch

Well those fairy tales are definitely fanciful yarn by today's standards. But whether the writers of such tales were aware of it or not, they did perhaps unconsciously, give us a glimpse of what modern women ( the ones who have a backbone) would be like.

In those ancient tales, they are almost always garbed in black, pointed hat, nose and shoes, lived alone, with a cat or minions for companions, were disliked for their um social behaviour, had tonnes of books and scientific looking apparatus which they used to good advantage until they were defeated by the hero of the tale.

As good must always triumph over evil, prince charming always defeats the witch to gain or rescue his true love - the soft, simpering beauty who might have perished at the hands of the witch if not for the brawn and might of the man who fancies her for her good looks and feminine ways.

Well so the witch always dies, but in such tales, she is the only one who fights with the man/prince/king as an equal. The witch takes on institutions, the village, community or kingdom in which she lives. People fear her, they are at once in awe and afraid of her powers of sorcery. Not many want to mess with her, until the hero in the shining armour comes along and sets about doing what all heroes must do to be worth their salt - kill the witch.

Barring the Salem witch trials and the infamous witch hunts of 16th century England, witches that turn princes into frogs and imprison lovely maidens in towers don't exist. Well there must have certainly been some women in towns and villages who lived alone, kept away from people, had cats for pets and perhaps made their own herbal remedies for ailments. I figure they must have been inspiration for the writers of such tales.

Beauty Mutates

The modern-day beauty has a bit of the princess and bad witch in her. She has none of the warts, or none that she cares to show, but a fair bit of the lone witch's independent nature, intelligence and the courage to take on the establishment if she must.

She has plenty of charm too, and is usually always beautifully dressed, though like the witch she might have a penchant for the colour black and pointy shoes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Does White = Beauty?

Somethings don't change, and that's the perennial quest for fairer skin. Yup the history of cosmetic whiteners goes a long way back. The  ancient Greeks  and Romans applied lead paint to whiten their skin in the face of dangerous health hazards, and many women and even men today continue to lust after this beauty ideal, especially in Asia.

Here in Malaysia the quest for fairness is well and alive. Walk into any pharmacy or Watsons outlet, and it would be difficult not to find some amount of whitening substance in most of the beauty care products. From facial foams to moisturizers, the promise of fairer skin screams out from the product labels.

Like honestly, do these products really result in naturally fairer skin? call me a cynic, but I think white is just an overrated fad which for some reason is not dying out the way it should. As far as I am concerned, moisturizer and sunblock will save the day for me. Plain and simple.

Whitening a Devil of a Culture

Not surprisingly whitening products were born in India. The first of such products was Unilever's Fair and Lovely which continues to dominate the country's fairness market to this day. The idea for the product came about after consumer research by the company revealed that most Indians want fairer skin.

In fact Fair and Lovely is quite sought after among Malaysians too.  It has pride of place on the vanity table of many an Indian girl here who sees it as her answer to fairer skin? did all these girls turn fairer and more beauti......fullll? well why not buy a bottle and try it out for yourself?

Beauty Ideal?

A male colleague once raved about the beauty of Pakistani and middle eastern women. "They have pale marble smooth skin," he said. And that seems to be the ideal among many women - pale  translucent skin. The fact however is that our skin type is very much determined by how much melanin we have in our skin and which part of the world our ancestors hailed from.

Considering the part of the world we live in, it's the beauty of tan skin that we should be raving about. We are located near the equator line, it's hot all year round, most of us are brown in varying shades, yet a lot of darker toned women find it difficult to get the right shade of foundation or powder.

It's about time we embraced our skin tone for what it is and started using/buying products that will enhance and maintain the health of our skin. Not turn it into something that it is not. Better to have glowing healthy brown skin than chalky pale skin.