The standard for beauty is very much part of The Culture Code in that it varies from culture to culture. Western cultures have a very different concept of beauty and aging from Eastern cultures, for example. It is the challenge of people in marketing and advertising to prepare campaigns that appeal to all standards of beauty. In the early part of the century, America really catered to one beauty image, and most American women strove to meet that image. African-American women spent and still do spend millions of dollars every year on hair straightening products. Many Asian women have tried to lighten their eyes with colored contacts. Self-tanners for the fair complected have been on the market for decades, and there is lots of money to be made in the business of running tanning salons, no matter the increased risk of skin cancer for those who try it.
Some of our ideas about beauty and the ideal self-image come from the cultures we have grown up in, others come from the dominant culture. Traditionally, many African-American women strove to meet the European standard of beauty by lightening their skin and straightening their hair. This was in stark contrast with the African culture which favors a rich, dark skin tone, natural hair and curvaceous figure. Over time, all women, even curvaceous ones, have come to be accepted and even revered as strong, loving, and beautiful. The curvaceous figure has often been portrayed as the hallmark of a real woman.
The Latin or Hispanic beauty standard also favors a curvaceous figure. People throughout the world imbue the Latin culture with a natural sensuality. Therefore, Latin women with curves have been some of the world’s biggest sex symbols since the days of Sophia Loren and Carmen Miranda. It has been said that Latin men prefer a more voluptuous figure, so Latin women have traditionally done what they can to enhance the figure if it is not god-given. It should also be noted that the older a Latin woman is, the more sexy she has the potential to be in the eyes of Latin men. The idea being that age and experience adds to the innate attractiveness a woman has. One woman that has recently epitomized the Latin beauty standard would be Ms. J. Lo herself. Though her star may have faded somewhat, she has a clothing line, perfume and many other products designed to target women across the world who want to be like her.
In India and other Asian cultures, the standard for beauty can vary quite a bit. Chinese culture favors petite, slender women who are modest and conservative. Japanese culture beauty trends imitate European trends but take fashion to the extreme. It is not uncommon these days to see a Japanese woman who has tried to dye her hair blonde. Indian beauty is all about their heritage with usage of traditional clothing, hairstyles and makeup still very prevalent. One of the most famous Indian women, Aishwarya Rai manages to secure lots of product endorsements because of her combination of traditional Indian features and coveted European blue eyes. You will seldom see an Asian actress or model scantily clad, because the culture does not usually condone this. Unlike Western culture, Asian culture tends to be more conservative in its tastes. However, the idea that a woman doesn’t reach her full beauty potential until middle age is still prevalent among many Asian cultures.
The women shown here are only some of the women used to perpetuate a certain beauty standard among today’s average population. The average American sees these women, and others like them, all over magazines, television, movies, the radio. It’s hard not to be persuaded that their beauty is THE beauty to achieve. Nevertheless, Dove has begun a trend with its campaign for real beauty. Many women of all colors, shapes and sizes are being recognized for their inner beauty first. Their line of “Fresh” products emphasizes feeling beautiful (which any woman can) rather than being beautiful (which inevitably involves some kind of standard). Hopefully, the Dove advertising campaign will begin to pave the way for a new way of seeing and accepting beauty.