When you look up the word beauty in a dictionary a clear definition is given. For example, ‘it is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight‘ (Oxford Dictionaries). However, the semantic meaning of beauty is not enough to understand it fully.
The perception of beauty depends on many factors and it is much more intricate than just the combination of external features. People perceive beauty in different ways. Moreover, it depends on cultural, religious, and even evolutionary factors. Since more than 7 billion people live in the world, there are countless totally different beauty standards all over the globe. People seek to be beautiful in many ways. Some of them are really extreme.
It is a traditional lip piercing in some tribes of Ethiopia, Brazil, Chad, Mozambique, Sudan, Northern Canada, and Alaska. People wear pottery or wooden discs inserted in the hole pierced in their lower or upper lips (or even in both lips). It is more common among women.
The incision of the lip is made when a girl reaches puberty. At first, a little wooden stick is placed in the wound. When the wound heals, the hole in the lip is stretched by inserting bigger and bigger plugs. One of the meanings of this kind of adornment is showing the transition from girlhood to womanhood and becoming sexually mature. The other meaning is that the size of the disc correlates with the price of the bride.
It is the way of achieving beauty in minority groups in Africa and Bali. People use hammers and chisels in order to sharpen their teeth. Some of the tribes believe that a person with sharp teeth is more mature, positive, and beautiful. In other tribes, sharpened teeth mean that you belong to the upper class. However, sometimes teeth are sharpened in order to make a person look like an animal.
Stretched lobes and ear discs
Stretched lobes and ear discs are popular among men of the Rikbaktsa tribe in Brazil and Mursi women in Ethiopia. It is a sign of becoming an adult and mature. On the other hand, it is also popular among young people in North America and Europe. Modern people who adorn themself with ear discs or stretched ear lobes usually do this in order to stand out from the crowd.
The saying beauty is worth the pain perfectly describes the life of women in Kayan (Thailand) and South Ndebele (Africa) tribes. A very long neck is considered a sign of beauty in these tribes. It is also a sign of wealth and status. Heavy metal rings are put on the neck of the girl. She has to wear them all life long. Rings push shoulder, collar bones, and ribs down creating a view of a very long neck. More and more rings are added during the lifetime.
This is a custom of binding the feet of a young girl very tightly in order to prevent them from growing. Although since the 20th century this custom has disappeared, in Guangzhou (China) you can still find women with feet deformed in this way. Small feet were considered to be extremely attractive so women resolved to suffer for beauty.
People from civilized countries have different perceptions of beauty than those who live in tribes.
In modern society, women’s breasts are considered to be the symbol of femininity and sexuality. That is why more and more women decide to have breast augmentation or breast lift.
Another beauty standard is a flat tummy. Actually, since ancient times, women alter their waist size. Corsets where always one of the most popular methods for doing this. Nowadays, there are many more modern techniques that help to create an alluring appearance. For instance, liposuction or abdominoplasty (tummy tuck).
The face is another focal point. Smooth skin and tiny curled nose are standards of beauty in many American and European countries. Facelift and nose reshaping surgeries are widely used methods to improve their appearance.
Last but not least, a perfect smile is a crucial part of modern beauty. In order to become more beautiful, people whiten their teeth, align them with dental braces, and in some cases get dental implants.