THROUGHOUT the ages, women have gone to great lengths and subjected themselves to various forms of “torture” in the name of beauty. In the 10th century, the custom of binding women’s feet in China was a culture practised for almost a thousand years until it was finally outlawed in 1949.
Just thinking about the process makes me wince. It involved forcibly breaking the arches of the feet when a girl was between the ages of four and seven. To enable the size of the feet to be reduced, the toes were curled under the soles and then pressed down with great force till the toes broke. If you found that excruciating, it gets worse!
The moment a girl’s feet were bound, she was not allowed to rest. She had to immediately walk on her broken and bound feet, despite being in great pain so that her body weight would help crush her feet into the desired shape. Millions of young girls were subjected to this in the belief that smaller feet would attract better husbands.
Fast forward to the present day. Though the feet-binding has stopped, the relentless pursuit of beauty certainly hasn’t.
Beauty is just packaged differently, moving with the times the way fashion changes with the seasons. Walk down a street in any city and you will find it hard to find a woman sporting full-grown armpit hair or hairy calves.
It’s not considered sexy or attractive and there isn’t an advertisement in the world I can think of that shows leg hair on a female model. When something starts being viewed as hideous or ugly, women fall into line conforming to societal norms.
I can still remember the first time I got my legs waxed. I screamed when the hot strip ripped the hairs off my calves, taking the roots with them in a few painful seconds. It was my first taste of what women go through in the name of beauty.
Different cultures have their own ideas about what is deemed beautiful. Early European women wore corsets to make their mid sections appear smaller.
Traditionally, women in Fiji were desired for their fuller figures until the nation was exposed to watching television in the mid-1990s, leading to an outbreak of eating disorders.
Researchers from Harvard said the western images and values led to the sudden increase in anorexia and bulimia in Fiji.
This is the power of the media and the nature of the beast. They stir the flame of desires in women yearning to attain the widely-publicised images of beauty.
Billboards, buses and trains the world over featuring wispy, airbrushed celebrities with deep set, defined eyes have sparked off a demand so great for similar-looking Western eyes that blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) has now become one of the most sought after cosmetic surgeries in Asia.
This is especially so in South Korea where an estimated 15% to 30% of women are said to have gone under the knife. South Korea has the world’s highest per capita rate of cosmetic plastic surgery (according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery).
The health and beauty industry is a money-making machine with miracle creams bottled with promises of everlasting youth and Botox injections working against gravity to hold people’s faces up, plump their lips and erase the signs of aging.
In our own backyard, Malaysia is well on its way to becoming a medical tourism hub, though neighbouring Thailand still draws more customers in cosmetic surgery.
However, according to a CNBC interview, Malaysia is already ranked among the top choices in the region due to low cost and high quality medical services, with Penang raking in two-thirds of the profit from tourism nationwide. Wow!
There are scores of women giving their surgeons references on their favourite Hollywood stars they would like to be “shaped” into.
A friend of mine, fanatical about Angelina Jolie, craved to have lips like hers. She had a noticeably thin upper lip and decided on getting Botox injections which at first made her lips look fuller but over time, she had difficulty drinking from a cup because it was hard for her to control her lip muscles. This also made brushing her teeth every day a challenge.
Mind you, this will not deter the average woman who has made up her mind on proceeding with cosmetic treatments so instead, I stress the importance of doing proper research in finding registered professionals who know what they are doing, rather than those who are just motivated by your money. Like any 'investment' in life, make sure you dig deep and do your homework so that you're in sage hands.
There are so many manufactured gorgeous faces out there beaming with pride from surgeries done right but what I was curious about is what it took to achieve those desired results.
For instance, new nose jobs require patients with their swollen faces to stay in bed and keep their heads elevated for at least 24 hours.
Nosebleeds during recovery are quite common but patients will be asked not to blow their noses for a week. Patients put up with all this discomfort because they are focused on looking like the person of their dreams.
What incredible dedication and I'm not even judging. I'm just amazed at the lengths us women have gone to, dating back to goodness knows when, all for the sake of beauty. Throughout the ages, beauty and fashion was cultural and dependent on trends. I myself succumbed to trying a fractional laser peel last year that that made my face look like a systematic network of square grids as the skin rejuvenated itself. I looked like a freak for a week and I remember running into a friend who exclaimed: “Oh my God! What happened to your face? It looks like a ketupat!”#lol. In a society so driven by looks and first impressions, we always need to get back to the basics and remind ourselves of the qualities money can never buy.
Beauty emanating from within a person is felt more than it is seen and it moves us beyond words, beyond understanding. There’s something truly magical about it. Yet, when we get so preoccupied with physical, outer beauty, we sometimes forget that inner beauty has the last laugh because it’s intangible and it knows no time.
It can be effortlessly preserved in ways we can’t preserve our looks, no matter how hard we try. Never lose sight of this fact, even if it doesn't stop you from trying out every conceivable beauty treatment under the sun! 🙂