One of the most common desires of all women is to be beautiful. As much as we try to emphasize that inner beauty is the most important thing, there is no denying there is still a massive market for the make-up and fashion industries in every country.
In Australia, being thin and tanned is often the standard of “beauty” or “handsome”, often framed unhelpfully as “looking healthy” – it applies to both men and women. We see it on TV, the internet, magazines and in stores.
I was surprised when I discovered in India that it’s completely the opposite: being pale and a bit round is considered healthy and beautiful/handsome. I still remember my shock when I was walking through a shopping centre with my now husband when he ran into some of his friends from India and they complimented him “You are looking so fat!”* with big smiles on their faces…and yes, I mean “complimented.” It’s also interesting watching TV in India, when so many of the actresses are photo-shopped that they lose all their colour. Furthermore, where we have tanning and bronzing products, they have whitening and brightening products.
In many ways, this new idea of beauty has opened my eyes and provided my self-esteem with a great sense of relief. For one thing, apparently it’s a good thing in India if the wife is paler than the husband – my husband scored big points on that one!!
But in all seriousness, it demonstrates to women that we need to accept ourselves as beautiful, no matter what our culture tells us. There is no point in me trying to be tanned: apart from the harmful skin consequences, as soon as I stand next to my man, I will still look white. Similarly, there is no point my husband worrying about not going darker: as soon as he is next to me, he will still look brown. I love that it took a cross-cultural bridge for me to embrace my white, pale skin.
*NB: My husband is normal size…it was just how they were complimenting him 🙂