What is beauty? Is it a small waist, long legs, and flowing straight hair? Does it look like a USA runway fashion model or a plastic blonde doll universally known as Barbie?
America and the western world have pushed the idea that what is considered beautiful only comes in certain forms. But what is considered beautiful around the world and in past decades may be shocking to people accustomed to watching America’s Next Top Model and viewing beauty in a narrow way.
Brass rings to elongate the neck
Padaung Women of the Kayan tribe have a beauty practice that’s considered extreme by many. Starting at just five years old, girls start wearing heavy brass rings along their neck to make it look longer. Having an elongated neck is beautiful to their tribe of men and women. As the women get older, more and more rings get added. The rings give them higher status. Some brass rings weigh over 20 pounds, but women belonging to the tribe see the rings as part of their identity. It’s who they are. If they take the rings off, they feel unattractive.
Tattooed chin and blue lips
The indigenous Maori people in New Zealand believe that the most attractive women have a tattooed chin and lips. The most beautiful women have blue tattooed lips.
Women belonging to the Karo tribe southern Ethiopia get scars cut onto their stomach so they can increase their status and attract men. Men get scars on their chest to show that they have killed enemies from other tribes. It is a representation of their strength and manhood. Karo tribe people who don’t have scars are discriminated against and are not allowed to take part in the community activities.
Forced to be fat for marriage
In Mauritania in western Africa, being obese is considered beautiful. For the people in Mauritania, a larger size means a larger status. Young women are sent to fat camps where they are fed over 15,000 calories to make them suitable as wives. This of course, is in stark contrast to western ideas where some women go on extreme calorie restricted diets to achieve a lean image. In “Forced to be Fat” the story of a 14 year old girl is told where the young woman is beat with a cane if she doesn’t eat enough calories. If she throws up, she is forced to eat her own vomit.
Stretched earlobes for beauty
The Masai people of Kenya find stretched earlobes highly attractive. They achieve the look by piercing their ears using stones and other natural objects.
Stretched out lower lip
The Mursi women in Southern Ethiopia put clay plates in their lower lip so that the lip is stretched out to epic proportions. The plates are inserted into the lips through a pierced hole. The enormous lips are seen as sexy and a sign that a women is mature. Married women don’t have to wear the plate on their lips all the time so sometimes they are seen with an empty dangling lower lip. Unmarried women need to put on their beauty face for potential husbands so they must keep it on in public.