Beauty in Different Cultures (Day 11)

This is a small collection of pieces from the anonymous blog 100 Ideals of Beauty.

Aztec Beauty- born “without a face”

In the Aztec understanding of the world, people would enter the world “without a face”. Only by taking on a role in society and learning from it, could they become beautiful. The face and the heart in mesoAmerica were thought of as indivisible- rostro y corazón.
Records show that Aztecs believed in personal cleanliness and bathed regularly in rivers and lakes, using scented soap, while Montezuma bathed twice daily. Women seem to have generally been discouraged from adorning themselves too ornately, or painting their faces, and they had long hair, with the hairstyles of married women being elaborate and ornate. . On the other hand, concubines painted their faces elaborately, with more of a sculpted, ceremonial look, as opposed to the natural, wholesome look preferred by ordinary women.

Beauty Ideals in Fiji

In Fiji, traditionally the body was seen to reflect the community in which the individual lived, rather than the identity of just the individual themselves. Hence a well-fed body was seen to reflect the wealth of the family or community, and so there was also a sense that the body belonged to or was part of the community. The individual was part of the web of interactions in which he or she existed, and body weight also reflected this. In a nation traditionally affected by famine and food shortage, as in many other parts of the world a robust weight was seen as beautiful.

Traditionally, Fijian women would eat as much as they wanted at a meal, and then lie down afterwards. A lack of appetite and thinness were seen as unhealthy and undesirable.

Cleopatra Queen of Egypt

Remembered in history as alluring, powerful and glamorous, Cleopatra, whose beauty enraptured Roman leaders and changed the fates of many, was not very attractive by the standards of the modern ideal. The layers of fat that encircled her wide, short neck were called “Venus rings” by art historians. Her hook nose was also seen as beautiful by women of the time, who preferred a downward-pointing, high, noble-looking nose. Even despite such points of contemporary beauty, however, Cleopatra was still fairly average in appearance for the time- being around 5ft, the average of the time, it was her seductive ambition that was her key trait and the one that she is best remembered for. Her immortalisation as a beauty was actually due largely to her other qualities- intelligent, powerful, and hungry for more power, ruthless and determined. Still, as a woman, is she immortalized as an extraordinary beauty because this is the highest form of praise possible? It is ironic that it was other qualities that allowed her to play her part in history, that her choice to focus on these manipulations allowed her to be viewed as beautiful- and also that the personal qualities she possessed are those that have been dismissed as “unattractive” in women in most cultures.

About isabelrasmussen

Three generations of women in my family raised me until first grade, amongst them I was taught how wonderful it was to be a girl. In my tween years I was confronted with many of the social challenges other girls face and my self confidence dwindled. I think it was going from being so proud of being a girl to struggling so much as a girl and reading of all the struggles that women faced that motivated me throughout my life. I received her undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies at UW and then worked in domestic violence and as a community organizer in San Francisco. At 26 I took the opportunity to live in Guatemala for a year and West Africa for a summer. I returned to the US and in 2008 obtained a Green MBA at Dominican University in San Rafael.
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