The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Barbie doll image constrictive, flawed
By EMILY MOREHOUSE,
Published: October 28 2009
While weaving through colorful crowds in Bangalore, India this past summer, I glanced up and came to an abrupt stop.
Staring me in the face was a billboard. But what caught my attention wasn't the advertisements appeal. It was the image. What was being promoted was unlike anything I had been exposed to as a child of white suburban America.
Instead of highlighted blond hair, stick thin models or pale white skin, I saw large brown eyes enhanced by dark kohl, colorful saris, caramel colored skin and thick black hair swept into an intricate twist.
I was surprised and slightly, involuntarily confused, to say the least. I stood there as people steered past me and began to analyze the reason for this mental roadblock.
It might seem obvious, but the realization that the world didn't share my American cookie cutter ideal of beauty surprised me. How did the Barbie doll image of a five foot ten, surgically altered woman with blonde hair, blue eyes and salon tanned skin become preferable when there are such different perceptions of what it is to be beautiful?
I needed to know, so I did a little asking around.
Sophomore Kirsten Jones said one thing she noticed while growing up in the Los Angeles area was the feeling amongst women that wearing tight clothes to portray a "coke bottle" shape was the only way to be beautiful.
"It's sad because nobody has it ... except maybe Beyonce," Jones said. "Growing up, my parents gave us a good enough foundation that we didn't have to do everything everyone else was doing or wearing, but it wasn't easy to go the other way."
For freshman Sara Nguyen, who is a first generation Vietnamese-American, the influence of her Vietnamese culture beat out the surrounding American ideals. Although the media emphasized outward appearance, Nguyen stuck to her culture's model of educational success and demeanor.
"When I was younger we focused on inner beauty," Nguyen said. "(My parents) never told us we looked pretty or smart because they didn't want us to be boastful. In high school, I saw that American culture focused a lot on outer beauty and that's when I started to spend money on clothes, et cetera. ... But inwardly, I feel like I'm still the same."
While American culture pervades schools and other public gathering places, freshman Samita Labroo said she remained strongly rooted in her Kashmirian culture while living as a first generation Indian-American.
"I saw what other people would wear, but I wasn't easily influenced because I wanted to respect my culture and my parents," Labroo said. "I think it's a lot harder to achieve beauty here than (in India) because (Indians) are more about natural beauty and here, they're about changing yourself."
These changes seem to have placed ideals of beauty and what is attractive for women in a societal box which, after being cut and folded, form the magical dimensions of 36-24-36.
But what we see in advertisements is not all there is to appreciate or understand in American beauty.
The model of feminine beauty I was raised with wasn't, and shouldn't be, the only kind of American beauty.
It shouldn't take an 8,000-mile trip to open our eyes and make that realization.
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