Don’t be a prisoner to narrow cultural definitions. That’s what I learned from extensive traveling. In one culture you might be the coolest looking young lady, when in another you might simply don’t fit into their definition of what is beautiful or fashionable.
I travel for music and journalism. In one country I am considered a normal-looking girl, while in another, a stunning beauty. I once traveled to a country well-known for its beautiful ladies, the first thought that came to my mind was: “I don’t have a chance over there, beauty standards are way above me.” Strange enough… I am regarded as a beauty in that country, hmmm (I must admit not to all people see it that way, but to many around me they actually think I’m pretty, hahaha).
Looks are important for women, let’s face it. The cool thing is, somewhere in the world you are regarded as beautiful and fashionable. You fit in somewhere, maybe not where you are right now, but you do fit in, so start fitting in within yourself.
Once I was on a music tour, I was praised by well-known musicians and ehem, fans, for my cool way of carrying myself around, the clothes I wear (which is basically plain baggy jeanz and shirts, with a few accessories).
In Syria, being ‘made-up’ is beautiful…
Guess what? When I tried that in Syria, everyone thought I was plain weird, LOL. I mean it works in England, it works in Morocco, in Egypt, in Jordan, in Tunisia, in Holland, in Uzbekistan (some of the places I’ve been to), but it simply doesn’t work in Syria. There is a specific dress-code for the classes over here. If you are supposed to reflect the Middle Class, then you should wear Middle Class Plus, a more expensive bag than what you can afford, and your hair, oh your hair, forget about that free-all-over-the-place hairstyle that made you look cool all over the world – except for Syria.
In Syria, you gotta look “made up,” or else you’ll get crushed by the gazes of everyone in the room.
People over here, in Damascus, wear Armani for meetings. Where I come from, before settling in Syria, we used to have meetings with the highest institution in the country wearing jeanz, tennis shoes, and looking plain, just plain normal people, and that was cool, it reflected self-confidence (and a touch of Americanization) in the other culture where I lived most of my life. Over here you gotta spend an hour in front of the mirror to “perfect” the look of “casual.” Cause casual without adequate attention to your hair, the way the shirt matches with the pants, a faint lipstick, and something expensive to complement the look, will be instantly regarded as riffraff-y.
Every culture has its share of visual discrimination
This monologue is brought about by a blog that is on today’s WordPress “Freshly Pressed” page (if you are a WordPresser then you must know what I mean).
Burgers and Chai is a lovely post by an American girl who is originally from India. She speaks about her struggle to fit in as a darker-shade, different-culture girl. While at one point in her life she was struggling to become a Burger, and to mute anything related to her Chai culture, today she is at peace to quilt both cultures together and become a Burger and Chai American-Indian girl.
The aforementioned blogger writes for Brown Girl magazine, dedicated for young Indian girls; it offers them a fresh view point on beauty and life to help them build their self-esteem. Darker skin doesn’t mean less beauty.
Finally… a magazine that publishes an opinion on its blog that denounces this monstrous product we watch on TV every day: Fair & Lovely. Why change the color of one’s skin? What is the world selling us about our natural beauty? Hide it?
Have a listen… blast the speakers, and sing loud and clear.
~ I am Beautiful
No matter what they say
Words don’t bring us down
We are beautiful in every single way ~
When I was a teenager, my Sufi grandmother, may she rest in peace, used to tell me:
In Allah’s eyes, you are beautiful, He created you. Your heart is your source of beauty. Outer beauty turns into layers of ugliness if the heart beneath that shell is empty. Don’t worship your outer shell, it will fade away. Look after your heart… that’s eternal.
Amen, Teta, amen…
Everyone wants us to conform to their “visual” library of what is beautiful. With limited visual-memory space, people tend to label anything that looks different from their set of norms as weird, ugly, unattractive, untidy, etc.
In the eyes of God, I often ask myself, does any of the approved-of looks grant us a seat in heaven. Do angels tell us at the gates of heaven: oh, sorry, you don’t fit into the beauty standards of your nation, we can’t let you in!
I don’t think so!
What are the real beauty standards that are considered beautiful eternally, in heaven, too… I often ask myself. Those must be standards beyond man-made narrow standards that often have materialism and commercialism at their core.