Say NO to Visual Discrimination: You are beautiful

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?

Sing, sing, sing….

This whole conversation on beauty, fitting in, fashion, etc, reminded me of a song I used to listen to at moments of crushed self-esteem… You are Beautiful (“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera).

Have a listen… blast the speakers, and sing loud and clear.


Click here to listen to ‘I am Beautiful‘ (Audio)

~ I am Beautiful

No matter what they say

Words don’t bring us down

We are beautiful in every single way ~

Eternal Beauty…

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.

About 50% Syrian

What is identity? I was raised Arab (of varying origins), with a Syrian mother, and Moroccan, Lebanese and Tunisian great grandfathers and grandmothers. I always felt 50% Syrian, and this percentage mattered to me more than anything else. Love of my life, my late Sufi grandmother, is Syrian... all her bedtime stories were about her life in Damascus. Damascus is where the heart dwells.
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7 Responses to Say NO to Visual Discrimination: You are beautiful

  1. abufares says:

    “In Syria, being ‘made-up’ is beautiful…”
    I know that the majority of women in Syria agree on this one but I really wonder about what Syrian men, in general, think.
    It is interesting to poll opinions on this. I, for one, don’t mind a hint of make up. Anything more becomes a burden and a distraction.

  2. yaak says:

    Sadly, “The eyes are not proud of their sight but of their eyeglasses.”

    Every woman is beautiful, but some of them don’t believe they are; so they don’t care, and it shows!

  3. brownie26 says:

    I loved your post! Thank you for mentioning mine, I’m really happy it spoke to you.

    “In Syria, you gotta look “made up,” or else you’ll get crushed by the gazes of everyone in the room.”- My favorite quote! Keep up the great work!

  4. 50% Syrian says:

    @ Abu Fares… I think beauty standards differ greatly for men in Syria… Judging from a conversation among male colleagues of mine, it all depends on their upbringing. There are boys who were brought up in posh surroundings where materialism prevails, those prefer a woman with very specific make-up and dress specifications. Guys who weren’t brought up in Damascus, seem to be more forgiving to me, though 🙂 Among the posh business society over here, however, it’s absolutely too much, a lot of show off becomes suffocating. Love the poll idea!

    @ Yaak… right on the mark… but who cares 😛 why judge each other based on our looks…? I know a few women/men whose sense of humor and big heart “compensate” for their lack of interest in beautifying their exteriors.

    @ brownies26… it’s absolutely wonderful ‘seeing’ you here… I read your post several times this morning, it is one of the most inspiring blog posts I ever read recently. God bless you

  5. seeker2008 says:


    I read a poem from Catherine of Sienna today and thought of this blog post. I thought it would be apt to share.


    What is it
    you want to change?
    Your hair, your face, your body?

    For God is
    in love with all those things
    and he might weep
    when they are gone.

    Best Wishes

  6. 50% Syrian says:

    Thank you Dave for the lovely poem 🙂

  7. Your very welcome! I like your site. You are very descriptive and passionate in what you speak about and it is always interesting to see how each of us comes to sufism.

    Ya Haqq

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