Global beauty through the eyes of women

May 17, 2016



Look around. Observe. See the beauty in the people around you that come from all over the world. In the Bay Area, international beauty is not hard to discover. It is found in the texture of our hair, in the language we speak and in the clothing we wear.


In 2015, United States Census Bureau data revealed that the Bay Area contains five of the top 10 most diverse cities in the nation. These cities include San Jose, Richmond, Hayward, Santa Clara and Stockton. With a high population of 7.1 million, each cultural community introduced the Bay Area to something new. Thousands of locals descend from cultures that illustrate their own perception of beauty. What is the standard of beauty in other cultures around the world?


In the Middle East, a woman who practices modesty in their daily lifestyle and carries herself with good integrity is considered beautiful. As for physical characteristics, President of Middle Eastern Professionals Hanan Jomaa said a woman with a bigger physique resembled good wealth.


“In the past, superficially speaking, beauty was defined as having a heavier stature, not necessarily overweight, but having more meat on yourself or being rather curvy,” Jomaa said.


With the impact of social media such as Instagram, Jomaa said the Middle Eastern perception of beauty has become more Westernized. She described the ideal woman today as tall with a thin frame with “the white girl tan” and plump lips.


As for Middle Eastern men, beauty is based on their success. Did he finish college? Did he pursue a career that earns a good salary? Does he come from a good family? The ideal man is someone who is described as tall, dark and handsome and answers ‘yes’ to the aforementioned questions.


Throughout the Polynesian Islands, the perception of beauty is defined through cultural dance movements, humility toward others and faith in God.


One symbol of beauty is the art of tattoos. In the Polynesian culture, tattoos have signified beauty for centuries. For the South Pacific Islanders, specifically Samoans, tattoos were only seen on the son or daughter of a high chief. The high chief is one who leads the village and family.


“Its beautiful designs are very detailed, telling the history of one's village. It tells the story of the land, family and God,” said Audrey Wendt, a sociology student at Santa Rosa Junior College.


The traditional tattoo consists of geometric patterns, straight lines and sharp edges that run from the back down to the knees.


“It is a very hard and painful process but represents strength and humility,” Wendt said.  

On the other hand, tattoos in the Middle Eastern culture are forbidden. For both men and women, Jomaa said,  stepping out of the norm and having body piercings and tattoos is “critically frowned upon.”


Nature is also valued for its beauty in the Polynesian culture, as accessories made from coconut, wood or turtle shell are commonly worn by women. Wendt explained the accessories are worn to enhance a woman’s beauty like many other cultures.


For the African culture, accessories are worn on a regular basis.


“Gold is the number one accessory worn among all tribes in Eritrea,” said Zemzem Khiar, a psychology major at SJSU who was born in Eritrea, a country located in East Africa. Khiar described African beauty as a woman who wears gold jewelry, braided hair,  a modest traditional dress and a shawl.


“In Eritrea the standard of beauty relies on the women looking feminine, respectable, soft spoken, and well mannered,” Khiar said. African men are expected to be tall, strong, and masculine.   


The Indian culture the idea of beauty relies on the fashion of traditional clothing and practices. Joia Mehte is a dance instructor at the Indian Community Center in Milpitas.


“Beauty is having a proportionate body and how they wear their clothes. The Sari is beautiful. It’s worn in different ways in the Indian culture,” Mehte said.


The Sari is a bright colored garment that is draped around a woman’s physique. It is made of cotton or silk material and it gives the Indian woman a luxurious appearance, thus bringing out her natural charm.


Another symbol of Indian beauty is the nose ring. In certain states in India, women wear a nose ring because it indicates that she is married.


“Males like when they see an Indian woman wear a nose ring which is why when you watch Indian movies you will notice that a lot of the actresses are wearing one,” said Pradeep Bele, a volunteer at the Fremont Hindu Temple.


It is also believed that the nose ring brings good luck to their husband.


Aurora Mamea hails from the Black Feet tribe of Native America. According to Mamea, beauty for Native American women is one who who carries herself with great confidence and humility.


“Beauty is having a beautiful spirit that God Creator would want you to have. The spirit of first and foremost love, kindness, honesty, gentleness, generosity, and respect for others” said Mamea.


In addition, an important physical characteristic for Native American women is black or brown hair that is long in length. Whether it’s flowy, straight, or curly, long hair represents cultural unity and is sometimes used as a spiritual offering.


International beauty is seen everywhere we turn. The Bay Area is flooded with thousands of different cultures from around the world. The diversity that comes from these cultures is what makes the Bay Area a beautiful place to call home.







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