All for the sake of beauty

Observations by bi-weekly columnist on the lengths to which people have gone to attain their idea of beauty

It’s amazing what people will do for the sake of beauty. Beauty, that is, as how they perceive it, and how others will perceive it.

I was reading a book the other day, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and was struck by the lengths that ancient Chinese parents went to in order to best showcase their daughters in order to marry them up and thereby increase their lot in life.

From about the ages of two to five years old, girls were set upon by their mothers or elder female relatives and had their feet bound while they were still malleable. While the practice of foot binding was outlawed almost 100 years ago, it is still horrifying after all these years about the pain these girls suffered in order to be viewed as beautiful.

Foot binding is not for the faint of heart. The elder women take their female kin and slowly begin redefining the shape of their feet through the use of tied bandages of sorts. All but their big toe was curled under their arch until the bones of the remaining toes broke and then conformed to the desired shape. The ultimate goal was to so inhibit the growth of the foot that when finished it would be no longer than seven cm, or three inches long. This redefined foot was called the golden lotus and was considered the epitome of beauty. Sadly, there were many young girls who died from this practice due to infection.

Those whose foot binding resulted in less desirable form or whose feet were never bound were called large-footed sisters and were often relegated to working the fields, or lower class occupations. They weren’t valued as proper wives and were often consigned to a life of menial labour.

Perhaps, those who had their feet bound would have preferred a life of menial labour as foot binding usually resulted in a life of pain, and, in later years, severe lack of mobility. Sadly, pre-school girls with ambitious parents rarely had a say in their future. While barbaric in nature, one can understand, to a degree, poor parents wanting to elevate their and their “worthless” daughter’s status in life.

After reading the book, I was struck by the parallel between those Chinese maidens and some ladies today. Consider the high heel. Most women who wear heels will tell you that for the most part they really don’t like them. And, if you do an Internet search, you will find all sorts of authorities on the effects of wearing heels. One such example can be found at http://www.personalhealthzone.com/high_heels.html

The effects of wearing heels are astounding, and I suspect most women know it. Either a physician has told them, or they know it from wearing them.

It’s amazing what people will do to their body all in the name of beauty.

But what happens when one moves from their younger years to their older years? How is beauty then measured? Yes, there are those who stave off the effects of aging through multiple “enhancements,” and it does work… for a while. But then what?

How then, does someone who defined his or her beauty through outward appearances, find the real beauty we all possess but which many often fail to find because they are looking outward at the mirror instead of inward into their very soul?

I’m grateful for those efforts which extol the virtue of real beauty such as the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It’s much more than a media trick designed to sell yet more products. Their campaign is a sincere attempt to bring back into balance the beauty we all possess, even you.