“Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. The worldwide pursuit of body improvement has become a new religion.
The promise of bodily improvement is fuelled by advertising campaigns and a commercially-driven Western media, reflecting an increasingly narrow palette of beauty. The modern Caucasian beauty ideal has been packaged and exported globally, and just as surgical operations to ‘Westernise’ oriental eyes have become increasingly popular, so the beauty standard has become increasingly prescriptive. In Africa the use of skin-lightening and hair-straightening products is widespread. In South America women have operations that bring them eerily close to the Barbie doll ideal, and blonde-haired models grace the covers of most magazines. Anorexia is on the increase in Japan, and in China, beauty pageants, once banned as ‘spiritual pollution’, are now held across the country.
A recent scientific study reported that we make decisions about the attractiveness of people we meet in the space of 150 milliseconds. This superficial appraisal has profound implications. Those we consider most beautiful not only find sexual partners more readily but studies also show they get better jobs and more lenient treatment in court.
The body has, in a sense, become just another consumer purchase. Everyone can, in the spirit of our age, go shopping for bodily transformation. Banks now offer loans for plastic surgery. American families with annual incomes under $25,000 account for 30 per cent of all cosmetic surgery patients. Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education.”
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