The concept of beauty is becoming a more and more narrowly defined idea in which there is a specific image of what it means to be beautiful for women around the world. In The Global Beauty Industry: Colorism, Racism, and the National Body, Meeta Jha delves into what beauty means for women in different parts of the world and how these ideas converge with one another, forming a globalized notion of beauty. This review will be looking at how the book portrays the issues surrounding the beauty industry and how it has created false ideas of beauty and subsequent unhealthy mindsets for women around the world.
This book discusses how the beauty industry has created extreme expectations for women that cause dissatisfaction and a constant reach for “perfection” toward an idealized image. In the first part of the book, the beauty industry is discussed in its role for creating multiple types of inequality in our society. These include things like gender, racial, and class inequalities, as well as concepts like sizism, in which a woman is discriminated against because of her weight. These concepts collectively come together under the umbrella concept of intersectionalism, where the effects of an unfair beauty industry can be felt in multiple different aspects of life, further driving us apart in our differences. In the second part of this book, black beauty is discussed in terms of what makes black women feel beautiful and how hip-hop has helped to perpetuate those ideals. The next part of this book focused on Indian culture and how a globalized concept of beauty has influenced pre-existing inequalities within India. Lastly, Chinese women and the use of cosmetic surgery in order to achieve perfection are discussed. In this section, beauty is described as being used as a way for women to be successful.
I enjoyed reading this book because it made some really great points about our beauty culture and how idealized beauty affects the feminist movement. It also got me thinking about all the different ways in which our society objectifies women and makes them feel as if they have to look a certain way, or otherwise they will be at a disadvantage when it comes to things like success at their job, finding a partner, and even in education. In the chapter on Chinese women (2016: 102), Jha refers to beauty as a “commodity” that could be traded for privileges experienced by “beautiful” people. I agree with this opinion because I think the beauty industry thrives on women feeling an obligation to be beautiful. The media continues to use beauty as a way to give women false feelings of empowerment, when in reality the main goal of the beauty industry is monetary gain. As long as society continues to feed into the ideals given to them by the beauty industry, companies will continue to use this to their advantage in order to make money.
I also enjoyed how the book looked at the beauty industry from multiple cultures’ perspectives, connecting and comparing how people see beauty around the world. No matter where you are in the world, there seems to be some idea of “perfection” that women feel pressured to strive for. Standards of beauty vary in countries around the world, but it seems like there are still some recurring themes. Even though what one culture views as beautiful might be slightly different from another, our world is largely connected when it comes to the high expectations women are given for their appearance.
This book tied into this week’s topic of Local, Transnational, and Global issues because it touched upon how ideas of beauty are implemented on the individual level, all the way up to the international level. From reading this book and looking over the readings for this unit, it has become apparent that beauty is becoming a globalized concept in which there is growing inequality within different cultural aspects, all due to beauty expectations. The Global Beauty Industry showed how the more the media tries to portray inequality as a diminishing issue, the more it is able to actually thrive and encourage certain themes of beauty around the world.
This book is a great resource for anyone who wants to know more about the beauty industry and its role in anti-feminism outcomes in terms of racial, class, and gender inequality. I would also recommend this book to anyone who feels they need to look a certain way in order to be successful or happy. The more people understand why certain expectations exist, the more effectively we can fight against stereotypes and inequality.