Bought for $13.99 as a Nook download, The Global Beauty Industry: Colorism, Racism, and the National Body is a book written by Meeta Rani Jha. Published in 2016 by Routledge, this 162 page book explores the beauty industry around the world as seen by self-proclaimed feminist, Jha, who has a background in Gender and Women’s Studies, sociology, globalization, transnational feminist cultural studies, critical race, ethnicity, and media studies (2016: 02). Throughout her entire book, Jha vocalizes her disappointment with the one standard and seemingly accepted form of beauty; that of the Westernized image.
Jha’s main goals for writing this book has been to outline the growing form of Western beauty appropriation. As she begins to speak harshly of the blue-eyed, blond-haired Disney princesses (2016: 16), her stance becomes clear that she is mad. Mad at the world for only finding this one form of beauty acceptable. She harshly criticizes the Miss USA beauty pageant, gives a brief history of black feminism, and ends with discussing the growing use of cosmetic surgery by the women in China to obtain a beauty standard. While she makes very valid points about the appropriation of Western Beauty, she neglects some points as well. While talking of the Disney princesses (2016: 16), she fails to mention the princesses of color: Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana, Jasmine, and Doc McStuffins, who is not necessarily a princess, but still a prominent figure. She argues that the Miss USA pageant is harmful to the psyche of colored women, but spends time debating back and forth how wonderful it was that a Muslim woman won it and how great it was for her.
I am not a fan of this book. While I understand the points that she tries to make, she is full of contradictions. Not only is it hard to get past all of the information that she just lays down on the page, but the constant contradictions of her own statements make it hard to see where she lies in the controversy. She states that women’s bodies are used as battlegrounds and they have to be perfect all the time (2016:18), but she fails to mention the Dove Love My Body Campaign that existed before her book was published, and the release of all the different shades of Nude that Christian Louboutin launched in March. While most of her arguments concerning plastic surgery in China are valid, she never mentions the surgeries that are elective to make the woman feel better for herself. There is always some form of male oppression behind the reasoning, which I don’t necessarily agree with. However, I’m not negligent to the fact that I am sure some cultural, racial, and moral biases exist in my mind and this is why I have such strong negative feelings towards her opinions.
Jha also mentions that the availability of makeup for the higher classes is another racial divide that is meant to separate the classes (2016:105), however, literally anyone can have access to makeup. You can buy it at the dollar store, it doesn’t have to be the insanely priced items that most people don’t buy, and youtube videos are free for watching. With all her criticism of the makeup industry, I’m surprised that she never mentions contouring. Maybe it was still too new of a concept to make it in to her book, but it is essentially a way of changing your facial features with makeup in order to attain the Westernized beauty standards. This book does a spectacular job of highlighting the differences in beauty standards across the world, and goes to show that there are different types of feminists needed for different areas.
I was shocked with how much I related this book to the “Feminism and Pizza” video I wrote a blog post about the other week. It was wonderful to make the connections and see that just because there are different standards of beauty, it does not mean that one race is more beautiful than the other. Once it gets to the point of believing you need surgery to be beautiful, something needs to change (2016:105). I would recommend this book to anyone who was curious about what beauty looks like in other countries, but I would caution them to not just take Jha’s words as law, and to think critically about the world as it exists and to form your own opinions based off substantial research.
Jha, M. R. (2016). The global beauty industry: Colorism, racism, and the national body. New York, New York: Routledge.