Today I wanted to discuss the characteristics and attributes of the female Arab body. Furthermore, I wanted to explore how our body types are distinct from the Western ideals that are more prevalent on popular media channels. This is, of course, an opinion piece that aims to critically analyze how our culture despite it’s disctinctiveness (how we are literally shaped physically, our genetic predispositions and body type) is desperately lacking in representation on popular media platforms. Instead, with the absence of critical thinking when it comes to seeing media images and bodies, comes a blind-conformity to trends with the absence of appreciating our own.
Media and blind consumption of beauty
How effective is media at shaping beauty is not the issue that is being discussed, rather, I wish to shed light onto how media ideals are not unique to our culture but unfortunately, they are unrealistic and loaded with appropriations that are not necessarily better than our own. For instance, the emphasis on curves popularized by Kim Kardashian is not something that I have an issue with, it’s the women running off to the plastic surgeon without looking in the mirror that upsets me. It’s not the obsession that is particularly harmful, it’s not trusting one’s own eye and judgement.
Furthermore, besides the fact that Lebanese women are naturally curvy, have a culture that encourages social eating and displaying traits like wealth and prosperity, it seems that our propensity towards adopting beauty standards shown on media platforms remain unquestioned. Of course, this entire argument is based purely on my thoughts and experiences (albeit, still valid). I just find it remarkable how understanding the power of a platform like Instagram or Youtube does not warrant a high level of skepticism, it somehow instead drives the blind consumption of it and it’s trends. I literally find it amusing how already curvy girls rush to the plastic surgeons to get the Brazilian Butt Lift. It to me, discredits the impact of Western media on already propagating harmful ideals (thinness) and how this is literally playing onto the same narrative.
Why sexual expression promotes a realistic look at beauty/attraction (what about the things we dislike?)
While I do think that sexual repression is still very rampant in this area of the world, I see the drive towards lifting weights to attain curves an endeavor that is a little more realistic and healthy for one’s self esteem than would not pursuing it.
If you are, however, fortunate enough to be from a culture where sexual expression is very much encouraged as part of your identity, then you probably can see how toxic it is to hold back those very healthy emotions. How does this relate to beauty? It relates mostly to attraction, and in large part, why it is that media is consumed blindly. If there is no conversation about sexual preferences, appetites and beauty between couples, then isn’t there a whole sphere of preferences and taste that is unspoken of and unheard? This makes it easy to take in other cultures’ beauty standards as somewhow representative of the larger world, but they aren’t, and most people (once again, fortunate enough to come from a un-repressed and more civilized societies) can verbalize their preferences and dislikes.
Curves as a biological attractiveness indicator: what about acquired traits like feminity or intelligence?
Lebanese beauty coupled in with a repressive undertone about the innate sexual desires of our people only adds to the complexity of what is existing in other cultures. That is, that beauty standards are constantly shifting and are hard to reach. This is observable in previous trends and in the way technology plays a part in creating unrealistic photo-edited finishes found on platforms like Instagram. Furthermore, because our people ethnically differ from more Western cultures in their physical appearance, how critical is language around the subject of sex and attraction?
It very much factors into what makes cosmetics, fashion and beauty industries highly profitable. Said industries monetize off of our desire to look more attractive. The desire to feel desired is powerful and requires healthy daily expression, otherwise we are to mind-read and play small with our physical appearance. This adds to the inferiority complex often felt by people here, once again, because expressing attraction is healthy. The idea that curvy equals more feminine has biological standing, men are wired to find it attractive, it however does not justify how trends outside of having curves are started (ie:thinness, athletic) have gained popularity. These preferences require expression, without it, the assumption is that we all think, conceptualize and adopt beauty in the same way and we do not.
Fitness is great at creating a self-concept/encourages critical thinking (especially when women decide to lift heavy and defy certain gender-attributed expectations)
Fitness ultimately creates a self-concept outside of the confines of our conservative culture. By culture, I mean the existing norms and rules that have not been challenged, once again, if there is any evidence of Lebanese culture promoting the expression of sexuality (and therefore attraction which denotes physical and emotional preferences) then please let me know. Reality check: for as long as sexual repression remains as ingrained as other facets of our society then we will remain somehow limited to impulse over pleasure, darkness over light (implicit in the false assumption that sex is a taboo subject) and inevitably loss of perceived control instead of surrendering to a very tame and natural impulse (that can be controlled if properly expressed).
I hope that you liked this editorial piece on attraction and beauty in the Arab world, please let me know what you thought of it in the comments below.