The Effect of Globalization on India’s Beauty Standards

Beauty standards are universal, yet paradoxically, they are never consistent, and India is no exception. India’s beauty standards are constantly changing, and what is considered ideal for the modern Indian woman is different than what was found to be beautiful half a century ago. Using traditional art and marriage advertisements as resources, the ideal Indian woman was of medium complexion, had an hourglass figure, large eyes, full red lips, and long black hair. This image has persisted for centuries, yet recently it has begun to change. The modern Indian woman strives to be clear and fair complected, with long dark hair, and a hairless body. Additionally, the modern Indian woman aspires to be slim, though the desire for large breasts and hips has not changed from traditional ideals. These beauty ideals are imperative to Indian culture because they determine how Indians behave, how they self-identify, what products they buy, and how those products are sold. Modern beauty standards emphasize changing what you are not happy with, and that means sales of beauty products have significantly increased in India. Items such as hair dyes, hair removal products, weight loss supplements, and skin whitening creams are selling now more than ever. It is also important to know that the beauty standard is just one aspect of the ideal Indian woman. Behaviorally speaking, the Indian woman is expected to be chaste and modest, however; modern Indian women are now beginning to rebel against this ideal. It is possible that changes to beauty standards and behavior can be attributed to western influence and globalization, which is why it is important to have an understanding of Indian culture, especially as it relates to appearance and behavior. Understanding how western culture has influenced India, for better or for worse, will make this trip a richer experience.

Maxim June/july Cover
Image A: Bollywood idol, Priyanka Chopra, grazes the cover of the June/July issue of Maxim India. The cover photo caused a social media storm as she exposed a hair and crease-free armpit.Source: Saglimbeni, Nick. “Maxim June/July Cover.” Maxim. June/July 2016.
White Perfect
Image B: This L’oreal advertisement markets a product that claims to have 90% success rate for achieving a fairer complexion. Skin whitening creams are commonly found in India, some even on the shelves of supermarkets.Source: L’oreal. (2009). White Perfect [Advertisement]. Retrieved from https://uqinindia.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/india_s-whitening-cream-is-it-a-fair-deal-for-women-2.jpg
Standing Parvati
Image C: Parvati, the Hindu Goddess of Love and Fertility, represented the exaggeration of ideal beauty standards during the Chola Period (ca. 860-1279) in Southern India.
Source: Standing Parvati [Painting found in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]. (880). Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/57.51.3/

Works Cited:

Cohen, M. (2007, September 28). India’s New Beauty Ideal Is a Wisp of Its Former Self. Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB119093749514441990

Gelles, R. (2011). Fair and Lovely: Standards of Beauty, Globalization, and the Modern Indian Woman. Independent Study Project Collection. Retrieved December 28, 2016, from http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2143&context=isp_collection

Li, E., Min, H., & Belk, R. (2008). Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures. Association for Consumer Research,35, 444-449. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/v35/naacr_vol35_273.pdf

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