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Thursday, April 27, 2006

The standard of beauty ...

One day when teaching expressions on how to give suggestion to someone else, I asked my students to create a problem. After that, I asked a student to say his/her problem, and asked another student to give suggestion/advice.

One female student said, “My hair is wavy. I don’t like it. Can you suggest me how to make it straight?”Before choosing another student to give a suggestion to that so-called problem, I asked her back, “Is that your real problem? Or just a made-up one?”

She answered, “It’s my real problem, Ma’am. You know that wavy hair is ugly. Straight hair is more beautiful.”

“Do you know why you came to such a conclusion? It is coz we are bombarded by many commercials on TV that beautiful hair is straight; that having wavy hair is not well-liked; that even your parents-in-law-to-be will refuse you only coz you have wavy hair; coz your boyfriend will leave you for another girl only for her long straight hair. The message is clear: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL IF YOUR HAIR IS STRAIGHT. Why? So that you will buy their products that promise will make your hair straight.”

“But, Ma’am, don’t you agree that straight hair is more beautiful than wavy hair?” she protested.
“Have you ever heard that in 1980s having wavy, even curly hair was more well-liked? Many people went to beauty parlor to have their hair curled. It was totally on the contrary from the present days. In that decade, people thought that wavy or curly hair was more beautiful than straight one.”

The students were speechless to hear me say so. Well, all of my students were still around one or two years old when wavy and curly hair was popular. Not only in Indonesia at that time, I suppose, coz I remember the trendsetters for hair at that time were for example the singers from Duran Duran, or Bon Jovi.


Another occasion. I oral examined a female student. She has fair complexion. And she said to me, “I am lucky to have this fair complexion from both of my parents.”“Why do you think that you are lucky?”

“Well, don’t you agree with me Ma’am that having fair complexion is more beautiful?”“Yeah, but you are lucky having that fair complexion only in this era, and only in our country, coz people from other countries don’t give a damn whether someone has fair or dark complexion. People having dark complexion are also pretty. Many people in fact think that having dark complexion is exotic. By the way, have you ever heard that even in the 1980s Indonesia, having dark skin was more well-liked than having fair one coz in that decade people believed that dark meant sweet?”

She was dumbfounded to hear me say so.


Since the end of 1990s when many soap operas from Taiwan boomed in Indonesia, this phenomenon—that pretty means having fair complexion and long straight hair—has started to spread in Indonesia. Many good-looking actors and actresses with oriental faces and their fair complexion and straight hair became new idols here. And the result: many of them became new icons of beauty in Indonesia. During Soeharto and his New Order regime, there was strong repression for Chinese culture in Indonesia. After his regime was over, and the following presidents were more welcome with Chinese culture, especially during Gus Dur’s short presidency, this phenomenon made people more exposed to these Oriental things.

It is different from 1980s decade where western things were more popular. Farrah Fawcett was very beautiful with her wavy hair. Although FF had white complexion, Indonesian people at that time knew that we couldn’t become like FF coz she was American. So we only paid attention to her hair. However, those Oriental actresses are Asian, like us, not far different from us.

Capitalists saw it as a very good chance to make profit for them. To make their products sold out, they always made commercials related to these oriental things—such as to make their shampoo able to make hair straight (“Commercials are always silly, Mom, don’t take them to your heart.” my daughter said when I complained to watch those sucking commercials. LOL. ), their soap can enlighten someone’s complexion. They also produce more and more whitening products for skin with those silly clips, such as I mentioned above, “Your boyfriend will leave you for another girl who has straight hair coz yours is wavy.” “Your in-laws-to-be will reject you only coz of your wavy hair.” “Boys are never attracted to girls who have dark complexion.” “Your husband will leave you only coz of your dark complexion.” And many other ridiculous and silly topics.

And many students of mine who don’t have critical way of thinking yet, become the victims of those silly commercials. Many of them become inferior coz they don’t fulfill the standard of recent beauty—having fair complexion and long straight hair. And the capitalists make more and more profit. Besides, those producers of commercial clips have made many teenagers foolish (by thinking that boys are only attracted to girls with straight hair; that having straight hair is more favorable rather than having smart and critical mind; that boys are only attracted to physical beauty rather than inner beauty.)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good posting,sis. Keep writing in English. I support that. :)