Cultural Differences in Weight and the Beauty Standard

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C. D. Askew
ANT 2200
December 11, 2011

Cultural Differences in Weight and the Beauty Standard

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes it is in the eye of the culture. When it comes to beauty, what is accepted as beauty socially is often very different from what is accepted in different cultures. According to the textbook, defining culture as a separate thing from society often breeds cultural stereotypes, because there are no definitive ways to pinpoint cultural behavior to any one set of people. Nevertheless, there are noticeable distinctions, though not definitive; when discussing what is beautiful sometimes produces controversy, as evidenced in an article recently published and removed from the website in Psychology Today entitled “Why are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” Historically, a well-rounded, female body was a symbol of health, wealth, and fertility. In today’s society, a slim, petite woman, is often the feminine idea of beauty, however, some cultures still prefer a more curvaceous silhouette.

At one time in European culture, a well-rounded body was a symbol that individuals were wealthy and well fed. It was a sign that proved that the individual was in good health and did not suffer from the deadly diseases that plagued the country. A thin person was often thin and viewed suspiciously as a disease carrier. The poor were also tanned because they worked outside and were easily distinguishable between the pale, soft figures of the wealthy. After a time, the wealthy began to feel that the well-fed look was an ostentatious display of their wealth. Eventually, enculturation changed the way the Europeans aristocrats looked. Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, was famously quoted saying, “You never be too rich and too thin”. This European standard of beauty was eventually socially learned and is still a very prevalent idea today. Instead of pale, fleshy bodies, they are now thin and tanned. It...
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