Western Governor's University
Globalization and Western Influence on Asian Ideals of Feminine Beauty
In the world of feminine ideals, what non-Western cultures deem to be beautiful or attractive has been greatly influenced by western culture in the past century. When the word “globalization” is brought up, thoughts of world economics, blending of cultural lifestyles, emerging technologies, and outsourcing of jobs comes to mind. What is rarely mentioned is the effect of globalization on the appearance of women. What is interesting about the subject of globalization and its impact on how women want to appear externally is that it raises questions about how and why women are pressured to adapt to an ideal that may or may not be obtainable. The media spreads the idea that white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, long thin limbs, perfect breasts and teeth are what everyone wants. This ideal is pushed upon society through corporate advertising, television, internet, music or billboards, and it is everywhere. Plastic surgery is becoming more accessible to everyone, it is not just a luxury for the wealthy and privileged.
According to the head of South Korea’s biggest plastic surgery clinic, Dr. Byung-Gun,
”The Chinese and Korean patients tell me they want to have faces like Americans. The idea of beauty is more westernized recently. That means Asian people want to have a less Asian, more westernized appearance. They don’t like big cheekbones or small eyes. They want to have big, bright eyes with slender, nice facial bones”. (as cited in Lah, 2011, para.19) Dr Byun-Gun claims his clinic to be one of the most successful in the city of Seoul, known as the plastic surgery capital of Asia. (Lah, 2011, para.9))
Prior to the age of advertising, women from both of these native nonwestern countries were not exposed to the plethora of products and lifestyles of the Western world that bombard each and every one of us through media and information technology on a daily basis. Until as recently as 1991, South Korean women were not permitted to be the head of the household. They were not permitted to make legal decisions on behalf of their family, and if a divorce ensued, custody of any children was awarded to the father. Only two decades later, in 1991, South Korea elected it’s first female president, P. Geun-Hye. (Hong, 2014, p. 15) Since then, women make up a large proportion of highly educated, highly motivated Koreans in their country and are free to live more independently than ever and have purchasing power in a new world economy, thanks to globalization. In Imperial China, women assumed a relatively subordinate position to men. (O’Sullivan) They experienced for generations an immobilizing foot binding tradition, which was thought to be erotic and attractive to men. Women who underwent this process were prohibited from doing any sort of physical labor. Instead, they held jobs requiring minimal physical activity like domestic chores and producing textiles to sell or use. ("Globalization and women in China," 2014, para.17) Between 1949-76 during the rule of Mao, Chinese women were needed for farming and urban industrialization, In return they were given access to education and politics. Presently, there are more employed women in China and the Chinese government has made efforts to achieve a high level of economic status for women. ("Globalization and women in China" 2014, para. 19) The tradition of foot binding is no longer practiced and is no longer considered the standard of beauty. Again, globalization and increasing purchasing power prove to have a huge impact on the beauty industry.
New standards of beauty emerged as women began to find more opportunities outside of the home. American outsourcing of jobs to lower paying countries such as China, Korea, India and so forth created rich opportunities to earn an income to women