“Female Beauty”

This interesting (and I should add, potentially incorrect) overview of body modification and beauty trends around the world comes from before the previous tattoo trend (which erupted in the last 1800s), dating to August 20, 1851 in the Sheboygan Lake Journal. I can’t say I agree with them though that only civilized people can appreciate the beauty of an unmodified body — and given that only forty-five years after this article came out, articles were commonplace about how commonly tattooed royalty was, I think it more emphasizes the truth that notions of beauty are personal, change constantly, and are absolutely not as immutable as the laws of physics.

Oh, and I think by “Guzurant” they mean what’s now “Gujurat” (eastern India), and “New Holland” is the historic name for Australia.

The following curious facts, respecting female beauty in the various countries of the world are interesting. They show how the standard of beauty varies in different countries, and how beauty itself, though depending upon general laws, as certain as those which govern the universe, is without any adventitious aid, appreciated only in proportion as civilization advances, and taste improves with intellectual cultivation:

The ladies of Arabia stain their fingers and toes red, their eye-brows black, and their lips blue. In Persia, they paint a black streak around the eyes, and ornament their faces with various figures. The Japanese women gild their teeth, and those of India paint them red. The peal of the teeth must be died black to be beautiful in Guzurant. — The Hottentot women paint the entire body in compartments of red and black. In Greenland the women cover the face with blue and yellow, and they frequently tattoo their bodies by saturating thread in soot, inserting them beneath the skin and drawing them through. Hindoo women, when they wish to appear particularly lovely, smear themselves with a mixture of saffron, turmeric and grease. In nearly all the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the women as well as the men, tattoo a great variety of figures on the face, lips, tongue, and the whole body. In New Holland they cut themselves with shells, and by keeping the wounds open for a long time form deep scars in the flesh which they deem highly ornamental. And another singular addition is made to their beauty by taking off, in infancy, the little finger of the left hand, at the second joint. In ancient Persia, an aquiline nose was was often thought worthy of the crown; but the Sumatran mother carefully flattened the nose of her daughter. Among the savage tribes of Oregon, and also in Sumatra and Arracan, continual pressure is applied to the skull in order to flatten it, and thus giving it new beauty. The Persians have a strong aversion to red hair; the Turks on the contrary are warm admirers of it. In China small round eyes are liked; and the girls are continually plucking the eyebrows that they may be thing and long. — But the great beauty of a Chinese lady is in her feet, which from childhood, are so compressed by bandages as to effectively prevent any further increase in size. The four smaller toes are turned under the foot to the sole of which they firmly adhere; and the poor girl not only endures much pain but becomes a cripple for life. Another mark of beauty consists in finger nails so long that casings of bamboo are necessary to preserve them from injury. An African beauty must have small eyes, thick lips, a large, flat nose, and a skin beautifully black.

In New Guinea, the nose is perforated, and a large piece of wood or bone inserted. On the northwest coast of America; and incision more that two inches in length is made in the lower lip, and then filled with a wooden plug. In Guiana, the lips are pierced with thorns, the heads being inside the mouth, and the point resting on the chin. — The Tunisian woman of moderate pretensions to beauty, needs a slave under each arm, to support her when she walks, and a perfect belle carries flesh enough to load down a camel.

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

15 thoughts on ““Female Beauty”

  1. Only certain Indigenous Australian tribes employed scarification/amputation. I’ve got a beautiful picture of girls in the 30′s with scars across the tops of their backs and shoulders.

  2. I found one particular part intruiging:
    “In Greenland [...] they frequently tattoo their bodies by saturating thread in soot, inserting them beneath the skin and drawing them through.”
    I presume they do’ do that anymore, do they?

  3. Yeah, because women in Eurpoean societynever altered their appearance in any way, say for example with paints, or powders, or whalebone, or high heeled shoes, etc. etc….

  4. From what I’ve found on a google search Guzurant, it appears to be somewhere in or between eastern Europe and Asia, I’m assuming this, as when pronouncing the text it sounds very similar to Russian.

  5. Shannon, you can even see some of that in the Eastern Russian tribes as well. I went to school studying anthropology for a year in Alaska, and I saw a video that a grad student made working with a very old native lady from Eastern Russia, and she had some of the facial tattoos that were done that way. You definitely don’t find it (or someof the piercings like the large labrets) with the younger generations, or even 2 generations in

  6. Don’t forget in the Victorian era some women having ribs surgically removed in order to be able to wear an even smaller corset.

  7. Not to nitpick, but even the laws of physics aren’t exactly immutable.

    To each their own, although binding the feet bothers me greatly. Funny how amputation of fingers I can tolerate, but not that.

  8. Some of the Australian Aboriginal tribes would pack the open cuts with clay and let them heal that way.

  9. I think minor amputation isn’t crippling the way footbinding is. If I lost the tip of my little finger, I’d type differently and have less nails to chew. If I have bound feet, I wouldn’t be able to work, do most of the stuff I like doing, or be totally independent.

  10. I wonder if and when foot-binding will become a widespread part of the bod-mod-society.
    Most women wear shoes too small or too pointy anyhow I read …

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