Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
By Sazan M. Mandalawi
Kurdistan has changed. Just a few days ago a western standard fashion- show took place in Erbil and a week earlier, leading Iranian artists were invited to sing in the city.
Thousands attended the concert and papers wrote about "a fashion show that attracted young female designers to witness the western style." Have attitudes changed in Kurdistan regarding the beauty of a woman? Sazan Mandalawi has the story.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" wrote Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her novel Molly Baun, a quintessential quote that evokes the notion that different people have different ideas of what is beautiful. Today, beauty, I have learned, is like the infinite political expressions, it is a contested term. In different corners of the world women's beauty embrace different meanings, every woman unique in her own way; Kurdish women are no different.
In an interesting episode of the OPRAH show, brief accounts were made about diverse women in different corners of the world regarding what they saw as being 'beautiful'. The difference was significant and it included everything from thick ankles to long necks. For Japanese women the key to true beauty is fair and smooth skin; in the border of Burma and Thailand, the women of the Kayan tribe are considered beautiful because of the bras rings around their necks, elongating its appearance.
The Maori natives of New Zealand see tattooing of the mouth and chin area as beautiful; Karo tribe in South Ethiopia go deep to the skin, where scars make a girl beautiful; Indian women use the red powder dot (Kum-Kum) on their forehead as its perceived as a major feature of attraction; in Mauritania, northwest coast of Africa, in simple words 'bigger is better', where the more a woman weighs the better chance of having a husband.
The list is endless, an Australian woman likes to have tanned skin for the beach; in Brazil thin and fit women are seen to be attractive; Iran, is now profoundly known as the 'nose job capital of the world' and in the city of lovers, where else but Paris, 'slim, trim, and well-groomed' is the secret for women's inside beauty that inflicts to their outer appearance.
A Kurdish women, has developed and come a long way in a short time span. Two decades ago, a Kurdish girl would be perceived to be attractive if she was 'full' and 'with meat'. Unlike the woman of Mauritania there has never been the pressure for a female to force feed herself in any way. Nevertheless, being plump with rosy cheeks would have been the ultimate way a mother described an attractive girl to her son.
One imagines this perception of the body attributes to making the shoulders shimmer and the upper torso of the body move well during traditional Kurdish dance. To a degree having white skin appears to be the most desired amongst women, even those who are olive colored, hence, the some times overuse of foundation on the face.
Today the beauty of a Kurdish girl comes through the stunning color and sparkle that the traditional clothes (Jli Kurdi) bring out. The double sized almond eyes that are outlined with black makeup pencil and hair that is long, thick and dark are definitely attracting features of a young Kurdish woman. The accessories and gold jewelry for some are also signs that elicit the beauty of a woman.
Who is a Kurdish girl? Unfortunately, today Kurdish girls are stereotyped as those who are victims of honor killings, suicides and self burns. Victims of violence and sufferers of man's constrain upon them.
We can not deny this is reality to a degree, however, there is another side. Today many Kurdish girls are thriving and excelling in many areas, with no doubt, ahead of some other Middle Eastern countries. This is a large transformation considering the many social boundaries that were once in place, to break this boundary time is required, and in the process many issues arise.
Today, a large number of Kurdish females have government occupations or work in companies and non-governmental organizations. Women are increasingly taking initiative and are engaging with society. They are stepping outside the house and have a hand in building this society that is rich in culture and traditions.
The current phase in only natural to any society at a state of transition, after a sudden open to the west and the hard flow of modern technology, it is only natural for a period of time to pass where 'some' find this progress and development as a 'cultural threat'.
A Kurdish woman has natural beauty, but some times fails to make the time and effort to look after herself and bring out the blessed attractiveness she possess. Whilst she is not always on a diet or does not have the world's finest beauty alternatives on her hands, under those eyes and a heartfelt of love, she is nothing less but beautiful.
This column was published in the Kurdish Globe newspaper on Friday, 01 May 2009, 09:37 GMT