The 10 Year Challenge: Beauty Standards Across The Globe Today

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Image sharing has a long history and although today we are most familiar with the instant snap-and-share method, we cannot forget the time when passing printed photos back and forth over the garden fence was the norm. The ‘ten-year challenge’ has recently taken the internet by storm as yet another way to fire up the discussion of our outward appearance. 

Such photos saturated every platform on social media and whilst wading through them I was stunned by the lack of individuality and it quickly turned into me scrolling through a series of carbon copies.

Granted, I haven’t seen every single photo of this trend, making my experience biased to my personal life; the people I’m friends with, those I follow from afar, and celebrities (although nowadays that term isn’t easily definable). Placing one’s 2009 self and their 2019 counterpart next to each other demonstrated how the ten-year gap gave rise to the acceptance of socially admired beauty trends/standards prevalent in today’s society, resulting in a loss of individuality.

We’ve become an image-obsessed culture that depends on the validation we get from others; an idea that the ten-year challenge perfectly exemplified. Had no one liked, commented, or heart reacted to your post would you feel disgruntled that no one else was there to affirm that your 2019 self is running circles around your 2009 opposite?

The likeness that was shared between those on the right side of my screen unnerved me, as it seemed like too many people were giving up a unique identity in order to conform to the standards people glamorise and celebrate. I’m not stating that today everyone I see is an identical version of someone else, rather, how we conform has meant we are just slightly different adaptations of an ideal; an ideal that has the ‘perfect’ hair, ‘perfect’ skin, ‘perfect’ weight. This image is splashed about us everywhere we look, whether that be plastered across shop windows, social media accounts, or television adverts. Though this irritates me, perhaps the best thing is to view this behaviour as being part of our culture of beauty, and how the society I live in perceives and exhibits what is ‘beautiful’.

It seems we have agreed on which beauty trends are signposts of attractiveness and desirability, with anything that deviates from it being far less favoured and often rejected. The trends Stephanie Hart uncovers from around the globe seem alien to us, and describing them as ‘shocking’ and something that ‘may make you squirm’ plants the seed that such standards of beauty are offensive, but why should they be?

The women of the Suri tribe in Ethiopia establish their beauty with a lip plate that gradually stretches their lip; the bigger the plate the more beautiful they are. Should it seem as outlandish as it does to modify the shape of your lips in such a way? I don’t think so. Though it was some years ago, we cannot forget the popular ‘Kylie Lip Challenge’ that saw girls everywhere trying to achieve the same plump lips of Kylie Jenner. Although that was a trend, lip fillers have become a common cosmetic surgery for many making it the norm; just as the lip plates are for the Suri tribe.

Credit: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
The Mentawai tribe have ritually practised a beauty trend that they believe makes them more attractive to men: teeth sharpening. Sharp teeth generally conjure negative images (vampires, deadly animals) rather than visions of beauty, meaning that many people seek any way to achieve that perfectly straight smile, an easy task these days, whilst buying into any promise of whiter teeth.

Men around the world also have distinct beauty trends, including those of the Huli tribe, who decorate themselves using makeup and other materials in order to gain the attention of the opposite sex, something men in the Wodaabe tribe also do. Whilst the idea of men in makeup is more accepted than it used to be, it seems to be confined in our culture to a certain ‘type’ of man, unlike in these tribes.

Trends differ around the world with some constantly evolving and changing with the times, but what makes you beautiful in one place could make you the opposite in another. We cannot say what universally makes someone ‘beautiful.’ No one will ever disregard the standards of beauty that their culture accepts and promotes, but perhaps beauty shouldn’t be so concerned with the outside. Although more people are advocating for a beauty that is subjective and determined by us as individuals, we tend to lose that personal idea of beauty with the rise of such challenges.

Instead of centring around appearance, a ten-year challenge that pioneers our own happiness, whatever that may look like, may grant the return of individuality that is so quickly lost in today’s society.

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