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living in a society that values appearance




Hi, it’s Azusa. Since I started to learn about feminism, I began to notice how I’ve been told a lot of things about my appearance and my body. I always subconsciously thought that appearance is important, so it was not easy for me to accept that every body is beautiful. I'm gonna share my struggle in accepting that idea and how I want society to be in the future.


I became aware of my looks when I was in junior high school. Until then, I had been quickly growing taller and I thought that I was on the skinny side. But my height didn’t change much after entering junior high school, and I started to think that I might be a little chubby after continuing to eat the same amount of snacks as before. Back then, I had a lot of acne and because I hadn’t had braces yet, the way my mouth looked when it was closed was weird, so I hated myself and didn’t have any confidence. During junior high, I always thought I was ugly. When I became a high school student, my teeth looked better and my acne decreased. Compared to when I was in junior high school, my self-esteem might have had gone up a little bit. But my friends around me were self-conscious about how big their legs were or were going on diets so I also tried to not have snacks, thinking that I might be more chubby than others, and I would get on the scale and sometimes feel glad, sometimes feel sad. In high school, I used to talk to my friends about the top three most beautiful girls in our grade. There wasn’t a beauty pageant or anything, but It was something that those who know, know. Things like this reinforced the idea that looks are valued in my subconscious.


Other than that, there are a lot of things around me that make me think about appearance. On the way to school, I see so many hair removal advertisements that it makes me uncomfortable. When I meet friends, there are conversations about gaining and losing weight or being on a diet. In magazines or on Instagram, there are usually “perfect” skinny models with double eyelids. On comedy shows, people always make fun of others’ looks regardless of their gender. My mom often tells me that my face is round and my dad sometimes comments on the way female newscasters look. I’ve tried to tell my family that it’s not nice to say things like that but I feel like it hasn’t really worked.


I learned about feminism when I started going to college, and I learned that no one has the right to say anything about my appearance or my body, and I don’t have the right to say anything about anybody else’s appearance. But it was not that easy for me to understand that beauty cannot be measured by one standard and that every body is beautiful since I had been conditioned to believe the idea that looks are everything. I wish I noticed this fact more quickly. The most disappointing thing is that I can easily think of something about someone’s appearance as I’ve been living in a society where it is considered okay to comment on someone’s looks. Of course, I did know that appearance is only one part of someone so it made me realise how deeply the idea that looks are important is rooted within myself.


I personally think that it’s a good thing to do hair removal, cosmetic surgery and go on diets if it makes you feel more comfortable with your body, but we shouldn’t be forced or feel obligated to fit in the extremely narrow beauty standard. I feel sad every time I notice messages saying that you can’t be an ideal woman or beautiful if you don’t look a certain way. We need way more diverse representations of beauty, like short people, chubby people, disabled people, and people with eczema like me. And, I’d like society to be a place where commenting on people’s looks is taboo, regardless of whether it is a compliment or an insult.

最後に私が見て感動したAsian Bossのビデオのリンクを貼っておくね!これは2018年のミス・コリアへのインタビューなんだけど、コンテストの内容も興味深いし、彼女が今までのミスとは違うことで議論になったみたい。例えば、彼女は「ミス・コリアを代表するほどかわいくない、太っている」というようなネガティブなコメントをかなり受け取ったみたい。彼女はそれによって自信を失ってしまったと言っていて、SNSが人々に与える影響について懸念している。彼女はミス・コリアというプラットフォームを使って「美しさ」とは何かの再定義や美の多様性の普及に取り組みたいと言っていて、パワーをもらえるよ。私は前に韓国の美容整形についてのエッセイを書いたことがあるの。その時、韓国でも日本と同じく、もしくはそれ以上に見た目が重視される社会であるということを知った。そんな韓国でミス・コリアというある程度知名度や影響力がある人が、プラットフォームを用いて「美しさ」とは何かを問うことはとても意味があることだと思った。日本では影響力のある人がそのようなことを話すことはまだまだ少ない気がする。これは英語字幕しかないんだけど、興味があったら見てみてね〜!

And finally, I’m gonna put the link down below for an inspiring video made by Asian Boss. It is an interview of Miss Korea 2018. The process of the competition is interesting and she sparked a little controversy because she is different from the past Miss Koreas. For example, it seems like she received a lot of negative comments saying things like “She isn’t pretty enough to represent Korea and she is fat.” She says that she lost confidence from these comments and that she is concerned about the influence that social media has on people. She goes on saying that she wants to use her voice as Miss Korea to redefine beauty and add more diversity to who it includes, which I found it very empowering. I have previously written an essay about cosmetic surgery in South Korea and I found out that appearance is highly valued in South Korea like Japan or even more than Japan. So I thought it was very meaningful that Miss Korea, a person who is well known and has influence, is using her platform to question what means to be beautiful. I feel like I don’t really see people who are well-known talk about things like that in Japan. If you’re interested in the interview, go check it out!


Have you ever been hurt by what someone said about your appearance or noticed prejudices within yourself that you hold towards others?

Images by Azusa

English Edited by Kiara

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