Sexual Health Resources for Women of South Asian Heritage

Painful Beauty: Ugh

Painful Beauty: Ugh

By: Reya D

I often wonder why I have so much more facial and body hair than my white, non-Asian peers. I remember growing up as a young girl and seeing my mom go to the South Asian beauty parlours to get her eyebrows and upper lip threaded. I always thought it was a strange extra thing she had to do beyond getting her hair cut and coloured and her shaving her legs and underarms. However, I also remember wondering as a young girl, asking myself “when will I get to do these things?” It seemed cool when I saw her get to use shaving cream or have a new hair colour, and I always loved how smooth her skin felt and stunning her highlights looked afterwards. Though my mom never let me touch her razor blade or colour my hair when I was growing up, she always told me it wasn’t necessary for me to do those things.

Then puberty hit, and the next thing I know my mom is taking me to go get my eyebrows threaded for the first time. There are no words to explain the excruciating pain I felt that first time, as I am sure most South Asian woman can still attest to. So why is it that we still torture ourselves every few weeks to shape our eyebrows, erase traces of a moustache and smooth our bodies? When did it become necessary for me to start doing these rituals? Where did this goal to be “hairless” come from?

I blame it on the South Asian societal pressure to be ideally hairless (except for our tresses, these are suppose to be long and luscious). I blame it on the teasing I got from my male peers about the hair on my legs and uni-brow at age 12. Then lastly, I want to blame it on all the women before me that conformed to the original pressure to be hairless. I believe they set the rest of us up for an ideal that it truly painful to upkeep. Then again, I am sure it is not their fault. I am sure that not so long ago, the South Asian woman’s body was pitted against the white European woman’s body and from hence our bodies were meant to improve and conform. If the white woman’s body did not have hair, than the South Asian woman’s body should not. However, since the colonial era, there have been many shifts in the white woman’s ideal body type, so I ask why have these shifts not also happened to the South Asian woman’s body ideal?

I think that there is a need to reclaim our body’s natural beauty. I believe that there is beauty to be had in every South Asian woman, and that there is a need to stop manufacturing an ideal that is unnatural. How we as a South Asian society go about changing these ideals is up to us, one woman at a time.