Beauty behind a mask: Brazilians strive for perfect bodies

Clarion, Pa.- Doctor Alvaro Jarrin, a professor of anthropology at the College of the

Students discuss international beauty standards.
Students discuss international beauty standards.

Holy Cross in Massachusetts, held a public lecture on beauty standards in Brazil on Monday, Feb. 16 in the Gemmell Multi-Purpose Room.

This lecture was co-sponsored by the Mary L. Seifert cultural series, Spanish and Latino Student Association and the Department of Social Studies.

The lecture, titled “Beauty as Capital: Aesthetic Hierarchies, Plastic Surgery & Eugenic Legacies in Brazil,” focused on the desire to reach the societal expectations of beauty in Brazil mainly through plastic surgery.

Jarrin said the people of Brazil have been obsessed with the idea of the perfect look since the early 1900s, with multiple authors writting stories about how a darker woman sleeping with a white man creates the best looking people, especially women. If small imperfections exist, they believe they can be corrected through plastic surgery.

This whole process is called Eugenics, which is most commonly known for being used by the Nazis to make the perfect human race. While this is a less drastic version of it, it still has the same definition of what is considered beautiful, which is a very small range of options, especially for women.

“I am very critical about the whole idea of it. I spent two years from 2008 to 2010 studying and talking to patients. I go back every once and a while to get updates on it all,” Jarrin said.

Jarrin spoke about how gendered the whole beauty ideal is.

Men in Brazil are expected to work out and be manly men, while women are expected to get surgery and look to a certain feminine standard. It is to the point where there are television programs about finding beautiful women living in the slums of Brazil, and these shows help elevate them to a higher social status.

Jarrin said in Brazil an aesthetic hierarchy has been put in place, and the more attractive you are the more powerful and successful you manage to become. A popular Brazilian phrase is “A beleza abre portas,” which means “Beauty opens doors.”

Jarrin hopes that his lectures and writings will reach a wider Brazilian audience, as he wants to see a social change where women do not feel the need to change themselves with surgery to be considered beautiful.

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