THE definition of beauty is a tricky proposition. For ages, debate on what beauty is has raged across the globe.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that some people have taken it upon themselves to change their looks after experiencing the bullying and discrimination of not “fitting in”.
One of the most talked about issues is skin bleaching and hips/bum enhancing.
In Zimbabwe, men and women who use skin bleaching and hip enhancing products are largely aware of the deadly and dangerous side-effects.
Having last week discussed Kotamai Boutique, the sale of second-hand clothes, I felt we should discuss Kotamai Pharmacies, the supply of illegal unregistered drugs and creams. Included are hips and bum enhancing pills along with skin-bleaching products.
Beyond the streets, some of the users of such products end up being suppliers to others who want to join the movement. Aside from knowing the unwanted side effects, users also undergo the risk of not getting the desired result from using these drugs.
For example, a drug advertised to give curvy hips and a rounded bottom, may end up causing uneven fat deposits. Some skin bleaches may work in certain portions and leave other areas darkened.
Last month, Cote d’Ivoire banned the sale of skin bleaching products. In Zimbabwe, though, their use remains prevalent.
It appears that medical authorities can ban the sale of these drugs from registered pharmacies but they cannot completely ban their use as the demand is very high on the black market. Instead of discussing the side effects and dangers – users are ignoring the message and continuing anyway.
This week, I decided to find out some of the “social side-effects” by asking the general public their thoughts about skin bleachers or people that use drugs to enhance their hips.
Farai (35) a Harare man, thinks that women who use the creams are delusional to think that all men find light-skinned women attractive; while Cliff (32), also from Harare, thinks that women who do not get “adequate” attention from men are the ones resorting to these “desperate” measures.
Cliff believes women need to more self-confidence, and users of these products are “short-term investors” trying to swindle men.
An older woman who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity concurred with Cliff, saying enhancements were for women who saw themselves as mere sex objects.
She also thinks men who bleach their skin are most likely sexual deviants.
A social media survey by this publication revealed that people who seek to modify themselves in one way or another have insecurity issues, low self-esteem or identity crises.
James Nyamhini, a pharmacist, said while measures would be taken to ban registration of these drugs, managing illegal vendors and sellers is where the major issue was.
There are, however, safer and more moderate ways to solve skin imperfections, available from registered pharmacies and cosmetic retailers. The use of specific exercises and wearing body shaping undergarments are some of the ways to enhance one’s body shape, too.
Is beauty your personality, looks or how you present yourself? What people find attractive is always a personal preference from individual to individual and varies across geographical and social clusters.
So what do we call beautiful in Zimbabwe?
Originally published in The Sunday Mail as a weekly column on style and other issues and stuff