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Beauty as Representations of National Identity

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Sophia Kang
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Beauty as Representations of National Identity

With the popularization of Korean beauty products, discussions of plastic surgery, and the increasing popularity of tattoos and piercings, beauty becomes ian evolving definition in this globalizing world. What is beauty? Who creates the standards? What influences its changing definition? Is it impacted by colonialism? How is it a reflection of the society’s values? How does beauty represent the national identity?


In my American Literature class, we often discuss the American Dream. When we study novels such as The Great Gatsby, we see that highly sought after values--The American Dream in the American society--are represented by characters such as Daisy who represent the American Dream. She is one that the protagonist strives to reach, but cannot obtain.


Similarly, in the novel Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and “The Tattooer” by Tanizaki Jun’ichirô, the women who are described as beautiful are those who at the cusp of attainment vanish into something that is either horrifyingly sublime or corrupt.


According to Jessica Adams, “When we think about what beauty means in America, we immediately confront issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality, femininity, faith, and class. In this three day curriculum, we will examine some of the issues that shape our definitions of beauty.

Tiffany Chang
Topic replies: 31
Topic Posts: 3
Beauty & Identity

I would love to teach this lesson if I taught high school. These standards of beauty trickle down to the elementary age whether the students see how their classmates dress, the influence of social media, or the way parents talk about their kids. Since I teach in a district that is predominantly Asian, I can see how the Asian standards of beauty affect them such as how they follow Kpop stars or Anime. I would hope to find stories that are elementary appropriate for students to read about identity. As my students are about to enter middle school, that is a time when their peers influence the most. We integrate restorative circles in our classrooms and I hope to have discussions with my students about what may affect how they dress, if these standards are realistic, and the influence of social media. 

I can see how this can be adapted to an elementary classroom: colonists affecting the standards of living and beauty in the U.S., especially how Native Americans reacted, and how the Spanish and missions affected those that lived in California.