The Be Cause: The Pinay in Superficial Times

Beauty is in crisis. Women, the Pinay, can only be worse off. In these times of digitally enhanced images and cosmetic surgery, celebrity culture and media bombardment, it is clear that beauty has come to be so manipulated to the point of absurdity. It would be funny if this wasn’t true: if one is a woman, it is difficult not to feel the pressure to be exactly what those images look like.

This is not just about the pressure to be beautiful, but about being told that a certain size, a particular skin color, is better than the other. It’s not just about a particular kind of beauty being sold as ideal, but also about how this ideal is becoming more and more fake, which is to say more and more impossible.

This is even truer in third world Philippines, where the every Pinay is made to believe that the ideal is white(ned) and thin, and what’s become normalized is plastic surgery and fad diets. Here are images of womanhood that are nothing but impossible to achieve beyond the page, the TV screen, the billboard.

But the crisis is such because these aren’t just images anymore. Every advertisement of whitening, every celebrity that sells thinness and big boobs, carries with it a story of success. With very rarely a real-bodied image of a Pinay in popular culture and media, with very few celebrities willing to go against the grain of these standards of beauty, these images end up carrying such an ideological weight on what we believe about ourselves, what we think we need in order to be happy, what it is that actually matters. Here and now it’s clear that the clichés like “beauty is only skin-deep” are barely true: when what is fake is normalized, it is the superficial that is celebrated.

The Be Cause is a response to these times of the superficial. It is a critical platform not just for revealing how the cosmetic surgery and beauty industries in the Philippines have come to manipulate the concepts that surround what is beautiful in these shores; it’s also a platform for revealing the beauty industry as capitalist enterprise, earning millions by warping our notions of what is normal and beautiful.

The Be Cause is a space where we can take to task the magazine and advertising industries for the standards of beauty that they set, premised as these are on the need to digitally enhance women’s images by default. We take them to task for celebrating what are faked up images of women, and equating these with notions of independence.

The Be Cause is where we celebrate the Pinays who take a stand against these superficial times by decidedly being – and looking – themselves. We celebrate the Pinays who dare to look different from the standard, who own their bodies, and challenge the normalized notions of what is beautiful and what isn’t.

The Be Cause is about taking back beauty yes, but even more so, it is about reclaiming the normal. We want to liberate the Pinay from the fake and superficial, and the ideologies these carry. We want to start listening to ourselves again, we want to talk about our mothers and grandmothers who are beautiful too and still, we want to hear about other women’s stories of beauty untouched by all the fakery. We want to find ourselves again, in the skins we were born in, in this space that is ours. There is no better time than now.