Osang and the ‘beauty myth’
“God knows that we are helping our families, and they do not know how we sacrifice. Maybe if I join and win in this competition my life will change,” Rose “Osang” Fostanes said in a video presented before her audition for Israel’s “X Factor.”
She was not so optimistic that she would win. “I feel that everybody is looking at me like I was an alien,” she said in one of the early audition episodes of the show. “A Filipina working here, cleaning houses.”
She also said she had been afraid to act on her dream because she did not have the conventional pop-star looks.
Osang is not beautiful according to the stereotype. She is plump and middle-aged, a Filipino woman working as a caregiver in Israel. But she who sang “This is My Life,” “I Who Have Nothing,” and “My Way” rocked, shocked, and astounded the world.
I salute Osang for her marvelous talent. I admire her for honestly and publicly stating what most women are not ready to critique: the patriarchal notion of good looks or standard of beauty.
She has also spoken of struggling women who risk everything so their loved ones would survive. Truly, it is not a shame to be poor and struggling, but it is always a disadvantage if you have almost nothing. She brings forth in concrete an element of violence against women in the “beauty myth.”
Violence occurs in subtle ways; the beauty myth is one such way. Media ads project false images of women with beauty-queen bodies and Hollywood-actress smiles. Local actresses wear only western styles and branded clothing conforming to the female construct of what is beautiful and acceptable. Thus, women (especially teenagers) embark on unhealthy diets and purchase the latest fashions and cosmetics that would make them appear “acceptable” to men and their peers.
Asian women are conditioned to think that to be beautiful is to be white, tall and slim—to be like a blond and blue-eyed Barbie doll, or Paris Hilton.
Models project the image of women who have never experienced hard work in a farm or factory. The gap between the image and the reality does so much violence. First, it deceives women, especially the young, on what real beauty is versus the capitalist/patriarchal construct of beauty. Second, it lowers the esteem of women who must work/struggle to survive, who will never match that false female image.
Osang did it her way, and the world was in awe and wonder.
There are millions of overseas Filipino workers toiling to give their families a good life. Not everyone can be like Osang, who achieved her dream. She earned and deserves the recognition. She is one in a million, and her success cannot be replicated by every struggling OFW.
What we need to think of is how to bring about a society where the poor who join the diaspora would not feel threatened by discrimination. It is not enough to be inspired by and to honor Osang for rising from her humble situation. We should also think of how to stamp out forces and structures that make human beings feel they have to “fit” the standard engendered by patriarchal and consumerist values of beauty.
—NORMA P. DOLLAGA,
Kasimbayan Women’s Collective
(Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan), [email protected]
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