It may well be a paradox, but there really is an ugly face to beauty ("Girls seeing more flaws in the mirror, poll finds," Sept. 23, page 2).
The question is, though, whose face is it? Could it be the faces of the stick thin models banned from Madrid Fashion Week? Perhaps it's the pale faces of models on TV selling skin-whitening creams? Or is it the faces of the TV "doctors" telling us about their wonder medicines that will help women to lose weight or develop bigger breasts?
Whoever it is, it's someone who tells us ordinary people that we are not beautiful. It's someone who points out that there are standards which we simply don't measure up to.
All countries have these standards of course, but I have yet to come across anywhere else with standards so narrow and rigidly enforced as those in Taiwan. Whereas other countries may have several ideals of physical beauty, Taiwan seems to have just one.
Young women in other countries also don't have the same pressure put on them to be beautiful. There is a greater acceptance of the idea that beauty is only one of a number of positive characteristics that is no more or less important.
In Taiwan, where does the pressure to be beautiful come from? Would the real ugly face of beauty please stand up?
Mothers, I'm talking to you.
In other countries a mother will, regardless of her child's facial features, only see the beauty. Children grow up being told they're beautiful. People are more secure in how they look, and are more willing to accept alternative ideals of beauty.
However, many girls in Taiwan grow up knowing only criticism. Their mothers tell them that they are not tall enough, not pale-skinned enough, have eyes that are too small, or cheek bones that are too wide -- the list could go on.
We get a society of people who are compelled to overemphasize the importance of beauty and, at the same time, feel unnecessarily insecure in their own appearance.
If anything is to be done to improve the self-esteem of Taiwanese teenage girls, the change has to start at home. It has to start with the mothers.