15 Ugly Things Women Did to Look Beautiful in Ancient Culture

Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder. But there are weird cultural practices tied to beauty which you wonder whether the beholder actually finds beautiful. Though globalization has influenced cultural values and norms in many parts of the world, there are still some parts that protect their beauty-based cultural practices, no matter how absurd they look to others. Some of these practices involve uniquely strange rituals, horrific beauty standards and severe body modifications. A number of them have been banned as they are seen as inhuman treatment in modern times. Here are some very strange cultural practices done in some parts of the world in the name of beauty.

1. Earlobes – Kenya

In Kenya, the Maasai women are obsessed with the use of weights like stones and thorns to stretch their earlobes until they are long enough to touch their shoulders. These women see this as a way to look cute. Massai women in Kenya consider a bald head and gauged ear lobes as appealing. The procedure of achieving this involves the use of elephant tusks to expand the earlobes after which it is decorated with rings and beads. The women also remove two front teeth in their attempt to look more attractive. You won’t believe this bizarre look appeals to their men.

2. Metatah (Teeth Filing) – Indonesia

In some parts of Indonesia, a practice known as teeth filing or Metatah is on the beauty menu of many women. It creates sharp and long fangs seen as symbol of beauty among women who practice it. Metatah also has other attachments to it apart from being used for physical appearance. It is said to enhance social and spiritual wellness which helps eliminate the person’s wicked features. To some people these women might look like zombies seen in block-buster movies but those who practice teeth-filing in Indonesia cherish this culture.

3. Fat Camp – Africa

The practice of fattening a young woman to make her attractive to men and ready for marriage cuts across countries in Africa. Women in some parts of Mauritius, Mauritania and Nigeria are expected to be fat in order to look attractive to the opposite gender. Reports have it that in many cases, the women are force-fed by their parents (up to 16,000 calories a day) to attain that body type. In a number of cases this is against the wish of the ladies forced to be fat. In such parts of Africa, full-figured women are considered beautiful. In Efik speaking communities in Nigeria room is at the center of a centuries-old rite of passage from maidenhood to womanhood. In Mauritania, if women are pale and weak, they are forced to put on weight by sending them to fat camps. This is where they are force-fed high-fat foods and in some cases, even given drugs to increase their appetites. Sounds very absurd and a bit inhuman, all in the name of beauty.

4. Yaeba (Crooked Smile) – Japan

This is the Japanese practice of having crooked teeth as a sign of playfully mischievous youthfulness. Yaeba in Japan means double or multilayered tooth. This is achieved by capping the upper canine teeth temporarily or permanently to create a fanged look. A Japanese pop idol group called AKB48 made this trend popular and it is generally seen as something that makes women look attractive. Also known as snaggletooth, yaeba is seen as the cutest part of a woman among those who practice it. When those front teeth stick out or overlap, it is believed that it just drives some Japanese men crazy. Well, those who get tripped by this practice definitely have a uniquely strange idea of beauty.

5. Ta-Moko – New Zealand

The practice of using tattoos as beauty tips is still prevalent till date in some parts of the world. In New Zealand, the cultural practice of decorating the skins has been existing among the Maori people for over 1000 years. These people decorate their skin with distinctive black and dark blue patterns called Ta-Moko. The thickness and sometimes painful way of applying the tattoo make it a strange beauty practice. Among the Maori, these decorations which mostly include facial and lip tattoos are made by using mallets and chisels, signifying strength and beauty in women and readiness for adult responsibilities in men. Sounds strange but those who uphold this practice love it.

6. Scarification – Africa

In some parts of Africa, women are involved in what could be described as one of the most unbelievably painful and scary beauty practices across the world – scarification. This is the practice of scratching, etching, burning, branding, or superficially cutting designs, pictures, or words into the skin as a permanent body modification. This could take up to 6–12 months to heal. This practice is common among women in the Karo tribe of Ethiopia and Dinka tribe in South Sudan. Both boys and girls are involved in this horrific practice. While girls are marked with beautiful patterns, boys are marked with three parallel lines, to represent entry into manhood. What a strange way to look beautiful. Among the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, tribal marks are for identity and beautification. Tribal mark is also a form of scarification.

7. Foot Binding – China

Foot binding, also called lotus feet, is another very scary cultural practice done in China in the name of beauty. Despite its ban in the 1940s, many parts of the country still practice it. This involves breaking of women’s toes to make their feet small and delicate. It is a painful process where the toes of the women involved are fractured and pushed inside the sole. The foot is then bandaged tightly to attain the impression of tiny feet. This was considered as sexually appealing by the Chinese men. It is also seen as a symbol of social standing and status in rural China. What a way to ‘torture’ someone into beauty.

8. Giraffe Neck – Parts of Asia and Africa

This is the process of using heavy coils to elongate the neck. This practiced was common amongst the Kayan Lahwi tribe of Thailand, Padaung tribe of Burma, and Ndabele tribe of Zimbabwe. In these places you find several women moving like Ostrich or giraffes, and this is from where they derived the name – giraffe women. Women wear heavy coils around their necks and keep on adding these coils over the years to elongate their neck. The Padaung people of Burma believe that having long neck is the symbol of wealth, position and beauty. Apart from being a beauty tradition, it is also said that many myths or histories lie behind the long-neck custom. Some said that wearing brass coils around necks in the past functioned to protect Padaung women from tigers, as they bite people’s necks. Others claim that it made them resemble the myth dragon, but it is also claimed that long necks were intended to make them look less attractive, hence they are unlikely to be taken as slaves in the past.

9. Teeth Chiseling – Africa and Asia

Another gruesome practice that cuts across some countries in Africa and Asia is teeth chiseling. This is a painful process that helps women get smaller and pointed teeth. Teeth chiseling means different things to different cultures. In many of the tribes that practice it, this is a sign of higher social status in many tribes. In Bali culture in Indonesia, one tribe files down their teeth to represent hatred and anger and to get rid of negative emotions. In some other cultures such as the Wapare tribe of Zimbabwe, people carry the trend to look fearsome at the battlefield. To the women in Afar tribe of Ethiopia, who practice teeth chiseling, when they smile, the sharp ends of their teeth symbolize beauty. This is generally a beauty practice which is still present in some cultures in Africa.

10. Nose Plugs – India

Use of nose plugs is definitely another weird beauty practice on this list. The Apatani tribe in India practice the tradition of nose plugs. The procedure looks insane. The women insert plugs into the side of their nose but this time, the aim is to make them look less beautiful. This is because the Apatani women are considered the most beautiful women in all India. So to protect them from being raided by men the best option was to make them look ugly and unattractive. The best option therefore was to insert plugs into the side of their nose. You can imagine that.

11. Lip Plates, Ethiopia

Use of lip plates is popular among the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia. Here women wear lip plates to appear more beautiful and to attract men for marriage. The procedure also looks painful. It begins when a girl attains puberty. Plates of increasing size are inserted on the lower lip to stretch it until she can insert a full-size lip plate. This practice was originally done to stop slavery since the women looked mutilated and, therefore, pronounced unfit to be slaves. That was back then. It is seen today as a symbol of beauty and recognition for this tribe’s women. To further showcase their skills and personality the women decorate the plates. Even with large plates hanging down their lips they still look attractive to men in their tribe.

12. Stick Piercing – Brazil

Stick piercing is a popular practice among the Yanomami tribe found in Brazil and some parts of Venezuela. These people live in Amazon Rainforest along the borders of Venezuela and Brazil. Stick piercing is said to be decorative and also a mark of adolescence. The stick goes through the nose and ears for beauty purposes and sometimes, for ceremonial purposes.

13. Waste to jewelry – Ethiopia

Women in Daasanach tribe of Ethiopia may not have learnt recycling but they sure know how to turn waste into ornaments of beauty. These people reside in the Omo Valley in Ethiopia which is one of the most populated areas of indigenous peoples. They convert waste into various forms of jewelry supposed to make them look attractive to men.

14. Teeth blackening – Vietnam

Teeth blackening is a culture-based beauty practice among the ancient people of Lahui tribe in Vietnam. It is also practiced in some other Southeast Asian countries including Japan. The teeth blackening process could involve a special recipe, including powder, lime juice, black alum and resin of coconut shells. Teeth blackening is done to make the women attractive and to provide assurance that the person practicing it would not be mistaken for an evil spirit. It was believed back then that only savages, demons and wild animals had white teeth. Among women of Lahui tribe, teeth blackening is also done to show their readiness for marriage. So while you probably spend time brushing your teeth twice a day to make them look sparkling white, some people are busy painting them black to look more attractive than you.

15. Cow Horns – Ethiopia

The Morsi tribes women wear cow horns on their heads as part of fashion sense. Looks a bit weird on them but it is seen as a symbol of beauty among the Morsi people and their men love this.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *