When Beauty Isn't Truth

They're called renzao meinu in Mandarin Chinese: man-made beautiful women.

Reinforcing the unfortunate notion that beauty's only skin deep (and altered skin at that), the Miss Artificial Beauty pageant will be held in China on Saturday. The contest will feature 19 nipped-and-tucked contestants, presumably the best in a country where cosmetic surgery is an estimated $2.4-billion-a-year business.

The idea for the contest arose when an 18-year-old woman sued for emotional damages after being disqualified from another beauty pageant earlier this year because she had had plastic surgery.

"Who isn't artificial in some ways?" asked the model, who had gone under the knife 11 times.

Saturday's event highlights an international trend toward sculpting bodies to fit fleeting notions of physical beauty. One of the worst examples is the American TV reality-show "Extreme Makeover." Call that an un-reality show.

Whatever happened to the lilies-of-the-field wisdom about not focusing on outward appearances? Or as poet Percy Shelley wrote:

We dream of happy, high, majestical.

Where is the love, beauty and truth we seek, but in our mind?"

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.