5 days ago
Monday, March 31, 2008
"We're worse than the ancient Romans"
Once upon a time, not so long ago, in an age of scientific progress, flowering intellectualism and an all-around inproved standard of living, the female form was revered. Indeed, women were sources of awe and inspiration in their natural beauty. Women were the muses of some of the greatest painters of all time, and the artist would remain true to his subject, giving us priceless works of art.
Women of the Renaissance were portrayed beautifully because they were beautiful. One can always expect there to be a certain spread - not all women looked exactly alike, of course - but those living in the time of the revolution and rebirth knew that women are beautiful. Women, women who are natural and comfortable and full of life and love, are stunning. They're engaging. They're lovely. They were beautiful. They are beautiful.
Now, however, we are unscrupulously barraged with images of women who, by contrast to our modern standards (I loathe to call them standards), "just aren't good enough." Women now, through endless and pitiless repetitions of that same mantra, have come to believe that we are somehow remarkably unattractive if we are subject to our natural form. Instead of happily plump ("full figured," as some might put it) and naturally skintoned, we are to be painfully thin and tanned as leather. Advertisements like these pop up on my facebook page daily:
But why? Because, in today's society, we're not supposed to just be beautiful. We're supposed to work at it. We're supposed to struggle to be like those privileged few who have made the cut. Somehow (and, Lord knows, I apologize profusely for this photo, but I hope you'll understand its use), beauty has been redefined as this:
When did we become so ugly?
Some people have connected our own standards with those of the ancient Egyptians, or have associated them with some sort of evolutionary preference. But what evolutionary advantage is it to men to desire to mate with a woman so skinny, she'd probably die during childbirth (I am purposely neglecting the health aspect here, as it is equally unhealthy to be morbidly obese as it is to be anorexic)? And without a legitimate religious push (to become like a goddess and so persist into the afterlife), our motives are mere ghosts of the aspirations of the Egyptians. Interestingly, there seem to be connections between the social pressure of conforming to a more masculine-defined beauty (such as now, or in Egyptian times) and the legal rights and privileges enjoyed by women of the age. Does this mean, conversely, that if women are more socially liberated, we are not as legally free? It's a questionable link. Athenian and Spartan women (during the "classical" Greek period) enjoyed many freedoms, both social and political; in the Roman Empire, as is seen similarly elsewhere, liberties were tied more closely to wealth and stature than appearance. It is probably useful to note that the Romans put an undue emphasis on randomly chosen attributes of women as beautiful (nose shape, waist size, etc) during their empire's infamous decline.
My point is this (and I must conclude, as I am liable to rant indefinitely on such a touchy subject): women are beautiful. We are beautiful regardless of the dictated social norms, we are beautiful regardless of the flighty fancies of men, we are beautiful intrinsically.
And don't worry... I am fully aware, of course, of my own personal bias in the matter.