Ideal Female Bodies (iii)


Roaring Twenties (c. 1920s)

Women in the United States were given the right to vote in 1920, and it set the tone for the decade.  Women who had held down jobs during World War I wanted to continue working. Prohibition caused speakeasies to spring up, which, along with the rise of “talkies” and the Charleston, created a flapper-friendly culture. Women favoured an androgynous look, downplaying their waists and wearing bras that flattened their breasts. Beauty in the 1920s was a curveless, boyish body.

“Women have a much better time than men in this world; there are far more things forbidden to them.” ― Oscar Wilde

Golden Age Of Hollywood (c. 1930s – 1950s)

The Golden Age of Hollywood lasted from the 1930s through 1950s. During that time, the Hays Code was in effect, establishing moral parameters regarding what could or could not be said, shown, or implied in film. The code limited the types of roles available to women, creating an idealized version of women that, for the first time, was spread around the world. Movie stars at the time, like Marilyn Monroe, flaunted curvier bodies with slim waists.

“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” ― Marilyn Monroe

See other: Ideal Female Body Types Throughout History

Ideal Female Bodies (i)


Ancient Egypt (c. 1292 – 1069 B.C.)

Women in ancient Egypt enjoyed many freedoms that would take thousands of years for women to enjoy again. Ancient Egyptian society was sex-positive, and premarital sex was entirely acceptable. Women could own property independently from their husbands, and could initiate divorce from their husbands without shame. Women could even inherit titles, even become Pharaoh.

Art from this era of ancient Egypt tells us that long, braided hair was an important aspect of female beauty. Braids framed a symmetrical face, and women wore thick black kohl around their eyes. Women are shown as slender, with high waists and slim shoulders.

“No one wants to see curvy women.” – Karl Lagerfeld

Ancient Greece (c. 500 – 300 B.C.)

Aristotle called the female form “a deformed male,” ancient Greece was pretty male-centric. The ancient Greeks were more focused on the ideal male physique than women’s, meaning that it was the men of this time period, rather than the women, who had to live up to high standards of physical perfection. This sounds good, except that this meant women were body-shamed for not looking like men.

Nudity was a common part of ancient Greek society, but sculptures and paintings of nude women were often covered. It is thought that the first important female nude sculpture in classical Greece was Aphrodite of Cnidus, who showed that beauty in ancient Greece meant plump and full-figured bodies.

“Girls are like country roads, the best ones have curves.” – internet meme

Han Dynasty (c. 206 B.C. – 220 A.D.)

Chinese society has been patriarchal since ancient times, which as a result minimized women’s roles and rights in society. During the Han Dynasty period of Chinese history, feminine beauty meant delicate, slim bodies with a radiating inner glow. Women were expected to have pale skin, long black hair, red lips, white teeth, and a graceful walk with small feet. Small feet were an aspect of Chinese beauty that would continue for hundreds of years.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde

See other: Ideal Female Body Types Throughout History

Buxom [Adj.]


  1. (of a woman) Having a full, voluptuous figure, especially possessing large breasts.
  2. (dated, of a woman) Healthy, lively.
  3. (archaic) Cheerful, lively, happy.
  4. (obsolete) Flexible, pliant.

From Middle English buxum, buhsum (bendsome, flexible, pliant, obedient). Cognate with the Dutch buigzaam (flexible, pliant).

DIED. Robert Brooks, 69, canny businessman who, as chairman of Hooters, turned the bar-restaurant chain, famed for buxom waitresses in orange hot pants, into an international success. – Time, “Milestones” (2003, July 23)

Speak to us of Beauty


‘And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.’

– Gibran. K. 1923. De Profeet [The Prophet] Den Haag, The Netherlands: Mirananda (2000) p. 72-73

A Boundless Ocean


‘Ready am I to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind.
Only another breath will I breathe in this still air, only another loving look cast backward,
Then I shall stand among you, a seafarer among seafarers.
And you, vast sea, sleepless mother,
Who alone are peace and freedom to the river and the stream,
Only another winding will this stream make, only another murmur in this glade,
And then shall I come to you, a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.’

– Gibran. K. 1923. De Profeet [The Prophet] Den Haag, The Netherlands: Mirananda (2000) p. 7

The Way We Look At Women


Over the course of a century, many strides have been made to further the cause of women, and the new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation.

The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

These are all well known problems, but there is a specific kind of sexism that is more covert and far less obvious in its misogyny: advertisement. Here is a rather passionate criticism of contemporary advertisement with regards to the portrayal of women:

The average person in the western world sees more than 500 ads every day. Very few of the women in those ads look like people we see in our everyday lives; so, maybe it is time to change the way women are generally portrayed in advertisements.

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
― Cheris Kramarae

Why does it feel so different to see pictures of realistic women? Why aren’t we seeing women we recognise in real life and why weren’t we paying more attention to this before?

Where are the women who swept through the thrust-upon feminine superficialities of the patriarchal society? – Girls who help those who can hardly help themselves. Mothers who want to learn from their children and raise a generation of individuals. Happy, free and egalitarian.

When we condone airbrushed faces and photoshopped bodies, what are we saying about women? – That their strengths aren’t strong enough? Their feelings not deep enough? Their cheers not loud enough? If all the women we see in ads look the same, what illusion are we promoting for our daughters? And our sons?

Maybe we should start by seeing women we can relate to. Ladies with style and personality who are not afraid of their ideas. Experts who revolutionise their fields. Independent and fulfilled girls who thrive on their own merit. Women who are individuals.

Let’s see women doing the things that women really do. Let’s appreciate the beauty of overcoming real struggles. Let’s see more women like those we already know, real women living in the real world.

“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”
― Gloria Steinem

Maybe all we need to do is look around to remember that the women in our lives carry real beauty of all kinds – and that real beauty is all that is worth seeing.

Conversations: Art


Galene
Dear Lysandra, do you think there are things “we are aware of” about both ourselves and the outside world that are ‘unexpressable’ in terms of words or anything similarly conventional?

Lysandra
I think there are. It seems probable that these unexpressable things may only be expressed (or perhaps merely approximated) by something unconventional – something out of the ordinary, unique even.

Galene
Perhaps these things can be rightly called Art?

Lysandra
Quite, with this in mind I prefer Heidegger’s view “Art is the happening of truth”. That is to say, Art can establish that which is implicit; it is the disclosure of intelligibility in time.

See other: Philosophical Conversations