Ideal Female Bodies (ii)


Italian Renaissance (c. 1400 – 1700)

Renaissance Italy was an extremely Catholic, patriarchal society. Women were meant to embody virtue and were often separated from men both in public and at home. A woman’s value was linked to her relationship with men, whether it was God, her father, or her husband.

The quality of both a wife’s behaviour and looks were thought to reflect her husband’s status. Beauty in Renaissance Italy meant a rounded body, including full hips and large breasts. Pale skin, strawberry blonde hair, and high foreheads were all thought of as the height of physical beauty.

“Choose neither a woman nor linen by candlelight.” ― Italian Proverb

Victorian England (c. 1837 – 1901)

The Victorian era of England lasted the length of Queen Victoria’s reign. She was the most influential figure of the era, a young queen who became a young wife and mother. Domesticity, family, and motherhood were highly valued in Victorian society, because these values were embodied by Queen Victoria herself.

The style of the time reflected women’s motherly position in society. Women wore corsets to cinch their waists as tightly as possible, creating an hourglass figure. These corsets physically restrained women’s range of motion, flaunting their separation from physical labour. Women also wore their hair long as a symbol of femininity.

“She wore tight corsets to give her a teeny waist – I helped her lace them up – but they had the effect of causing her to faint. Mom called it the vapors and said it was a sign of her high breeding and delicate nature. I thought it was a sign that the corset made it hard to breathe.” ― Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses

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

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.

5


In order to celebrate Knowledge Guild’s 5th anniversary we are going to take a closer look at the number 5. Do not worry, it is not as dull as it sounds.

  • The number of people killed by sharks since records began is equal to just five per cent of the number of toilet-related injuries in the USA in 1996.
  • In the 18th century, 75% of all children died before they were five years old. 90% of children born in workhouses died before they were five years old.
  • As a trick, the writer Arthur Conan Doyle once sent a letter to five friends that read, “We are discovered. Flee immediately.” One of his friends disappeared and Doyle never saw him again.
  • An enzyme found in pineapples called “Bromelain” destroys fingerprints. It was used as a plotline in an episode of Hawaii Five-O. This enzyme can also get rid of mouth ulcers.
  • Chelmsford was capital of England for five days in 1381 during the Peasants Revolt.
  • The Punjabi for the number “5” is “4”.
  • The most dangerous sport for American women is cheerleading. In 2002, 22,900 children between five and eighteen years of age went to hospital for cheerleading related injuries.
  • Charles Darwin is one of only five people who are not royal to be buried in Westminster Abbey.
  • Smoking takes five years off your health expectancy on average. However, as a man, removing your testicles adds thirteen years onto it.
  • The Hebrew for the number “5” is pronounced “Hey”.
  • The average height of an Eskimo is 5’4″ and the average life expectancy is 39. If you put five Eskimos in car, every Eskimo in the world could fit into the Los Angeles International Airport car park.
  • The best thing to do with an old Christmas tree is to contact your local zoo and see if they want to give it to their animals for food. In Germany people often feed Christmas trees to elephants, which can eat five of them for lunch. In Dresden Zoo they also give Christmas trees to giraffes, rhinos, camels, deer and sheep.
  • In Alexandre Dumas’ novel La Dem Aux Camelias, the main heroine, Marguerite Gautier, wears a white camellia for 25 days of month when she is available for sex, and a red one for five days when she is not available because she is having her period. The novel caused scandal in 19th century France when it was published and the flowers popularity grew.
  • The five appendages on most starfish exhibit pentamerism.
  • Only five people died in the Great Fire of London.
  • India has no speed limits and every car in the country within five years will be involved in a fatal road accident. The UK has the largest number of car thefts in the world.
  • Five pound notes are made out of a mixture of cotton and linen. Wooden paper is too fragile.
  • There are only five places in America which have an apostrophe in them which are Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; Ike’s Point, New Jersey; John E’s Pond, Rhode Island; Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View, Arizona; and Clark’s Mountain, Oregon.
  • In the British Army, you can tell which branch of the Brigade of Guards a soldier is in by the gaps between the buttons. If they are evenly spaced, they are in the Grenadiers Guards. Pairs mean they are Coldstream Guards, threes are Scottish Guards, fours are Irish Guards, and fives are Welsh Guards.
  • The ideal way to kiss a Frenchman depends on what region of France you are in. Two kisses are normal in central and southern France and four in northern France. However, in Corsica it can be as many as five kisses. In Belgium and the Netherlands, three kisses is the usual amount.
  • Anchovies are now mainly used for feed salmon in fish farms. For every salmon, five kilograms of anchovies are killed. Therefore, salmon farming is not really sustainable.
  • Each country in the world has their own idea of how many portions of fruit and veg you should eat every day. The reason it is five in Britain is because doctors are of the belief that you cannot persuade the public to eat more than that. In Japan they recommend eating nine portions of fruit and veg, in Denmark it is six, in France it is ten.
  • A Fitzroy is a bastard child of a royal. Charles II had five Fitzroys from his mistress Barbara Palmer.

See other: Anniversaries