All-the-rage Weight

I can remember being told in my middle school history class that way, way back in the middle ages, when class divides were huge(r than they are today, apparently), it was fashionable to be curvy because it showed that you had more than enough to eat. Weight was a class statement, a physical demonstration of how wealthy you were–and probably how healthy you were–in comparison to the leaner, poorer peasants and servants doing much of the manual labor.

“No sex appeal to that bean pole!”

I really did think that that fad had gone out of style with the feudal system, but then I saw this post on the blog Loose Garments with vintage advertisements encouraging women to buy products to gain weight: http://loosegarments.com/2012/01/25/surreal-vintage-ads-our-obsession-with-controlling-womens-bodies/

It got me thinking how much style has changed over the generations, and how much the desired shape of women’s bodies has changed.

The Victorian-era, turn-of-the-century woman wore corsets and sought an S-shaped curve to her body. We can just imagine the torture she had to go through to get her waist that tiny, especially compared to her bust size. Her posterior also looks a little too small for her frame, which means that either the bust is a little emphasized or the rear end made a little more subtle.

We can marvel at the sacrifice women made and how crazy they must have been to even go near those corsets. But when you think about how much time, money, and comfort women have sacrificed for style over the years, it’s not so shocking. It’s also not shocking that there’s room to speculate about tampering with the form of this woman to make her more appealing, given the amount of tampering that advertisements undergo today.

According to PLUS Model Magazine, the majority of plus size models are between the sizes of 6 and 14, while more than half of women wear a size 14 and up.

The mother in Hairspray may have been skeptical that Jackie Kennedy ratted her hair to make it bigger–“How else would it look that way?” her daughter asks; “I believe her hair is naturally stiff,” the mother responds–but we all know better, right? Really, we often forget that though women from different decades can look so different, their bodies haven’t changed. Each woman’s body is different, certainly, but women in the early 1900s did not just magically have skinnier waists, 1920s women smaller busts, 1980s women bigger shoulders–it’s all about what’s fashionable, and therefore emphasized. To put it shortly, our bodies just don’t look fashionable by themselves. Everybody “knows” that our society today emphasizes being thin, but it seems like we often forget that desirable body shape, like big jewelry or poodle skirts, changes over time.

From Plus Model Magazine–this spread of nude “plus-size” (often average weight) models made news recently.

Way back in the day, the fashion of weight was associated with health—though their definitions of health and our definitions of health are much different, of course. But maybe we should try to get back to that. If we, as a society, quit responding to 000 models (I mean, really, their jeans probably couldn’t fit my little sister), companies will stop using them in advertisements and on the runway. And if we as a society quit buying drop-weight-fast products and getting ourselves nipped and tucked, maybe the excitement surrounding that would disappear too. You can say whatever you like about self-expression, but ask the girls who got made fun of for being flat-chested or having labia that are “too large” why they’re getting breast implants or labia reductions, and you’ll see we’ve got bigger problems to think about than protecting free expression.

The answer, of course, is not to regulate these things more harshly, but rather to eradicate the stigma and the source of the problem. What if no woman felt that her breasts were too small or too big? What if no woman ever felt like she had to lose weight for any other reason than to improve her health? What if modeling companies stopped seeing models as mannequins, lifeless forms to drape clothing on, and instead used real women whose bodies add life and curve and reality to clothing?

Think about it.

Peace,
Annie

A Reflection

Sometimes I hate being a woman.

I hate being a woman because I hate being afraid. I hate second-guessing myself. I hate doubting my abilities.

One of the things that I’ve always been told, as a result of one wave of feminism or another, is that I can do anything I want all by myself. As a woman, I don’t need to depend on anyone to take care of me–I can be independent.

But that’s not true in this world.

What is true is that I can’t go anywhere by myself without fear. Men can, for all intensive purposes, move freely through the world. Perhaps they risk getting mugged, or risk having racial slurs thrown at them. But those things don’t happen to them because they are men. Those things happen because they are the “wrong” race or look like they might have money in their pocket or they just happen to be sitting next to a crazy person on the bus.

Most of the time, men don’t have to fear the things women fear. They don’t have to fear being abducted or raped. They don’t have to worry about being touched by a stranger. They don’t have to worry about the 18 minutes they have to stand alone at the bus stop.

These things happen to women not because they look like they have something valuable in their purses or because they’re the wrong color in the wrong part of town.

These things happen because they are women.

So many times in my life have I doubted myself. I’ve cancelled plans and not done things that I really wanted to do because my boyfriend or my friends couldn’t go with me. I’m a solitary person usually; I like being alone, and I like being independent. But I can’t do that in this world.

Because I am a woman, I constantly need a chaperone.

Or mace or years of self-defense training or a concealed weapon.

I hate it.

When people ask why these things happen, the response is usually, “That’s just the way it is.”

But that’s not true and that’s not how it has to be.

There are always going to be people desperate enough to mug someone for their wallet. There are always going to be people ignorant enough to harass people verbally and even physically. And there are always going to be people sick enough to rape innocent men and women.

But there should not be so many sick people in this world that I can’t spend 20 minutes on a bus by myself. There should not be so many sick people that I don’t feel like I can ever live in a big city unless I have someone I know I can trust to live with so I don’t have to be afraid. There should not be so many sick people that women should be afraid to take a walk by themselves at twilight or early in the morning just to get away from it all for a few minutes. There should not be so many sick people that folks have to spend years looking for their missing daughters, wives, and friends. That they have to wake up every morning hoping that today will be the day that we find her. I picture my dad, my mom, my grandma, my sister, my boyfriend, and my friends in that situation every day. And that’s a big reason why I hesitate to do what I want.

People can say all they want about women being totally capable of being equal with men in our society. But if I can’t reach that full potential because I am afraid of living in this world by myself, then it is an unfair contest.

I hate being afraid. I hate being a woman because in this society, fear is part of the deal.

Peace,

Annie

Animals > Women ?

Some food for thought… “America has 3,800 animal shelters, but only 1,500 for battered women,” writes Schrager.  She raises an interesting point about how, in many ways, our society cares more about helping animals than people.

Why is this?

Well, in many cases, people don’t think that anyone they know is being directly affected by domestic violence—despite the studies that have indeed shown that domestic abuse occurs in all socio-economic circles.

Schrager suggests that people are less likely to donate money to support women’s shelters, because the issue of domestic abuse is not necessarily visible within our communities—it happens behind closed doors.  It is more difficult for people to give support to the “faceless,” and so instead they choose to support animal shelters.

While I do think Schrager’s article is somewhat biased, I agree with her that people shouldn’t ignore the issues of domestic violence occurring in their communities because they seem invisible.  Seen or unseen, the problem still exists, and there are women who do need help.

Personally, I think that bringing attention to violence committed against women is especially difficult.  Many people are likely to give support to an animal shelter after seeing commercials with photos of the animals, but you don’t exactly see the same type of tragic commercials for battered women. The sad truth is, most people aren’t likely to give to an organization that they don’t feel like they can relate to, unless a celebrity decides to support it as well.

If you are interested in reading the full article, visit: http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/does-one-abused-woman-100-abused-puppies

What do YOU think??

Peace,

Rosie