Sunday, May 22, 2011

Curve: The loveliest distance between two points

I'm 22, female, and living in a society where appearance is valued over character, intellect, talent, etc. Just like almost every single girl that has looked at a magazine, watched an american TV show, or have seen any american hit movie, I've doubted who I was because of what I felt I looked like. Insecurities about body weight have unseen effects on nearly every aspect of a girl's life, often resulting in the most horribly powerful way: hating herself. 

But our fantasy body hasn't always been what it looks like today; in fact, today's malnourished figure has historically been deemed unattractive and definitely unfortunate when it comes to valuing one's appearance. 


"Three Graces" painted by Raphael in 1505 (the left picture above) depicts the actual beauty ideal in the form of three women. All "grace representations" of former centuries show more corpulent women than it to our today's ideal corresponds, like this figure-coveted picture of the Girls Next Door. 

Historians and research has shown that the ideal form of beauty, evidently heavier in earlier history, was a status symbol. Females from wealthy, intellectual families could afford to eat well and be healthy, while the poor remained malnourished and starved. The picture on the left, "Venus before the mirror" from 1615 by Rubens, paints a beautiful, wealthy female subject. The model on the right would have been deemed low class if she lived in that era.

To a certain extent, this correlation has reversed: for instance in the US obesity has become a problem of the lower class. Now, the fashion industry, magazine publishers, Hollywood, your female social setting have emphasized the idea that thin is better, sexier, more valuable than not.

But, as females hardly admit (myself included), a big part of how we see ourselves depends on how much attention we get from the opposite sex. It's ridiculous, I know, but even I feel prettier and have higher sense of value if I receive a compliment, or a tacky guy hits on me, or a whistle is directed my way- rather than something that illuminates values and beliefs I hold about myself. If we only knew what the opposite sex really doesn't prefer these ideals we squeeze, suck-in, and starve ourselves to emulate.

(these are British sizes. The equivalent U.S. sizes would be 10, 6, and 14)

Ladies, the study in the picture above, taken by Fabulous magazine, only says one thing to me:

We are too critical of ourselves. 

If you don't feel beautiful in your own skin, you sure as hell won't appreciate somebody who is confident in their own body, and we tend to make a point of doing so. Ellery Queen once wrote, "the two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy", and you know you've likely done the same.

But there is something you can do about what we value in appearances, and why. Madeleine Albright, an idol I've admired for years reminds us that "there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women". It's summertime, and with the sunshine comes sun dresses, shorts, skirts, and most dreaded: bathing suits. Let's hold all judgment, criticisms, and nasty comments from infecting another person's mind and understand that you don't see people as they are, you see them as you are.

Elizabeth Metcalf once said "The rarest thing in the world is a woman who is pleased with photographs of herself". This summer, I challenge you to be a rare one.

Here are some pretty quotes:

I've never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful. - Raymond Chandler
Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. -Kahlil Gibran 
That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. -Ninon de L'Enclos
Beauty comes as much from the mind as from the eye. -Grey Livingston
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. -Confucius
A woman who cannot be ugly is not beautiful. -Karl Kraus
Taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic. -Rosalind Russell


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