BEAUTY IDEAL OVER THE DECADES
The extreme sexualization of the modern society has lead an intense objectification, especially in the media. We are seemingly obsessed with the human body, and the female body has been the center of attention for as long as we can tell. In fact, the first evidence was found in the shape of an artifact believed to be from the late stone ages, "The Venus of Willendorf". The only thing that seems to be changing, is the preference of what is considered to be the ideal form of beauty and attractiveness.
FACTS ABOUT BEAUTY IDEAL
For the last decades it has been in popular belief that an attractive woman must be above all slender.
Although this ideal of attractiveness seems natural to us, historically seen, this ideal is new and unique.
Researchers have stated that in former times, being full figured was considered to be a status symbol, and was therefore the ideal of attractiveness. Only the well-off could afford to eat well, while the poor remained slender from lack of food. In western society today, the supply of food is abundant and fat has lost it's value of information as a sign of prosperity. To a certain extent, this correlation has reversed, as obesity has become a problem of the lower class. If the preference of slimness has something to do with economic prosperity, people should then prefer fuller figures in economically poorer countries (and so it seems). A worldwide study showed that being slim is preferred above all in countries where people don't think twice about their daily bread. In poor countries, heavier women are still perceived as being more beautiful.
Also the social position of the woman seems to play a role in body size: In traditional cultures where women are primarily housewives and mothers, more corpulent figures are preferred. In cultures where women have more political power and more economic participation and employment, slender figures are preferred. The more traditional the women's role, the more curvaceous was the ideal figure.
The ideal figure is not completely dependent on social influence, but rather derived from a numerical ratio, the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). It does not matter whether a person is fat or slender, the ideal relation should approximate 0.7. (For men the ideal is 0.9). In spite of their different weight classes the beauty icons Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Twiggy and Kate Moss all had at least one thing in common, a WHR of about 0.7.
However, recent investigations have questioned the validity of the magic 0.7. In non-westernized cultures the preferred WHR is roughly 0.9 (in the direction of male proportions).
In Brazil, for instance, women traditionally had a curvaceous pelvis, a fuller bottom and a small bust. This was considered to be beautiful, and for Brazilians, large breasts was regarded as vulgar.
But for the last decades, the ideal figure has incorporated a big bust on a slim figure, also in Brazil.
Another "important" feature of a woman’s figure is long legs. Legs have been artificially lengthened for decades by high heeled shoes. But, although this criteria is important for the general public, up until now, it has rarely been examined in research dealing with attractiveness.
Beauty ideal can vary from one culture to another. For example, in China, right up until World War II, beginning at the age of five, upper-class girls had their feet tightly bound, crippling them for life. The child could not move without doubling over into a graceless and largely futile effort to walk without putting any weight on her feet. Many women put up with the agony of this procedure to ensure the three or four inch long feet that were prized as exquisitely feminine, convinced that no one would want to marry a woman with "big feet."
In central Africa, the Mangbettu tightly wrapped the heads of female infants in pieces of giraffe skin, to attain the elongated cone-shaped heads that were taken to be a sign of beauty and intelligence.
Just as painful as stunting the growth of one part of the body is exaggerating the growth of another, a practice that has been widespread in Asia and Africa. Many African tribes have inserted plates into young women's lips to enlarge them, or weigh down their earlobes with heavy hoops so that the lobes eventually brush the shoulders.
Among the Padaung people of Burma earlier this century, the ideal of female beauty was a greatly elongated neck, preferably 15 inches/ 38.1 cm or more. This was accomplished by fitting girls with a series of brass neck rings. At a very young age, girls began with five rings and by the time they were full grown, they were wearying as many as 24. Even today, Burmese refugees in northern Thailand continue to stretch their daughters' necks.
This may appear shocking or unnecessary and could be considered as handicapping women, leaving them unable to move around properly and freely. But, is what western society today is doing any better? 12 inch heel's, silicon, selective surgery in general, botox. Women all over the world are putting themselves in danger or their heath at risk, in the name of beauty.
"The Beauty Ideal Over The Decades", is a big subject. I divided the different eras into a series, looking at the many different ideals that has been considered as beautiful and attractive in the past.
The next post is: BEAUTY IDEAL OVER THE DECADES part 2 : RIGHT NOW 2013
(Photos in this post are random pictures from Tumbler or Pinterest or borrowed from Google. Unknown source. Top image is Nicki Minaj "Pink Friday" album cover, Kate Moss image is from the cover of LOVE Magazine.
Information collected from several sources including Wikipedia, Thefashionspot.com and diet-blog.com, historicalideals.tumblr.com, http://comn4725blog.wordpress.com, dailymail.co.uk,
uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychologie/Psy_II/beautycheck/english/figur/figur.htm, The documentary "Miss representation" )
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