Mamacita says: Little wonder that our students are so confused about what they’re “supposed” to look like. Teen magazines that used to give us ADVICE about our appearance are now telling kids that unless they look like (insert talentless celebrity here), they’re hideous. AND, many kids have no home backup to instill some self-respect and common sense, so they believe this stuff.
Trends come and trends go. Rubenesque women used to be the epitome of feminine beauty. Adult women built like eleven-year-olds (Twiggy) were popular. Breasts are flattened by a board placed strategically under the underwear and tied into place. Breasts are bigger. Breasts are pointy. Breasts are smaller. Hems are high. Hems are low. A waistline is hidden. A waistline is enhanced by a corset so tight a woman can’t even put it on by herself; she needs a winch fastened to the bedpost, later spelled wench and transformed into a person. How empowering it must have been, for women to finally get clothing they could put on all by themselves!
Now, supermodels are built like concentration camp prisoners, and the walk down the runway looks a lot like the walk to the Belsen showerhouse.* These women look like a sneeze would blast them backwards like a bullet from a gun.
(You know, Victorian men must not have seen very many naked women; otherwise, why and how could a man have possibly believed women were supposed to look like a wasp?)
There were fancy schools in Victorian England that had a rule that each young woman must have a 17-inch waist, just like Scarlett O’Hara.
It wasn’t just in England, either. Laura Ingalls Wilder (one of my many literary idols) writes that her mother reminisced to her daughters about how, when she was married, her husband could span her waist with his hands. This, while advising her daughters to wear their corsets even while sleeping or “. . . what your figure will be, goodness knows.”
Mothers nowadays dress their small daughters in clothes that a high-class prostitute wouldn’t be caught dead in. I am, more and more, thinking that school uniforms might not be such a bad idea.
At the turn of the century, schoolgirls wore pinafores over their dresses to help keep the dress clean, but also to hide the curves and allow the girls to be children a little longer. Remember Anne Shirley, Diana Barry, Jane Andrews, and Ruby Gillis? (Oh, I hope you do!) Emily Starr? Marigold Lesley? Pat Gardiner? They all wore pinafores to school every day, and after school, too. When the pinafores were removed for parties, etc, these girls looked like young women, but because they were still girls, really, the pinafores were worn all other times. Anne Frank, at 13 or 14, still referred to herself and to Peter VanDaan, who was 16 or 17, as “children.”
Big booty used to be all the rage, and emphasized with bustles. Now, a big butt is a sign of sloppiness and obesity, and whether or not her butt looks big is something most women worry about daily. Fear of a butt that’s large enough to actually sit on comfortably sends otherwise sane and intelligent women to the liposuction clinic to get all that sucked out, that they might be “beautiful.” Balancing precariously on a protruding tailbone doesn’t seem either attractive or comfortable, but that’s how supermodels have to sit these days because they traded their cheeks for a check.
Tiny feet were a symbol of rank. High-born Chinese women suffered intense pain all their lives, and had to be carried because they could not walk normally on the new-born-size buds that were what had become of their feet. Women used to lie about their shoe size, because small feet were, and still are to some people, a sign of beauty. Now, a woman who wears size eleven or twelve shoes isn’t the exception at all.
Hands were to be kept soft at all costs. Soft, smooth hands indicated servants to do all the work, which indicated money, which indicated good marriage fodder.
There are so many silly interpretations of beauty that I could never go into them all in one post. Besides, I don’t want to.
Clean, kind, honest, ethical, intelligent, humorous, witty, and brave. What outside feature could possibly outrank that? I suppose really shallow people would disagree, and I have a hard time overlooking my own, shall we say, “shortcomings” in the beauty arena, but truth be told, beauty fades and these other qualities are merely enhanced.
Oh, and while it may be true that the old standards of feminine beauty were set by men, I honestly believe that now, women set the standards for beauty. I also believe that women are not very nice to each other when it comes to what’s “beautiful” this week, and what’s “passe.”
Remember Marilyn Monroe? Remember how beautiful she was? Size 12. Elizabeth Hurley has been quoted as saying, “I’d kill myself if I was that fat. . . she was very big.”
I’m not finished yet. I also believe that we women need to start pointing and laughing at 79-pound toothpicks sashaying down the fashion aisle in between bouts of rehab, instead of throwing our money at them and their keepers: the jokers who get rich because somewhere, a woman spends a hundred thousand dollars on a half-yard of fabric, two safety pins, a button, a necklace made of real diamonds that looks like it was strung by an Alzheimer patient on the front porch of a nursing home, assisted by a four-year-old, a hat made of 19 cents worth of purple felt, a feather, and an old rusty key, and shoes consisting of a paper-thin sole, a ten-inch heel, and a single clear plastic strap across the top, in which one cannot walk. As long as there are women who will buy this hideous, overpriced scheisse and wear it, there will be women who pretend to believe that it’s beautiful.
What we need is someone to stand up and say, “The Emperor is naked.” Because, my friends, he is.
*I am NOT being disrespectful here. I am being descriptive. It’s a visual thing.