Sunday, August 28, 2011
Beauty through the ages
I've been looking at images of women's bodies through time and how beauty standards have changed. Over the last 100 years or so the "ideal beauty" has become much more unattainable for the average woman.
In her book The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, Joan Jacobs Brumberg argues that increased access to mirrors in the 1800s helped spur middle-class Victorian obsessions with the body.
Now add in images from magazines, the internet and television and you have the perfect recipe for creating insecurity in girls and women. The cosmetics, plastic surgery and diet industries spend millions of dollars each year convincing us that our bodies aren't good enough. “You never see the photograph of a woman, considered beautiful, that hasn’t been digitally altered to make her absolutely, inhumanly perfect. Girls are being encouraged to achieve that ideal at younger and younger ages all the time. They end up measuring themselves against an impossible standard and feeling themselves wanting as a result.” — Jean Kilbourne
Throughout most of history, round bodies with hips and curves were considered beautiful. Still not all women met this standard of beauty, but it was much more representative of the average woman. Now beautiful is considered to be a size zero, ideally along with large breasts, a combination rarely seen naturally. I highly recommend Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, for anyone who hasn't read it. It goes much deeper into this. I find looking at art and early photography I can see myself in the women depicted, I can appreciate their beauty and my own. The modern idea of beauty usually just makes me feel bad about myself because it's so unattainable and so far removed from how I look.