The Body Un-Naturale

22 05 2011

There’s another wedding in the family and, since I don’t have a bunch of wedding-related baking to provide an excuse this time around and because this one sounds like a much more formal affair, I have had to focus more on what I will look like and what I will wear. This has meant that I’ve been looking at clothes and caring about whether they might do anything to improve the sorry state of affairs that is my physique or at least distract from it. This has led me to look at clothing ads and even the odd fashion magazine for an idea for a wedding appropriate outfit that won’t make me look foolish. Shopping for clothing is never a fun time for me. Shopping for shoes can be enjoyable. So can shopping for jewelry and makeup, but looking for anything that covers any region from my arms to my ankles (with the exception of good, comfy, cotton t-shirts)  is a long, tedious process for which I honestly have little patience.

I’ve often thought that it was because I have so little in common with the fashion industry’s six-foot tall, ninety-two pound idea of beauty and that is mostly true, except that, thanks to Photoshop, the fashion industry – and our culture’s – idea of beauty is no longer simply extremely difficult to attain. It’s now practically impossible, even un-natural. It’s now a seventy-two pound idea of beauty.

This is a rather well-publicized example from a few years ago. If you haven’t picked out what’s wrong, allow me to point out that, in addition to her absurdly stick figure-like limbs, her head is about the same size as her pelvis and is larger than her waist. That does not occur in nature… ever. It just doesn’t. An emaciated adult’s head isn’t larger the their waist. Also, while this particular image did get some media attention, it is by no mean a rarity. Victoria’s Secret ads and all the ones in the magazines are loaded with heavily Photoshopped, skeletal waifs glowering and pouting. Is it just me or do they look hungry? Do people even find these modified images sexy?

I’m a little too old and a little too rational in terms of my understanding of anatomically feasible thinness to be made to feel inadequate by these images, but it does concern me in terms of its effect on younger, more self-conscious individuals. I mean creating a goal that’s impossible to achieve and then foisting it upon girls at an ever decreasing age strikes me as a problem waiting to happen. I remember how desperately I wanted to be skinny and pretty as a fat, plain preteen and that was in the olden days of the nineties when models and other “beautiful people” were just anorexic and on drugs. Now they’re digitally modified, too.

A while back I was working on a post that never made the cut and I found this photo of Sophia Loren from the late sixties. She was a sex symbol in her day, but at the same time she was still very much a flesh and blood human being with the physical flaws that come with being human as opposed to digital. At one point in time not too very long ago, this image and those of other attractive, unaltered women made up the idea of beauty in our culture. If your thighs were a little less than sculpted or your breast weren’t disproportionately large and up by your chin, it was OK. You would be viewed as pretty, desirable, and the like because you were beautiful even though you weren’t flawless.

There are mountains of things that I find wrong with the 50’s and 60’s views on women, but I think that the scale on which female looks were judged was a healthy one. Where we as a society have worked to break down ideas that negatively effected women’s view of themselves in the areas of career, and family, and personal worth, and pretty much everywhere else, we have made it harder and harder for women and girls to view their bodies in a positive light and that, in turn, has an adverse effect on all of the other things we’ve improved on. If a person can’t be confident with the way they look, they won’t be able to radiate the confidence they need to in order to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves whether those goals are personal, professional, or what have you.

That picture of Sophia Loren makes me feel pretty good about myself, not because I in any way resemble that when I’m wearing just my underwear, but because it’s honest. Even the best looking among us has a flaw here and there. Even the ones that are deemed beautiful are never perfect. That’s normal. She might not be perfect, but she’s healthy, confident, and quite pretty.

I tried to keep this photo in mind when I was in the fitting room at Victoria’s Secret.








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