Have you ever noticed how the very first nude statues and paintings of women never showed pubic hair? Why is that? Why have we always felt such a strong need to idealize the human body and selectively portray the best parts?
Look at these images and models, all depicting the same figure throughout history:
Although some artists have deviated from this perspective of women on certain occasions, this is indisputably the norm. It has always been the norm, long before television and advertising, that an artistic “nude” is not the “naked” body, but an airbrushed version. It is this same mindset that has brought us from smooth, hairless statues and the “Venus Pudica” to the Barbie Doll and the Victoria’s Secret Angels that we see strutting the runway this very moment at the much anticipated annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
These ideal nude figures all share flowing hair, large breasts, flawless skin, and most of all, flat stomachs and long, slender legs. It is humanly impossible to naturally look like this and we shouldn’t try to. How did we all end up so far from the truth?
“If Barbie was a real woman she’d be forced to walk on all fours and would be physically incapable of lifting her over-sized head,” her “bones so frail it would be impossible to walk” and her body too small to hold her organs. Even with this knowledge out there, Barbie is still selling, and still promoting her image to young girls over television ads everywhere. Even with the knowledge that Barbie’s body is comparable to a severe case of anorexia, we can’t help but go along with it. What’s the harm in admiring beautiful women? What’s the harm in cutting back on a few more calories? Trust me, the line between those statements is very fine. No one falls into an eating disorder with the intention to starve to death.
“The death rate for eating disorders is high: it ranges between 18% (in 20-year studies) and 20% (in 30-year follow-up studies). In fact, the annual death rate associated with anorexia is more than 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all other causes combined for females between 15 and 24 years old.” (NEDIC)
“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” (Dr. Gail Dines). It sucks to grow up surrounded by these images. It sucks that even though we may be aware of those statistics and those awful advertising messages, we buy into it all anyway because that’s all we’ve ever known. That’s the reason this ideal nude has prevailed over millenniae. We know the values are wrong, but with the prevalence of sex appeal in modern-day advertising, it is inevitable that these images are here to stay for some time. After all, they sell well.
As unfortunate as that reality is, the importance of promoting strength over skinniness, of universal beauty and a healthy lifestyle, is crucial. No girl has ever stared in a mirror and loved every part of her body. But I’ve found that every “real beauty” ad that I see gives me a little more hope that one day I won’t feel so guilty hours after eating dessert. We have to change the way humans perceive beauty itself. Although that may seem like an impossibility, I still hope that someday, we will no longer have little girls feeling proud after a successful day of starvation. I hope they’ll never have to make themselves sick after a meal to get rid of the taste of self-disgust, to cleanse the feeling of swimming in fat. I hope, perhaps against hope, that a woman can one day stare at her body in the mirror and see strength, in whatever form, instead of ponder her right to wear a bikini. Is that too much to ask?
- Why The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Is Damaging To A Woman’s Psyche (elitedaily.com)
- The Perfect Barbie Doll. (beyondboulevard.wordpress.com)
- Barbie In Real Life (whattheflicka.com)