History of Image

I sit on campus a lot and people watch. Actually, I don't do that much any more, because I work all over the whole dang valley in elementary schools these days, so any time spent sitting is now spent on my feet, beating the pavement. But I still people watch.

I don't think I've ever not done this. I people watch and notice things about them. Men and women alike. I notice their hair cuts, their hair color, I notice their complexion, I notice the way their clothes fit them, I notice their facial expressions...

Over the last few months, I've done a lot of people watching. And I'll be darned if I ever saw one person and thought that they were unsightly. But I guarantee you, a majority of those people, especially women, look in the mirror and notice what they're looking for. Because people are wanting to improve, wanting to be better. Unfortunately, the way they do that is through criticism. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe it's not bad to critique yourself. However, I'd say that now, the criticism does more bad than good, if it does any good at all.

I wanted to learn more about body image. I wanted to learn what people think is attractive, and what they had thought was attractive through the decades, nay. Through the centuries.

1500- Elizabethan Era. This was when Leonardo was the shiz and all that stuff. We gain, from the paintings we have, that the desirable look was a bell shape. Narrow on top, and wide at the bottom.

1600- A hundred years later, this is when corsets were all the rage. Whale bone corsets, though, and a bit looser. These women could still breathe, but were confining them selves for heaven knows why. I'm guessing that the popular shape with these corsets was straight up and down.

1700- TIGHT corsets. Iron corsets. Hour glass figures.

1800- Even tighter corsets, and fuller skirts, just a more emphasized version of 1700, not all that different really.

1850- This is what interested me. This fad was only 50 years after the last one, the previous ones lasted for a hundred years each. This look was a more full figure, filled out, not so tight.

1900- S shaped spine

1910- Athletic body

1920- "Masculine" look, meaning not much body shape, long torso...

1930- The return of the corset. Wide hips, and a full bust, with a tiny waist.

1940- Full figures with a small waist. Marilyn Monroe era right here.

1960- A big jump here, now Twiggy was the celebrity. Very slender and thin.

1970- The hippy style. This was all about embracing natural style, natural shape, but most women wanted small waist, small hips, and a large bust.

1980- Dieting and exercising. A fit body, but nice curves.

1990- Weight loss really became a big thing here. Women were cutting down.

2000- "The ultimate shape" meaning thin. Women started resulting to radical measures to be thin.

And now here we are.

I've been intrigued on social media, lately.  Pinterest, in particular. I think every woman, every woman's daughter, and every woman's daughter's dog, and that dog's daughter, has a pinterest board about fitness. And these fitness pins usually say something motivating like "If it burns, you're doing it right." or "Running won't kill you, just do it anyways." or "Stop making excuses." And then these pictures are accompanied by people with abs like Jacob Black from Twilight, but SURPRISE, the person in the picture is a girl, not a werewolf.

Another thing that has been going around is a picture of a girl, a mom of three, with the abs mentioned above, and the line "What's you're excuse?"

Now we go to the other end of the spectrum. The end where people are really working to be healthy, heck, maybe they are healthy! But they post these pictures of very curvy women and say "THIS IS REAL BEAUTY."

I'm particularly interested in this whole curvy women thing. This campaign about loving your curves was started to combat the forces from the media, saying that beauty was thin. I'm not saying this is bad. Love your curves, please do. But I think there was an over correction here. I think people were feeling so bad for glorifying the "ultimate body" that they over corrected to say "NO! This body is the beautiful one!"

I'd venture to say that the majority of women are not exactly what media would call the "ultimate body". Most women have curves. Most women do not have 2% body fat. Making those women feel comfortable, making the majority of women feel comfortable and beautiful is good. It's important, and good for image.

But then there are the people who are in the middle. Not fit. Not twig-slender. But not curvy either. I think I fall into that category. I have no six pack. I also don't really have curves. And I can't fit into a size 0 jeans.

There has been no campaign to make people like me feel comfortable and beautiful.

But does there need to be? Does there need to be a huge movement to make my group feel beautiful? If you look at that history above, ideal body shape has changed from one end to the other, sometimes in a matter of 50 years. But why is that. Why do we need to be told what we need to look like in order for ourselves to look in that mirror and feel good?

Setting goals is great. It's AWESOME. People should set goals left and right. Healthiness, and a body shape that suits your purposes and keeps your heart beating should be a TOP goal! But some of us aren't there yet. Do we need to stand in front of the mirror and yell at ourselves until we cry? Because that won't do any good. Yelling at yourself won't make you strong, it will just break you down.

People always emphasize the journey of things, but this seems to be one place that they do not. It's all about the goal weight, the goal of what you want to be able to run in 20 minutes, the goal of how much you can bench press. No body really cares about what they hit along the way, because it's not what they want yet. Or if they do celebrate, it's a "Oh ok. But still working towards that..."

I'm just rambling now. I just. I just want people to love their bodies as they are. Even if it's not what they want it to be yet, even if it isn't the prime healthy body yet, just love it how it is, because it's yours. It's the one thing you can truly claim in this world as being your own. And it deserves some respect, and it deserves some love. Not just your body, but everyone's. No more of this comparing and contrasting as to what beauty is, because it is all around you in the very DNA of your body, the miracle of your cell structure and glory of your respiratory system. We're living, breathing, walking, crawling, wheeling, limping, laughing, jumping, smiling, crying, loving art. All over.

1 comment:

Katie said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!! It makes me sad to see people so obsessed with looking a certain way, and feeling like they can't be happy with who they are until they do. And often that ideal is completely unreachable. Like you, I want my goal to be to be healthy, not skinny. I'm not quite there yet (in my goals, I mean), but I'm getting there.