Monday, November 15, 2010

Get fat and look beautiful

While looking at a book of food advertising, I came across these images from the end of the XIX century. They are a poster and an advertisement for Lorings weight-gain products, called Fat-ten-U.



And then I came across this cartoon from the New York Post.

Notice any difference? At the end of the XIX century, the message - and the underpinning ideal of female beauty - couldn't be more different from what TV and fashion magazine impose on us every day: don't look like the poor unfortunate on the left, who tries to cover her poor thin body.  

The ideal concept of female beauty has changed dramatically over time. If the Venus of Willendorf was identifying beauty with a very full figure, most of the Medieval era paintings depict Saints - women and man - that are starved to the point of anorexia. Being able to resist food, getting extremely emaciated, was considered for a long time a sign of being pious, as opposed to the sinful gluttonous. With Enlightment, the fasting practice was fronwed upon: "fasting girls" started to be considered as affected by a pathology, not as pious women.  And by the end of the XIX century, as the Loring's advertisement suggests, we are back to the ideal of beauty as a full figure woman (albeit different than the original Venus...)

When did it all change back to emaciated=hot? Looking at Marylin Monroe and at Madmen's Christina Hendricks, it seems that up until the '60s of last century, plump was still beautiful. Some point out that the androgynization of the female figure went hand in hand with feminism and the mass entry of women in the workforce: hiding your curves - or better still, NOT having curves - started to be considered the wise thing to do on the workplace. And that's probably how we ended up with the ideas that skeletons are hot.

Irrespective of what is your opinion on this, one point seems for sure: throughout history, society always seems to be dissatisfied with what women look like, suggesting that they should always look like something they are not. As for me, I would take Christina Hendricks or Jessica Simpson over Kate Moss any day.


8 comments:

Britgirl said...

Im cracking up at that Romo cartoon as I hadn't seen it before. As for the weight gain product..it seems to have an underground following here in Texas :p
Seriously being sexy is all about confidence and being comfortable (and healthy) in ones own skin.
We have one life( my belief) and its meant to be full of love and fun....whatever it takes to stay strong and healthy is the key to optimum sex appeal

Tuscan foodie in America said...

I agree, self confidence is the key to being sexy. And yes, that cartoon is actually cruel, but it is a good one.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I also think that perceptions of attractiveness have something to do with wealth and status. If you were a little plump pre 1950, you probably weren't a laborer and could afford a surplus of food. Now, anybody with $5 can go to a fast food joint and buy more calories than they will need for all day, and it's nothing special to have a job where you sit on your butt all day. But if you're rich, you can afford to hire a personal trainer, and eat high quality food, and have the time to work out. Skinny = wealthy in the same way that plump = wealthy half a century ago.

-Brian

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Brian, welcome and thanks! You are onto something here. I have heard of an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where the attractiveness of a man depends on how big his belly is. The larger the belly, the richer the man, the more attractive he is.

I want to move there.

Anonymous said...

There are still some countries where voluptuous women are preferred over skinny women but those are few and far between. Women, more so than men, are the worst about the weight issue against other women. Take the blogger for Marie Claire who wrote an offensive blog about the Mike & Molly show that features 2 significantly overweight characters. Also, do you really think Anna Wintour would ever put a beautiful plus size women in VOGUE? (By the way, being a size 10 or 12 is not considered plus size in my book! If you can buy your clothes in the standard section without any adjective to describe your size or section, you are not plus sized!) The fashion industry is to blame for this war women have with being fat v being curvy v. being thin v. being a 10 year old boy!
The waif look was epitomized by Kate Moss and brought to us by Calvin Klein and sparked the downfall of women with curves. Now, Calvin Klein has the AUDACITY to "make" clothes for more voluptuous or "plus" size women. This line should be boycotted.
YMW

Tuscan foodie in America said...

YMW, what really bothers me is that there ALWAYS seems to be a disconnect between how women are at a specific moment in time, and how they are SUPPOSED (but by whom??) to be...

And by the way, the next that says that Jessica Simpson or Bristol Palin are fat, I promise I will go berserk.

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks you made my day with this its great knowing someone out there actually gets it other than girls who are considered ugly for being overweight. it makes me sad like what the hell happened i would have been considered beautiful now i get laughed at for my genetics i barely eat and people still think that i hide twinkies in my fat cause my parents were.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Anonymous, I often think that in a different nation I would simply considered rich because of my potbelly...

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