Ideals of womanhood

Some of us do not feel happy in their body. We’re too fat, too thin, too big or too small, we have some or other body part that we don’t like… the list is endless. These ideas that we deviate from some ‘beauty standard’ is something that has been going on for a very long time. All cultures have some ideal of a woman, both in the shape of her body and in the qualities she should possess. And while that is perfectly alright (we all have a certain idea in our head when someone says ‘horse’ as well, so why not when someone says ‘woman’), it is also perfectly alright to deviate from this ideal. Everybody is different, and exactly that is what makes women (and men, for that matter) beautiful in their own way. We don’t have to live up to these ideals, that are most often unattainable. We just have to accept who we are as personalities and accept the way our body looks. Nobody can prescribe how we should look or act, we are the ones to decide that for ourselves.

Okay, my rant is over 😉 I actually wanted to write about how these ideals of a female body have changed over the course of time, but then something else flew out of my hands.

Venus_von_Willendorf_01You all know the prehistoric female figurines that have been found all over Europe. They seem to focus on the breasts and the belly, with a faceless head and barely any legs or arms. Female body parts, enlarged to make the distinction between men and women. To me, this is still the embodiment of womanhood: the ability to bear children (ie give life) and to nurture them. It’s also one of the ways I see the Goddess, and from what I have seen online, I’m not the only one. Whether these images were made by men, as ideal women, or, as I read in this amazing article, by women looking down on their own body, that doesn’t matter. It most likely depicts the prehistoric ‘norm’ for the female body.

That has changed, however. If you look at paintings from the Renaissance, women have much more Birth of Venusshape. Artists still focused on the breasts and somewhat on the belly, but the broad hips and in general curved figure of women became more apparent. This was what men searched for in a woman. And this figure has also prevailed. If you think about drawing a woman (and I’m not that good of an artist), you draw the curvature of the breasts on the chest and broaden the hips, creating this timeglass figure. It is a way to show off the real, anatomical differences between men and woman, similar to the prehistoric figures, but somewhat more nuanced.

And then we come more to the present day. Clothes models with beautiful, curved bodies distracted the audience from the clothes, so tall, skinny girls were sought out to present the clothes. And this has turned into the norm for female beauty. Only look at Barbie and you know how rediculous this is (though she is an extreme example), as Nickolay Lamm has shown. Some women have a slender body, yes, but others do not and it makes no sense whatsoever to try and look different. It’s just the build we have.

Ideals of womanhood have changed very much over the centuries, but I hope we’re at a breakthrough now: all female bodies are perfect. And all female bodies are in essence beautiful, so long as you display you are happy with yourself. Because real beauty comes from within and has nothing to do with the way you look. Even though you might have your own idea about what a women is or perhaps should be (we all do), don’t worry about appearances. They are just that and can hide people who are gorgeous inside!

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