The “thin ideal” of beauty is culturally bound- find the artist that shows YOU are the beauty ideal!
The arts have always reflected the culture of the day in which they were created, this is something that we’ve all been taught in our k-12 educations, and if we are lucky in an art survey class somewhere along the way in our higher education careers. One thing that may take a little more mental gymnastics is considering how the arts define and shape the culture of the day and the values we hold. I find myself bemoaning the apparent degradation of modern culture and its value on all things explicit and sexualized- my poor husband is ever supportive of my rants. I think it is very important though for all of us to critically analyze the values that we can so easily internalize, for example: “thin= healthy” or “thin= normal” or “thin= the only acceptable body shape.” My sister recently brought this article from The Guardian to my attention “Art’s great nudes have gone skinny.” I was horrified to see something that I already knew deep down. The article shows reimagining’s of some of the most recognizable works of artistic genius through a 21st century standard of beauty. Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano highlights the absurdity of our myopic view of women and beauty as she shaves down the beautiful curves of Botticelli’s Venus, and puts the lusty Goddess as depicted by many artists on a crash diet to the end goal of our modern thin ideal. I can’t imagine this sensuous character, Venus goddess of love, looking into a mirror critiquing her shape while also embodying the qualities most essential to her: desire, rapture, and passion. I cannot imagine her eating a restrictive diet and punishing herself through excessive exercise to lose that “last 10 lbs.” I wonder if she ever considered the master-cleanse or the paleo diet. Perhaps she reaches her daily limit of points after consuming too many honey soaked figs and must go to bed on an empty stomach.
Surely part of the loveliness of women in the time periods of some of the greatest artists involved the softness of curves unique to the beauty of a women’s physique! I also imagine that these curvy women were not considered to be “overweight” or unhealthy, rather their sturdy vigor was a sign of health and vitality as well as fertility. So after really analyzing art and culture, which for us 21st century folk often takes the form of the airbrush rather than the paintbrush, we see that the thin ideal is culture bound. It occurs in the context of current societal values rather than lasting truths. You and I have the freedom to say we value the hardiness of Botticelli’s Venus over Ralph Lauren and Dolce and Gabbana’s malnourished and sexually dominated women. I will end this post by saying, not all women are curvy, not all women are slender, women are women and no matter what size or shape you are there is a place for your beautiful body in cultural values- it is your job to find that and internalize it. Love what you’ve got and find others who can share your understanding of diverse beauty! Essentially- you go girl!