Prior to the days of digital and social media, the idea of female beauty was demonstrated through writings, works of art and print media. The Oxford English Dictionary contains the word “Rubenesque” to describe the large, voluptuous women in the paintings by the Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens. “He loved portrayal of women, who had “meat on their bones, as well as middle aged women, who were a normal part of society at that time” (Peter Paul Rubens, 2011). It is interesting that so many middle-aged women in 2016 have “meat on their bones” as the average weight of American women as of 2010 was 160 pounds (Cloe 2015). This was the image of womanhood. It was so powerful, artists such as Rubens, Degas and even Michelangelo painted women with curves. However, this is anything but reflected in how women are supposed to be perceived today.
Open any of these magazines today: Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and you will see skinny models not only in ads for fashion designers, but in ads for makeup, hair products, handbags and jewelry. Celebrities are celebrated for being so thin, their bones show. Ad on how smartphone apps can distort someone’s image to make them look thinner and body shaming on social media, and it makes sense that women today are bombarded with the message that thin is beautiful.
The cult of true womanhood is derived from middle to upper classes from nineteenth century America that purported a woman’s life was centered on domesticity and the home. The way these women dressed was restrictive and bloomers were a way to dress more freely and to show independence. Women have come a long way since then with freedoms not imaginable to the nineteenth century woman, but current media trends mirror beliefs from that very era: it projects the way a woman is “supposed to look” based on a fictional view of women that is, in fact, created by the media and not based on reality.
- Cloe, A. (2015). Average American woman’s height and weight. Livestrong.com. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/357769-weight-height-for-the-average-american-woman/
- Peter Paul Rubens and his paintings. Peterpaulrubens.net. Retrieved from http://www.peterpaulrubens.net/