I stumbled across this image a few days ago. This image brought up a lot of things in me. For one, I’m not big on negativity, so just because one side does it, doesn’t mean the other side should. So the “Feast on the corpses” part is a bit much for me. Besides the whole line is a bit biased.
I will agree that Western Civilization has pretty much always been a man’s world. It has been men who have always dictated how they wanted their women to act; how to dress, who to be, etc. And that’s always been the problem. Their women, like they own all of woman kind. No one really owns anything but themselves. But, try telling that to history… or the present day for that matter.
So, I’ll agree that it is men who are running the show; creating advertisements on the “perfect” and ideal woman. They’ve always told masses of women that they are less than and not good enough. Historical fashion is a huge area; fashions were created for women, by men, to accentuate what they found sexually appealing at the time.
Chinese foot binding? Men came up with that to appease their small foot fetishes. Blacked out teeth in Japan? Men came up with that beauty standard as well because it was arousing for them. Small waists and wide hips of the 18th century, flattened breasts of the 17th century in Spain. Bustles to give the woman a big ole behind in the late Victorian Era. Men decided their own fashions for themselves, and then went ahead and decided it for women as well.
They even have the audacity to set fashion standards and then criticize women for following it. A major example would be crinoline dresses from the mid-Victorian Era. You know the one’s. The very antebellum Southern Belle style dress ala Scarlet O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. Men designed it, wanting women to have the illusion of a hefty bosom, tiny waist, and a generally more rounded out figure. Women took to it like flies on candy and next you have men printing up political cartoons on the absurdity of damn hooped skirts and making fun of how women couldn’t fit through the door ways, or how the skirts were so wide that chickens and other animals could randomly pop out at any minute. Though that was nothing new. Men designed panniers during the 18th century (think Marie Antoinette) and then created political cartoons on how women couldn’t fit through doors then either. Well, if you stopped wanting to accentuate women’s hips for your own sexual observances, none of that would have been a problem.
While I do condemn it, I do love most fashion. It is beautiful and I have always wanted to at least try on the outfit to see how it feels to wear it. But, getting to the beauty is not very pleasant. I remember first seeing the underthings that give the dresses their shapes. I was horrified that they were actually made of metal, and referred to as cages. They seem like eerie torture devices, and yet men deemed that women should wear metal cages to give some oomph to their hips, derrière, or over all enhance the perceived notion of femininity. The fashion is actually quite horrifying when you realize how it works. And yes, those are all actual underthings from their respective time periods. The dresses are historic, except for the last one which is a reproduction.
In the 18th Century, you had cage crinolines in the early part of the century, which is fashion that trickled over from the late 17th century. Think the women from Man In The Iron Mask with Leonardo DiCaprio. Very wide, flowy, billowy skirts. Then came round panniers (pronounced pahnyeh, as they are French). They gave the woman a flat front, but voluminous hips and behind. Then by the mid-late century, wide panniers came into fashion. This gave the woman a flat front and back and only accentuated her hips. Marie Antoinette would have worn both styles of panniers.
Panniers had sizes ranging from modest to extreme; whether round or wide. And of course it depended upon your wealth as to what you’d be wearing. Courtiers and royalty went to great extremes. However, if panniers were not affordable or obtainable, a bum roll or hip rolls were used, thus creating the same silhouette reflective of which ever pannier you were trying to emulate. Bum roll for round (on the sides and back only) and hip rolls for wide. The rolls were very common place in America during the time, so if you go to Colonial Williamsburg women will either be wearing the bum/hip roll and a dress similar to the cream and brown one above or a modest wide panniered dress, which were worn by more affluent women in the colonies.
The same can be said for the bustle and crinolines used from the 1830’s to the turn of the 20th century. There were also corsets to contend with to help give the flat front line seen during the 18th century, which also flattened the breasts, to corsets that helped accentuate more rounded bosoms and smaller waists in the 19th century. Everything was there to reshape and contour to mens desires.
And it’s not like today, where say skinny jeans come on the market and you simply decide not to purchase them. Every women had to wear the exact same thing as every other women; as dictated by a man, because that’s all that was sold; full dress or pattern. The only exceptions seem to be as a women got on in years, she tended to stay in the fashion of her youth. So a woman who was in her late teens and early twenties for the Robe a la Polonaise stage of fashion (late 18th century) would continue to wear it for ever, even though everyone else who was young was wearing Regency era clothing (early 19th century). It didn’t matter if you were poor or a slave, middle class, wealthy or royalty. All women were wearing the same thing, just in more plain or elaborate ways.
This strict fashion really only started changing in about the 1950s. If you were wearing a dress, you were all wearing basically the same thing, however, pants were introduced. From there, fashion deviated more and more into uncharted waters and various designs simultaneously. So that today, in 2016 women are wearing active wear, yoga pants, long skirts, short skirts, denim in all types of styles and widths, shorts, day dresses, play dresses, tights, leggings, etc. There’s not any single dominant trend that I have to adhere to. I do not have to wear pixie pants or skinny jeans or long skirts if I don’t want to.
However, the fashion industry is still a male dominated sphere. Men create it, expecting women to wear it. In history, though we were all wearing the same one thing (just different prints, depending upon the fabric we liked and could afford), and the items were made to our specifications. Men didn’t need to worry with the schematics of the female form because they made us cinch it all in and then get the item made to our trimmer proportions. However, women have done away with corsets, and no one’s getting their clothes tailored, and men still don’t wish to understand the schematics of the female form (or that it’s a very large range), though they still insist on choosing what we wear. Men even came up with slips, brassieres and panties that women would wear. It didn’t matter if it was a chemise to go under the corset with crotch-split bloomers so that you could do your business without taking your dress off (because you really couldn’t), or the flowy box panties of the 1920s and camisoles or the first ever bra. Men came up with it all.
So, now we have ill-fitting clothes. We can breathe now, but instead of looking polished a lot of us look like we grabbed clothing out of a dark room while blind-folded. Also, we were under the impression that with so many choices, we, as the wearer, had every right to choose which clothing we wanted to purchase and to wear. However, once again men come to our rescue, by telling us we’re too fat to be seen in something like that, or that a more svelte body should be wearing skin-tight see through leggings. But, of course they are there to remind us that while they like slutty, we should also not be slutty and wear something too come-hither. And if we’re too fat, which is what…? Anyone over a size 4? 6? 8? Then there’s Spanx for that.
Yes, I’m rolling my eyes right now.
The only reason I don’t wear skinny jeans is because I can’t stand anything binding me around my ankles or wrists. So, I won’t wear shirts that bind there either. I won’t wear sweat pants for the same reason since it cinches up around the ankles. It runs in my family. My sister, who is very skinny, can’t stand the feeling either. Neither her or myself, along with our dad like crew neck T-shirts as we feel like we are being strangled. We just don’t like the feel of them on our clavicles. I have seen very large ladies rocking some skinny jeans. It’s just not for me because of the ankle bit. Pixie jeans/pants I would wear, but they don’t make them in my size. I’m short and fat. So, in Lane Bryant, they just look like high waters on me, and Old Navy doesn’t carry my size.
This is because men who do not understand, nor apparently care to understand, create clothes for women. Fat girls are all giantesses, soaring to heights of 5’7″ or more, with waists the same as their hips. My waist is smaller than my hips, so I can’t shop for clothes at Walmart, because for one I’m not tall enough, and secondly all the waists are open while the thighs are tight. More and more women complain about not being able to find something, off rack, that actually fits them. Because men’s fashion for women is based purely on assumptions, and apparently they could care less.
However, for all the amount of damage that men do, running their ad campaigns of “perfect” bodies, or creating clothes for women, and discussing what we should and should not wear, it was women who caused the most damage in my early life. Women telling me that I was lesser than, not good enough, too this or not enough that. Women telling me who I should and shouldn’t be. Women telling me that I was fat. It wasn’t until I hit my teen years that men came onto that playing field at all; whether personally or through advertisements.
Men shoveled out the propaganda and the women happily lapped it up and spit it out to their daughters. My grandmothers taught their daughters exactly how to live in a man’s world; and then my mother and aunts tried to instill it in me. “You’re too loud, to be a lady you must be quiet.” “You’re too fat, you need to go on this diet.” “Sit with your legs closed, even though you’re in pants or shorts” “Don’t run around, ladies don’t run.” “If he hits you or bullies you (in school), then he likes you.” “If he touches you, he likes you.” “Don’t say no.”
All the ways in which to appease men’s sensibilities and I’m sure it was drilled in by their mothers and their mothers’ mothers. It was all this elaborate game to be accepted into society by other women who were following the rules and the men they hoped to be owned by one day.
Men may have set up the rules, but women were going to follow it to the letter or die. My own mother told her five-year-old daughter that she was too fat, nothing like her willowy sister or other girls and shamed me for it. Made me feel as I had done something wrong and was a stain of some sort to the family image. I was bigger than most girls, but it was all genes, and nothing I could really do about it (though I didn’t understand genetics then and wouldn’t for awhile). Her salacious pestering (and that of other women in my extended family, or women who were family friends) caused me to start eating a lot a few years later, because what did it matter. They caused me to worry about my weight, which was only an imagined problem, long before I saw Victoria’s Secret models or had boys tell me that how dare I find them cute or that I should look like so and so.
Also when I was mercilessly bullied at the private Catholic school that my mother made me attend, she told me the boys liked me. Laughed at me for being so naive, because this was a good thing. Even when I tried to explain that they would pants me and shove me over and laugh. To her it was the same as the boy who set her hair on fire or beat her with a broom in pre-school. That’s how boys show affection. I stopped telling her when I was bullied, and ate that sorrow away as well.
The kicker is that the same was done and told to her. Her mother starved her and put her on diets when she was really young; telling her that she was fat, when she was not. Telling her those boys liked her and that’s how life works and that it’s OK. My mother hated her own mother for doing these things to her, and yet somehow couldn’t see that she did it to her own daughters in turn. My sister received different treatment, but just as damning. Since she had inherited our fathers structure instead of our mothers as I had, she wasn’t condemned for being fat. But, my mother was always talking about how fat was the worst thing to be, and she saw how I was treated, so my sister wouldn’t eat for fear that she would become the worst thing ever.
My dad never skirted the subject of me being fat until I was about fifteen or sixteen. By then, his was a just a pebble to add to the large pile I carried around. Though, I was larger than other girls, I still was not this obese person they all saw me to be. But at least his talks were nice in a way. He wasn’t rude or condescending and said he’d walk with me and eat the same foods, if I went on a diet or wanted to walk. He asked… and said he would also participate… if I wanted. It incensed me since it brought up this issue of my weight, but was very different from my mother who would exclaim that I was just “so fat!” and force me onto diets and shame me every step of the way… or how she said that no man could ever love me. She didn’t give reasons, but I suppose it was the weight issue and probably just who I was as a person.
Now, I have known girls personally, and also read their stories online, about how men abused them sexually when they were younger or men leered at them for maturing too fast or any other gross things. I did have some leerings, but not until my mid-teen years because I was this “super gross ugly fat” girl. So, I don’t really know what that is like, though it is sickening and I feel badly for the girls that had to go through that mess. But, they also have stories in there of women who told them they were not good enough either. Women are always there puppeting men’s laws for women. Drilling it into little girls. Perhaps it wasn’t your own mother, but you know who that woman was (or women). An aunt, several aunts, a grandmother, a family friend, a teacher, a friends mother. There might have even been some random woman you didn’t even know. I had those too.
I’m not even going to call it something nice and pretty. It is abuse. Emotional (and possibly physical) abuse. I understand that abuse does strange things to people; it makes them shut it out and deny it and to also perpetrate that abuse elsewhere. So, I can’t entirely fault the women who have been yoked into this abuse for generations upon generations. But it needs to be addressed, none-the-less. I’m certain that my mother is not an evil monster who is out to get me. She simply endured abuse in her formative years, bottled it up, repressed it and ended up spitting it back out onto her daughters, and doesn’t really realize what she did.
Ladies, this is a problem. I’m not saying it’s easy to break that cycle, not at all. But it can be done. It took me a very long time to even see that all of my issues were created for me and not by me. One was that I adored swimming, but I was shamed and policed so much about my body, that I stopped swimming as a teenager or would cover up more. You can’t swim in a T-shirt and shorts, and therefore they were miserable times when I did try to swim. Now, I am an obese woman and I wear a one piece and swim the hell out of the pool, because I realized I don’t have time to forgo things that I love just to appease someone else’s sensibilities. I enjoy swimming again because swimming means more to me than people’s skewed opinions of me. The issues of body image were issues of my mother, and her mother, and so on and so forth. I noticed how and when I had been poisoned to hate myself, to realize I was lesser than and not good enough. My mothers words, along with countless other women, and then men were the culprits. However, I did not merely wake-up one day and notice.
It took other women, writing about their own experiences and abuse for me to wake up and realize my own plight. If they’d kept silent, as we’re “supposed” to do, according to men, dictated by women, then I never would have had the spark to say, “Wait a minute…Wait just one damn minute…”; for me to take every issue in my life that kept circling around in my head and have it finally paint the picture I’d been denying myself to understand.
Some may say, “Oh, you were led to that. You’re reading too much into it all.” However, it’s simply not true. No one painted the picture of my life for me, they simply helped in rearranging the jumbled painting so that I could finally see what had been staring me in the face the entire time. And the rearrangement was startling and scary initially. I tried to back away from it, give reasons why it couldn’t be true, simply because I was in uncharted waters here. Suddenly I was adrift on an endless sea of memories. Things that I didn’t want to acknowledge or look at, things that had been holding me back to the shore in my self-inflicted torment of “comfort”.
But, I was at the bottom of a chasm. The same degrading thoughts abounded and spiraled in my head; they made me completely miserable. I simply didn’t have enough energy to retreat back into the misery and simply pushed forward on unsteady feet. I’d reached my breaking point. Perhaps you have not.
Am I a brilliantly happier person today? Yes and no. Walking ahead instead of retreating back into my “comfort zone” of denial did help a lot. It was extremely painful emotionally, but it helped me drop a lot of burden that was never mine to bear. Your issues and feelings will be different. But personally, it helped me to end the ceaseless days where I would look in the mirror and detest myself so vehemently. It helped me judge myself less. It helped me to not have seething fits of contempt and hysterics over how disgusting I looked in any of my clothes; in my own skin; in my own soul.
At about eleven or twelve, my conditioning had pretty much set in. For 365 days out of the year, I was, perhaps, only mildly and acceptably “happy” with my appearance for perhaps seven, random and non-consecutive days. Now, I might have seven days out of an entire year, where it’s just a bad day for me and I don’t like my clothes or hair or face. I think that’s predominantly human of me. The former, not at all. I could be someone who doesn’t see the shell as a thing to nitpick, but I haven’t gotten there yet. 7/365 is a HUGE deal for me and I remind myself of this and my conditioned teenage self-loathing when I do have a bad day.
Some would say that teenage self-loathing is normal. But I don’t think that it should be. It’s only terrible because you’re starting to learn about your body and you’re learning it from fashion ads, films, and television; all unobtainable beauty standards. So is everyone else your age. Then factor in varying levels of early age conditioning by all of those kids. It’s a vicious cycle. I’ll agree that there should probably be a little bit of angst and uncertainty because changes are happening and hormones are fluctuating, but the bottomless self-deprecation and self-loathing is not normal.
Also life isn’t always about happy. We strive for happy, we try to make happy, but happy simply can’t fill the space of every single day in a persons life. I do still have struggles, shedding some of the abuse done to me, some of the notions which are so ingrained that I’m still learning to recognize them and when I see the problem I work on shedding that as well. It’s a constant thing, but it’s not anywhere near as detrimental or difficult as before. Before I learned to re love myself.
Most of the dialogue that I see online is how someone needs to learn to love them self or find self-love. It seems misleading. Everyone already loves themselves when they are children, but then are conditioned to lose that and only hate themselves for not measuring up to impossible standards. Again should be a defining term. Learn to love yourself again, is infinitely more real and truthful.
Am I a more perfect person today? Yes and no. I am, nor will ever be “perfect”, just as millions of women will never be “perfect”. Sure some are perfect by todays beauty standards, while some are perfect for past beauty standards and will be perfect for future ones. But the simple truth is that beauty standards are abysmal to a woman’s psychosis; to everything of her very fibre. They’re harmful and generally very unattainable when you’re just being you… which really is the only person whom you should be.
It is also highly improbable to change the system by having women actually inside of it, directing beauty standards and producing fashion. That is a drop in the pond. The real change is to buck the system. Learning to love yourself again, to find your own worth and share it with fellow women is why change has begun to happen. Things may never change completely and I can’t promise that they will. But, when you change, yourself, so much of that burden and heartache simply falls away. It’s a nice place to begin. When more women find a way to break the spell, beauty standards will change; not for a different ultimate beauty, but a beauty that is all of us. Because when you realize that it’s all bullshit and stop listening, then who will they have left to be pandering to?
Also no one will ever be truly perfect because humans just aren’t perfect. But you can be perfect for you. I do work on myself and try to re attune myself; laughing again as I did as a child or letting go of some notion that I was taught that only hinders me or hurts others. But, overall it is now a pleasure to be me. The me that I remember. The me that was born on this Earth. So, You is a fantastic person to be. The real you; the one you were born to be and not merely conditioned to be. Fly your “Freak Flag”! There are no Freak Flag police. Discover who you are. Be you and own it. Own it so that no one can ever take it from you again.
Be your fabulous self. You’re in there. You are!