Once again, I’m going to branch off just a tad. (Sorry, this might become a common occurrence, so be prepared.) I wanted to write about something I read in a non-fiction history book: feminine beauty.
The book: The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks. New York, NY: Theia (2002) ISBN – 0-7868-8451-7
The passage: “The pirate dream girl of the 1690s looks so different from today’s model, circa 2002, that it bears pointing out. While individual preferences, of course, varied from dreamer to dreamer, the desired type as featured in novels such as Moll Flanders and erotic engravings of the time period, were not skinny girls, but women full in the hips, thighs, and buttocks, with firm abundant flesh and medium to smallish, half-cantaloupe breasts. (Large breasts–highly impractical before the invention of the brassiere around 1915–suited peasant wet nurses.)”
Zacks was right about the dream girl being different. I am often astonished by the how variant beauty has been throughout history. For example, take the Miss America winners. (And, yes, I recognize that this isn’t the best judge of beauty, but it’s got a long history, and it’s not too bad for an example either.)
Here is a picture of the current reigning Miss America, Caressa Cameron:
And here is the first Miss America, Margaret Gorman:
Both women are quite pretty, but Ms. Gorman would probably not even place in today’s contest because tastes have changed so much. This makes me a bit sad for all of the women who are surgically altering their bodies to attain today’s ideals and standards. And, perhaps worse, the females who are endangering their health by not eating, or vomiting, or over-exercising in order to become more “beautiful.”
Since we women are so interested in physical beauty*, is it possible – through a look at history – to show how inconsistent beauty is? Not that it will cause women to spend less, (I don’t want to think about how much I’ve spent on cosmetic products this year!) but hopefully, they may think twice before doing permanent damage.
This also made me think about which time period I would be considered “most beautiful.” (Because, despite being a feminist, I’m vain like that.) I think I would have blown men away in the mid-nineteenth century. Give me a painful corset and a big, awkward hoop skirt, and, if I could stay standing and walking, I would knock men dead!
*YWCA reported women in America spend an overwhelming $7 billion a year on cosmetics!