Body shaming’s prevalence throughout history dictates modern response

Hannah Figueroa-Velazquez, Opinion Editor

Things around us become outdated all the time, whether it be technology, fashion or music, and for the most part, each update acts as a convenience or improvement to our everyday lives. Advancements are meant to push us forward, be a pathway to the future that each innovator pictures through their creation. We are a species that never stops moving forward, constantly searching for the newest trend, knowing that if we don’t keep up, we too will eventually become obsolete. For the most part, this unspoken pressure to stay relevant motivates us, creating breathtaking art or life-changing scientific discoveries. But what happens when we make our looks, and more specifically, our bodies, just another trend that is bound to go in and out of style? 

Dating back to the Paleolithic era, the idea of a perfect woman would greatly differ from what beauty standards entail today. A historical statue from this time period, Venus of Willendorf, is now studied and seen as what was once the ideal body type for a woman. The statue depicts a woman with a larger body shape, carrying a full stomach, larger breasts and wide hips which were prime features of fertility in women. Unlike later in history, the initial picture of beauty was well-nourished, reflecting health as well as social status. 

Moving forward, the time period of Ancient Greece took beauty literally, keeping the more rounded body type from the Paleolithic era, but incorporating a golden ratio, exact mathematical proportions that determined one’s attractiveness, resulting in a desire for perfect symmetry in our partners today.

At the start of the Renaissance era, art truly began to bloom, different styles and mediums coming to light in a time period of innovation. Artists revered in our present culture, like Raphael, began to embody the art of the female body, painted to depict what he imagined as ideal at the time. Paintings of curvy and soft women littered his artwork, and this was seen as a transition from women being an object of fertility to a source of simple lust and attraction. 

Fast forward to the Victorian era, and the stereotype of a frail, thin, ladylike woman begins to truly take form. There was no emphasis on certain parts of the body like in past and present time periods, but instead, women’s bodies were viewed as most desirable when weak and petite in order to fit into the image of a domestic housewife, purpose being only to serve their family. Gender roles were strengthened notably throughout this time period and the results translated into power-driven men attracted to submissive-looking women, healthy or not. 

Speaking more modernly, by the 1920s women began to join the workforce due to World War I, completely ending what was once a desire for curvy, feminine women, but instead slim and almost boyish features. 

Once the Great Depression ended and wealth began to increase again, indulgence was on the rise. The most beautiful women at the time had what’s known as an “hourglass figure”: wide hips, a thin waist and, most importantly, a large bust. The unrealistic standard sent a ripple effect of girls searching for unhealthy manners to alter their natural form. Even today, plastic surgery, crazy diets as well as an epidemic of eating disorders are not uncommon in girls, especially teens. 

Finally, the stretch of time from the ’60s to the ’90s became a never-ending need to be skinny, and at times, dangerously so. Each decade, the standard of beauty reduced how big a woman could be, introducing models that were tan, tall and with an average weight that was nearing that of a child. A healthy, well-fed woman was no longer beautiful, according to magazines, talk shows and society, and the results were disastrous. 

Diet pills, surgery, fatal weight-loss strategies and eating disorders skyrocketed as incoming generations of women were being taught that their bodies that may have been idolized decades ago were no longer beautiful. Young girls were being poisoned by the media, engraving an idea in their minds that if they were of a healthy weight, the world found them undesirable. The beauty industry only profits from these socially constructed standards of perfection, as women spend billions every year fitting into a box that is constantly changing shape. 

The year is now 2020 and it is we who get to dismantle this never-ending cycle of reducing our bodies to trends. It is time to stop progressing forward for once and to embrace the beauty in diversity. We will not be a generation of girls analyzing ourselves in the mirror and wondering when our body is bound to go out of style, because the answer is never. You, my love, are timeless.