Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where did our waists go? asked Mimi Spencer in 2005. It's an old guardian article but interesting to read and a demonstration of a prevailing view of women's bodies over the last few years.

My problem with this article is quite simple, it is the same problem that I have with the prevailing view of women's bodies, there appears to be a general assumption that women once had naturally occurring waists that naturally nipped in. People really believe that the hourglass figure was an average, natural phenomenon. Well, I don't mean to offend but I honestly doubt that this was ever the case. I will now select some of my favourite quotes from this piece and address them:

In 1951, the average British woman had a 27.5-inch waist. Now, she boasts a 34-incher. That's a growth of more than an inch a decade.

This was not because we are excessive now, this is because food was rationed. This is not something we should extol the virtues of, I'm certain that rationing sucked. Additionally corsets, commonly used as waist training devices fell out of practice in the 1910s, only 40 years earlier so many older women may have worn them from adolescence up until the first world war. If this was a true average than it would have been hugely effected by both of these factors. I don't doubt that the points raised in this article are true to an extent but the notion that expanding waistlines are a cultural problem for women specifically is a little absurd. If they're a problem then they're not an aesthetic problem, men are still going to want to reproduce with women, there's no need to preserve a crazy and hungry waist in order to get laid/married/kissed. If an expanding waistline is a problem then it's a health problem for men and women and god, I wish people would stop trying to make women conform to absurd physical ideals by comparing people (who should be happy and feel normal) from London and Leeds and Aberystwyth to a painting from another century.

When Emma Stiles says The waist-hip ratio has changed over the past 100 years because of a change in the macronutrients in our diet our response is simple, it's happened to all of us so the playing field remains level. Apparently Kylie can't even achieve a tiny waist and she's probably got a personal trainer and nutritionist.

And as to sitting in Starbucks all day with a laptop and a cappuccino was a joy unavailable to our grandparents' generation... I work 8 hour days in an office, is this meant to make a job that I find lacks anything profound sound like a leisure pursuit? Mimi Spencer has not simply put a gloss on the past but has also polished up our dull, working lives by suggesting that we have time to sit in Starbucks all day, drinking coffee and typing. After that she finally starts piling the pressure of healthy eating on but it's too late because she's already shown me that like the rest of the fashion industry, she has a weird attitude towards women's bodies. She isn't thinking about reality, she's thinking about popular culture. It's too late to say Empowering? Or demeaning? Like it or loathe it, "restraint" is a hot word in fashion right now. The author already believes that women should restrain themselves and sadly that seems to be common.

No comments: