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View Full Version : Traditional beauty vs. the media


Karsten
6th January 2012, 07:26
One of the most interesting discussions on last year's baord was this (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=2033) thread which talked about how, in other parts of the world, various populations were attempting to reclaim their native, traditional appreciation for plus-size beauty and setting it against the starvation standard being inflicted upon them by the mass media.

These articles usually involved castigating the emaciated look as a "Western" standard, compared to indigenous, domestic ideals which celebrated the fuller female figure.

The key point in the thread was to show the benefits of recognizing the media standard as an alien "other" in order to be able to react against it and to free people from it.

The galling part was having the androgynous aesthetic called a "Western" standard, when, as we all know from the history of Western art, it is nothing of the sort, and is even more alien to the European and European-American tradition than to any other civilization in the world. The modern media is foreign to any indigenous historic tradition, and is in fact opposed to all forms of cultural heritage, including timeless beauty ideals.

Here are a couple of new articles, both from South Africa, which further this opposition of heritage to the rootless media.

http://www.citizen.co.za/citizen/content/en/citizen/lifestyle-features?oid=242794&sn=Detail&pid=146826&Size-does-matter

Napo Masheane is a poet and director who has written a musical called Napo Masheane And The F** Black Women Sing and she’s also is about to launch a book called F** Songs For My Girlfriends.

“African women are generally big” she says.

“The bigger the lady, the more respect she commands. But with Westernisation, what has happened is that we, black ladies, have been sucked into the ‘thinner is better’ race. There are now black ladies who are anorexic. This was never possible a few years ago.”
It's wonderful to see such cultural creativity arising out of opposition to what is perceived to be a hostile, alien standard. Such antagonistic energy will help the people free themselves from the media-induced starvation trap. But still, it's painful to have it described as a Western phenomenon and to have presumably the Caucasian race dubbed the "thinner-is-better race," when historic Western ideals were full-figured too.

Indeed, a second South African article, this one on plus-size clothing, acknowledges this very fact:

http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/2011/10/13/way-ahead-of-the-curve

Nkhensani Nkosi agrees that designing larger clothing isn't the challenge. What is, is getting plus-size women to step out of their comfort zones and experiment with different but flattering textures, colours and silhouettes.

She says society's warped view of body image is largely to blame: "Society has to redefine what we think is attractive. There is nothing attractive about size zero. We also have to start learning to have healthy relationships with our bodies and collectively heal from 'plus-size' labelling and a negative mentality [about it]. After all, Rubens sold many beautiful portraits of curvy women."
By referencing Rubens, this South African writer acknowledges the plus-size-beauty tradition of the West. In fact, by praising Rubens and referencing his art in this context, as a way to demonstrate the validity of plus-size beauty, she is indicating that Rubens, and thus Western tradition of full-figured-beauty appreciation, can even inspire South African women!

Two things can be gleaned from all of this:

1. A great deal of creative energy, and a path toward popular liberation from the mass media's anorexic standard, can arise if one establishes the media as a distinct, enemy Other, an alien intrusion, against which a people can consider itself as a Self, with alternative ideals of beauty.

2. All cultural heritages, including (and especially!) the Western cultural heritage, is under assault from the modern media, which isn't a part of any tradition but is rootless and global, and is hostile to all cultural traditions of beauty, even to the very idea of beauty itself.

It will be harder, in the West, for us to recognize the mass-media standard as something alien to us, an Other, given that it was nurtured in our midst. But if we can do so, we can generate some of the liberating energy that other cultures acquire when they oppose these hostile, anti-traditional forces. And this will make possible a vigorous reassertion of our own traditional ideals of full-figured, Classical beauty.