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HSG 30th June 2010 06:42

The Scarcity Myth
 

Over the years, this forum has rubbished various myths about weight and aesthetics, but of all of the absurd fictions that have been devised to excuse or rationalize the modern suppression of plus-size beauty in favour of the androgynous, underweight standard, surely the most idiotic myth is that curvaceousness was preferred in the past because food (and therefore feminine fullness) was supposedly formerly "scarce," while today it is "plentiful."

What kind of unformed mind, devoid of any historical knowledge or psychological insight, could actually believe such nonsense? One stands in awe of the thoroughness of Marxist brainwashing, which has so completely permeated modern discourse as to dupe people into accepting materialist explanations for everything--even for essential impulses that have nothing whatsoever to do with material conditions.

Let us speak directly to our female readers at this point. Women, be assured of this fact: When a man views a woman, he does not make a material calculation to determine whether or not he is supposed to be attracted to her. Her beauty simply seizes him immediately, or it doesn't. The male impulse of attraction is not pegged to the scarcity or abundance of food at any given time. Such a proposition is ludicrous. (Think about it: "There are lots of restaurants in town, therefore I will not be attracted to that bombshell's voluptuous bust and alluring hips." Does any rational person actually believe that men are programmed this way?)

A man's impulse of attraction is triggered when he sees the ideal that exists in his heart incarnated in human form. Variable material conditions cannot affect such a deep-seated impulse, any more than they can change him from being right-handed to being left-handed.

We have directed this point at our female readers because the nonsensical "beauty-due-to-scarcity" myth may have permeated public consciousness precisely because women are more significantly involved in public discourse today than they were in the past. If one accepts the rather indisputable premise that men and women, as a general rule, view the world in substantively different ways, (and evolutionary biology teaches us that this is so,) then we confront the truism that men tend to be more Idealistic in their philosophical makeup while women tend to be more Materialistic.

In H. Rider Haggard's classic novel She (1887), the title character, Ayesha, makes the following observation:

Passion is to men what gold and power are to women--the weight upon their weakness. [. . .] For man can be bought with woman’s beauty, if it be but beautiful enough; and woman’s beauty can be ever bought with gold, if only there be gold enough. So was it in my day, and so it will be to the end of time.

Taking "gold" as a symbol for material properties in general, we recognize the root of the absurd "beauty-as-scarcity" myth. If the basis of women's attraction, generally speaking, is material in nature, then it is understandable that women would accept a materialistic explanation for the root of beauty, even though that explanation is actually inapplicable to the other gender.

But women did not predominately shape the beauty ideal of Western history. No one can deny that heterosexual men were more instrumental than women in determining cultural standards in the past. In fact, it is part of the feminist canon that men dominated traditional culture. Therefore, when we seek to understand the basis of the historical beauty ideal, we must orient ourselves around the male impulse of attraction, since the traditional ideal of beauty was largely established by men.

It does not occur to women that for men, the response to beauty is not an impulse that is triggered by material conditions, but rather one that is essentially derived, an intuitive passion, something strictly aesthetic, and therefore determinedly immaterial (except insofar as it is corporeally incarnated). In accepting the erroneous "scarcity" paradigm, women are projecting their own approach to sexual selection (which has a material basis) onto men (whose attraction impulse does not have a material basis).

Briefly put, material conditions do not shape consciousness (and certainly not for men) in this sphere. Rather, essential drives shape consciousness when it comes to the idealization of beauty. The one notable interfering force in this is the media--but that is not a material condition per se, but rather an abstract programming regimen, and one that had no bearing on the beauty ideal prior to the 20th century.

* * *

The supreme irony, however, is that even if this materialistic fiction were true as far as human psychology is concerned (though it is not), it would still be false on the basis of its underlying premise, which is that food was supposedly so scarce in the past that full-figured femininity was a status symbol of class distinction.

The truth? Food and feminine curves were commonplace in the past, just as they are today.

With the exception of rare natural disasters such as crop failures or famines (e.g., the Irish Potato Famine), food was actually quite plentiful in the Old World, even among the serfs and peasants. The lower classes were poor, to be sure. They lived in hovels. But food was the one thing that they did have. After all, they were farmers. Their whole existence was based on agriculture. Their quantity of meat varied, but they had an abundance of cereals, vegetables, and often poultry. Their carbohydrate-rich diet gave peasant women curves aplenty. (Indeed, to this day, the cliche of the "plump peasant" survives.)

In an article in Speculum (Jan. 1997), Kathy Pearson summarizes the conclusions of several researchers into this field:

Michel Rouche [has] asserted that the typical Carolingian--including the peasants--had access to a monotonous, but abundant, supply of foodstuffs and may have consumed an average of 6,000 - 9,000 calories per day. Richard Hodges [has] likewise decided that Anglo-Saxon Peasants were reasonably well fed.

With the exception of Marxist historians, who falsify history to calumniate the nobility and to create victims out of the peasants whenever possible, most historical opinion acknowledges that food was generally abundant among the serf and peasant classes of the Middle Ages, and throughout the succeeding centuries.

The real proof is in the contemporary visual imagery. Here is a host of paintings that show what the Old World peasantry really looked like.

Alexey Venetsianov (1780-1847), Fortune Telling.


These paintings destroy the myth that plus-size beauty was rare because food was supposedly scarce. In general, peasant women throughout Europe had plenty to eat, and their robust curves attest to this.

Joachim Beuckelaer (1533-74), A Greengrocer's Stall.


Generally speaking, food, like plus-size beauty, was reasonably plentiful in past ages. It may have come from the farm as opposed to the supermarket, but it was certainly available.

Pieter Aersten, Peasant's Feast, 1550.


Indeed, whenever peasants are depicted in European paintings from the Middle Ages onwards, food often figures prominently in the images.

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), The Peasant Meal.


In this painting, notice the huge hearth in the centre of the dwelling, as well as the bowls laid out on the table, and the woman churning butter.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1636), A Visit to the Farm.


While breads, cereals and vegetables (in plentiful supply) were the staples of the peasant diet, even meat was sometimes available. This painting shows one animal being bled, another carved.

Abel Grimmer (1570-1619), Autumn.


The following series of images comes from a cycle of 12 calendar paintings, one for each month, depicting seasonal peasant activities. Note the milking of the cow, the churning of butter, and the storing of bread.

Leandro Bassano, May (1595-1600).


Observe the abundant sheaves of what at harvest time, as well as the robust figures of the women in this canvas.

Leandro Bassano, June (1595-1600).


Consider the well-fed bodies of the peasants, as well as the abundant fowl, fruits and vegetables.

Leandro Bassano, November (1595-1600).


Countless paintings from the Middle Ages onwards show peasants carousing during weddings and other village festivals, and in each of these images, the figures of the women who are depicted--whatever their age--tend to be markedly plus-size.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Indoor Wedding Dance c.1585-1638.


Jean Watteau, Peasant Dance, 1702.


Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Peasants' Wedding 1637-1638.


Peter Paul Rubens, A Peasant Dance (1636-40).


We all know that Rubens depicted the aristocrats of his day looking eponymously rubenesque, but when he rendered the peasantry of his own time, he showed that they tended to be just as full-figured as the nobles. Note this lady's plump shoulders, as well as the curve under her chin.

Peter Paul Rubens, A Fisherman and a Peasant Woman Embracing, c.1620.


Sketches and drawings of European female peasantry throughout the centuries show them looking quite fleshy and well-fed.

Albrecht Dürer, Laughing Peasant Woman, 1505.


Josef Gisela (1851-99), Study of a Peasant Woman.


Charles Gleyre (1806-74), Albanian Peasant.


Many contemporary paintings show peasants frequenting taverns and inns, and here too the womens' figures appear quite round, and definitely plus-size.

Jan Steen, Peasants Outside an Inn, 1653.


In this detail, note the abundant proportions of the women's bodies.



Here are several more tavern scenes featuring well-fed girls of the peasant class:

Pietro Longhi (1702-85), The Spinner.


David Teniers (1610-90), A Man and a Woman Smoking a Pipe.


David Teniers (1610-90), Tavern Interior.


Images showing peasant women hard at work similarly acknowledge their swelling curves and robust bodies.

Myles Birket Foster, The Return of the Gleaners, c.1845-99.


Observe the halo of plump flesh around the midsection of the woman to the right in this painting:

Camille Pissarro, Haymakers Resting, 1891.


Painters throughout history have lovingly depicted the chubby faces of peasant girls, faces that absolutely glow with robust beauty. With the lavish fleshiness of the subject's facial features, this is one of the prettiest portraits that we have ever seen:

A. Guittet, Beautiful Peasant Woman.


Consider how angelic and radiant this peasant girl appears, thanks to the rosy plumpness of her face.

Paul Barbier, Portait of a Young Woman in a Sarafan, 1817.


The easily identifiable Germanic features of this peasant girl testify to her love of hearty food and a good life.

Franz von Defregger (1835-1921), A Bavarian Peasant Girl.


How we wish that we had a larger version of the following painting, to better display the plump facial features of this gorgeous girl.

Pietro Rotari (1707-62), A Peasant Woman.


As the 20th century dawned, Western art succumbed to the corrupting forces of modernism, but images from the early 1900s depicting the peasantry of the day still show the chubby, hale beauty of their facial features and figures.

Tamara de Lempicka, Peasant Girl with Pitcher, 1937.


Abram Arkhipov, A Visit, 1915.


Note the fullness of her round arms:

Abram Arkhipov, Peasant Girl, 1928.


Even paintings of the youngest peasant girls, scarcely older than children, show them possessing adorably plump, well-fed faces.

Thomas Sully (1783-1872), Peasant Girl.


Alfred Thompson Bricker, The Peasant Girl, 1875.


As paintings from throughout Western history demonstrate, food was widely available to the European lower classes (except in times of famine), and peasant women of all ages, from childhood to eld, possessed robust, genuinely plus-size physiques. Historically, fuller female figures were every bit as common as they are now.

This completely dismantles the ridiculous myth that food was "scarce," and that therefore plus-size beauty was valued because it was "rare." It was as common as the peasantry itself. Both female curves and food were present in great abundance throughout the classes of the Old World.

* * *

To sum up, the laughable notion that "plus-size beauty was preferred in the past because of scarcity of food" is false from every possible perspective:

1. The impulse of attraction, in men, is not based on a reaction to material conditions, but is an essential, innate drive; therefore, men's reactions to beauty are not pegged to the availability of food.

2. Even among the lower classes in European history, food was generally plentiful. Full-figured peasant women were just as common as were full-figured aristocratic women. Thus, there was no class distinction in being plus-size. Being larger-bodied was not a status symbol.

There is simply no credible way to argue in favour of the scarcity myth. It falls apart on every level.

Plus-size beauty was preferred in the past simply because it was, and is, the essential ideal of female appearance that lives in the human heart. In the past, that ideal was not sabotaged by the modern media (which, obviously, did not yet exist), but was celebrated by the culture of the day. The relative availability or scarcity of food was irrelevant.

If it weren't for the politically motivated media of our own time, this Classical aesthetic would still be publicly recognized as the ideal of feminine appearance.

- The Judgment of Paris Pinacotheca


Emily 31st December 2010 16:05

Re: The Scarcity Myth
 
I see this materialist myth spouted all the time -- all the time -- in any discussion of weight and body image. This post effectively indicates the absurdity of the premise. Men do not calculate their attraction on the basis of "material conditions." The attraction to beauty is an essential, timeless impulse.

In fact, the blatant error in ascribing a materialist basis to something that does not originate materialistically points to the fundamental flaw in all Marxist "reasoning" -- its completely misunderstanding and distortion of human nature.


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