One of the more interesting threads that appeared on the forum late last year was this
discussion about the conflict between the rootless, alien media and traditional culture. The post noted how the media pushes a utilitarian, androgynous, skinny image of "modern" women that is antithetical to the fleshy, feminine ideal that abounds in the heritage of so many of the world's cultures -- especially Western civilization, although this is often denied.
I recently came across a pair of articles that include the Arabian cultures in this conflict, describing how the nations of the Near East have a historic preference for plus-size beauty which is being undermined by Hollywoodism:
The pertinent text:
Television is literally shaping the way women in Bahrain think they should look, according to new research, writes Basma Mohammed.
It is changing their perception of beauty, with most now thinking 'skinny' is best, as opposed to the traditional Arab taste for a fuller figure, according to the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research (BCSR).
Eighty-seven per cent of women surveyed in Bahrain said they trimmed down to match the Hollywood image of beauty portrayed on television. Sixty-seven per cent said they were also influenced by women's magazines and 59 per cent by the internet.
All these influences are changing the way Bahraini and other Arab women define themselves and beauty, says BCSR studies assistant general-secretary Dr Abdulrahman Musaigar.
'It is the media that is pressuring our women to see beauty as being skinny,' he said.
Five years ago, a similar survey revealed that women thought a fuller figure was beautiful, but they were now swinging away from the traditional perception, said Dr Musaigar.
Another article from an Arabian source draws a similar conclusion:
Not so long ago, there was little pressure on Emirati women to be thin; indeed, a fuller figure was seen in a wholly positive light. That, however, is changing rapidly, according to a study that found most young UAE women were dieting and as many as a third were underweight. And women put the blame squarely on the shoulders of skinny celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Heidi Klum.
The UAE study was carried out by Sarah Trainer [who] said student responses were "very similar to what you hear from American teenagers". The Emirati women said the way the American media featured celebrities such as Beckham and Klum influenced how they perceived their own bodies...
"Their girlfriends and men like them to be slim," Ms Trainer said. "All of them blame this on the Western media."
There it is again -- the reference to the "Western media." As last year's forum post indicated, this emaciated standard is the opposite of traditional Western ideals of beauty, which are full-figured. Hollywood and Madison Avenue may geographically be located in "the West" (i.e., in America), but their artificial, underweight standards are actually anti-Western.
Yet the myth that skinniness is "Western" persists. I note a passage in this article about an Indian designer:
Indian women can carry themselves off better if they understand what kind of silhouettes go with their body type. The Caucasian look doesn’t sit easily on them because their bone structure and genetics do not permit it. Just look at our temple sculpture or murals at Ajanta-Ellora, they all depict beautifully curvaceous women, who are comfortable with their bodies and yet are immaculately turned out, down to the coiffure and jewellery around their waists.
It's wonderful to find him positively referencing historical Indian artworks as celebrating full-figured beauty; however, that comment also indicates how wrong he is to call media-mandated skinniness a "Caucasian look." It is nothing of the sort!
A "Caucasian look" is Lillian Russell, or Rubens's wife Helen Fourment, or any goddess depicted in Classical or Renaissance or Baroque art. A "Caucasian look" is traditionally full-figured. A "Caucasian look" is historically plus-size. Whatever ethnicity the media's narrow, elongated, underweight standard reflects, it is certainly not a "Caucasian look."
It's wonderful that these world cultures can look back on their own heritage of celebrating full-figured beauty and favourably contrast it with the modern-media standards that they rightly deplore. I only wish that we in the West could do likewise. If more European-Americans learned what Classical or Nordic or Celtic beauty traditionally looked like (i.e., full-figured), we too could unshackle ourselves from the alien aesthetic that the parasitic media has imposed on us.