Of the many discussion threads that have appeared on this forum over the past year, this is certainly one of the most important; perhaps the most significant of all. It indicates why Western nations confront an even more difficult challenge in casting off the yoke of the modern androgynous standard than other peoples face.
Through skin colour or facial shape, other cultures can more clearly distinguish their traditional ideals of beauty from that of the modern media. The distinction between the past and the present is glaring, creating a sharp then-and-now dichotomy. Other cultures are thus able to define themselves and their heritage against a clearly differentiated, foreign "other"--that of the media culture, which has been imposed on them from without.
But in the West, the modern standard is a perversion of the ideal that came before it, as if someone had taken the Classical model and morphed and disfigured it, element by element, distorting it into its current, toxic form--dessicating the body into a shrivelled frame; withering the limbs into cadaverous emaciation; coarsening radiantly fair skin with a leathery, radioactively tanned tint; decomposing the fullness of the face into the sunken-cheeked hollowness of a corpse; compressing the jawline into androgynous elongation.
Worse, because this aesthetic overthrow, this cultural coup détat, happened here first, multiple generations have now grown up with no first-hand memory of anything better, no recollection of a time when popular culture and high culture both revered the timeless ideal of full-figured beauty.
To use a bucolic analogy, in other cultures, the change from traditional to modern was a swapping of one edible for another, a prune in place of an apple. The difference is glaring and unmistakable. In the West, however, the change has been more akin to a steady a process of decay, whereby a once-beautiful, luscious fruit has been allowed to rot, becoming uglier and more corrupt over time, until most of the populace only knows it in its rotten state, with no memory of how it looked when it was fresh and succulent.
We in the West need to recognize the modern, androgynous, anti-traditional culture that has been imposed on us
as a toxic "other," just as the rest of the world views it--because that's exactly what it is. It didn't grow organically in our soil. It was imposed on us too, though in our case, from within and not from without, by an alien cabal that flourished in our midst.
We must reconnect to our own heritage, just as other cultures reawaken to theirs. As we do so, we will rediscover the true appearance of luscious, well-fed feminine beauty, an ideal that was stolen from us and displaced by an extraneous, androgynous standard. We will recognize the plus-size ideal as our own indigenous vision of loveliness, our own native standard of beauty, in a tradition stretching back to Classical conceptions of Aphrodite and Helen of Troy.
And in today's most gorgeous plus-size models, we will find living exemplars of this timeless ideal.
The soft loveliness of Sophie Sheppard (U.K. size 18), embodying the true
beauty of the Western tradition.
- Lillian Russell, her aesthetic forbear