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Old 24th October 2005   #1
HSG
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Default Defend what you love


Perhaps the one, single characteristic that unites the many diverse proponents of size celebration--whatever their gender, age, or class--is their common love of full-figured feminine beauty.

And sooner or later, in all of our lives, there comes a point when we are confronted by the appalling spectacle of seeing the things that we hold most dear--the things that we love--attacked, defamed, and slandered.

How we respond in such moments defines us as human beings. And our bravery (or our cowardice) in such circumstances will ultimately determine the fate of the aesthetic that we hold dear--and of the goddesses who embody that aesthetic.

* * *

Have you ever wondered how the Classical ideal of Beauty endured the many social upheavals and political revolutions that regularly threatened European culture, before its final overthrow during the twin apocalypses of the World Wars? How did the Beauty Ideal survive the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and even the French Revolution--the most terrifying social and cultural cataclysms prior to the last century?

In no small part, Beauty lived on because of the spirit of chivalry that prevailed in Western culture throughout its history--a spirit that prompted the great men of every age to rush to Beauty's defense.

Consider the case of the French Revolution. In his searching book Reflections on the Revolution in France, the great English writer Edmund Burke provides an impassioned account of the last time that he saw the lovely and tragic Marie Antoinette (who, along with her husband, lost their lives to the guillotine of the Revolution--along with tens of thousands of French nobles).

Burke's words are a reproach to anyone who has ever witnessed Beauty defamed in his presence, and has failed to act in its defense:

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in,--glittering like the morning-star, full of life and splendor and joy.

Oh! what a revolution! and what an heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom! little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers!

I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.
But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.

Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness!
(1790)

But of course, the "age of chivalry" was not gone, in Burke's day. So long as writers such as he were moved to express such noble sentiments, and defend Beauty from its detractors, it lived on.

Burke's passionate words should chastize anyone who has ever witnessed Beauty (true Beauty, timeless Beauty) slighted in his presence--with a look, with an insult, or with an ignorant opinion--and done nothing to defend it.

If we had more individuals of Burke's convictions--and the courage to act on them--in our society, plus-size beauty would no longer be at the mercy of its resentment-driven detractors, but would be safely restored as our cultural ideal, "decorating and cheering the elevated sphere" in which we live.

* * *

But perhaps some female visitors to this site will read these words, and will be prompted to reflect, "Those sentiments are all very gallant--but how do they apply to me?"

They apply in exactly the same manner, for a noble heart that is free from vulgar envy will always rush to the defence of true Beauty.

Another literary classic that was created as a latter-day answer to the horrors of the French Revolution was Charles Dickens' immortal novel, A Tale of Two Cities. And let no one claim otherwise--this is one of the true masterpieces of world literature, a narrative so powerful that it transcends the genre of mere prose, and approaches the level of myth.

In this novel, two characters put their lives on the line in defence of Lucie Manette--the novel's embodiment of the ideal of Beauty. (And although Lucie, unlike many Dickens heroines, is not full-figured, the principle still applies.)

Along with Sydney Carton's famous sacrifice at the conclusion of the novel, Lucie's life is saved by the truly heroic actions of her long-time companion and surrogate mother, Miss Pross. Elderly and physically frail though she may be, Pross engages in a physical struggle to the death with the vengeful Madame Defarge, to protect her beloved Lucie.

As Dickens so movingly describes this noble character:

Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be . . . one of those unselfish creatures--found only among women--who will, for pure love and admiration, bind themselves willing slaves, to youth when they have lost it, to beauty that they never had, to accomplishments that they were never fortunate enough to gain, to bright hopes that never shone upon their own sombre lives. He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint, he had such an exalted respect for it, that in the retributive arrangements made by his own mind--we all make such arrangements, more or less--he stationed Miss Pross much nearer to the lower Angels than many ladies immeasurably better got up both by Nature and Art, who had balances at Tellson's. (1859)

* * *

They say that there are no longer any causes worth fighting for. Well--here you have one.

Defend what you love.

Defend Timeless Beauty in a world that resents it so much, and assails it at every turn.

In a world that has abandoned most of its ideals, this ideal remains--desperately in need of protection.

And whether the Timeless Ideal will, in fact, be revived in our time, or whether it will continue to be suppressed by the world of resentment that we have inherited, depends entirely on whether its present-day defenders can live up to the chivalric code that rescued the Old World from countless assaults in centuries gone by.

Barbara Brickner (at Lands' End, Fall 2005)--the Ideal of Beauty that bequeathed to us a library of literary greatness.

(You may click on the image to view it at a larger size.)

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Old 26th October 2005   #2
Chad
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Default Re: Defend what you love

I think this is SUCH an important topic. No matter when, no matter where, everyone is a position to do something to minimize attacks on the plus aesthetic.

It's not about self-important "activism", it's not self-righteouness, and it has nothing to do with political correctness. The gestures don't have to be grand, and you don't have to get in anyone's face to do it.

One obvious thing to do is to write a letter to a newspaper or a TV network, if they produce curve-bashing propaganda articles or programs, disguising their prejudice as a "health" topic (esp. since we've all learned that emaciation is the true health risk).

But there are also a thousand other little things everyone can do, in their own lives, and among their own social circles.

Anytime a blowhard makes a size-negative comment in a public situation (e.g. online), it's up to people of good conscience to stand up to them, or else they'll keep doing it - and hurting a lot of women.

Among colleagues at work, or at school, if someone makes a hateful comment about full-figured goddesses, the right thing to do is to politely (but firmly) tell them they're utterly wrong. Utterly and completely wrong.

Even in family situations, if a family member criticizes a young woman in a way that relates to weight, it's not unreasonable to ask them to back off, and to tell them they're way out of line.

And an equally helpful activity is to make innocuous size-positive comments in public settings, such as praising curvy actresses while others are praising bone-thin waifs, or commenting favourably about plus-size models instead of Sports Illustrated synthoids.

Even if the mass media is resistant to change, everyone can "nudge" the people around them in the right direction.

Every little bit helps - and may prompt others to do the same.
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Old 4th November 2005   #3
Kaitlynn
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Default Re: Defend what you love

Interestingly enough, I found an article relating to this topic and to actress Jessica Alba- who recently won praise on this forum for taking a wonderfully anti-diet position, pro-curvy position.

This article only earns her even more respect, in my opinion. In it, she openly states that she prefers men who have a "sense of chivalry."

Here's the link-

http://www.postchronicle.com/news/e...e_2121053.shtml

The second part of the article repeats her statements about body image, but here is the first part, with the reference to chilvary:


"Showbiz beauty, Jessica Alba recently confessed that she is very particular when it comes to her boyfriends.

Chivalry, it seems, is not dead in today's day and age, or at least not for Sin City star, Alba, who says that the attribute is essential in men looking to win her heart.

Alba met her current love, Cash Waren early in the year, while filming "Fantastic Four" and she revealed that Waren won her from day one with his well mannered style.

"He is very smart and respectful. Guys should treat women with respect. I am still lady-like and feminine, but unfortunately a lot of men have lost their sense of chivalry. I like a man to open doors and offer to pay", Femalefirst quoted her, as saying."



I really admire her for saying this. I think a lot of women secretly feel this way, but they've been taught not to admit it, in modern society.
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Old 4th November 2005   #4
Emily
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Default Re: Defend what you love

I really enjoyed that article about Jessica Alba (although, as others have said, it would be infinitely more affirmative if she actually was curvy). And I especially appreciated the juxtaposition of a longing for men with a sense of chivalry, with a desire on her part to be (or become) curvaceous. I think both sentiments express a desire for more natural releations between men and women.

I know that many women secretly nurse a desire to be treated like a princess, and pampered, and spoiled -- although it's not anything that you're supposed to admit these days. But why not? If it makes both people in the relationship happy, what's the harm?

I read an article online a few days ago at The Independent that talked about these issues. It's a little off-topic, but I think it explores some of these questions in a thoughtful way. The link is here:

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/th...ticle323858.ece

But in case it vanishes (as Web articles often do), I'll post the majority of the text below.


.........................


Desperate housewives?

Lucy Cavendsh was raised on feminist literature and yearned to be a career woman. But as a new book calls for a return to the values of home and hearth, she asks how 'housewife' became a term of abuse

Published: 01 November 2005


When I was a little girl, and when all my friends were little girls, none of us thought we'd grow up to be housewives. We might have played dollies. We might have sat in Wendy houses and made pretend buns and cakes and poured invisible tea from plastic pots, but no one ever considered that being a housewife, a home-maker, would be something that we would choose to be. For many years, that was not even an option.

As I got older and passed through my adolescence and onwards, it never occurred to me that staying at home, having children, and baking cakes would be something I could ever enjoy. But now I wonder why not? My mother stayed at home. She baked cakes - terrible ones - and dusted and cleaned and vacuumed and darned names on knickers and drove backwards and forwards from school and obviously hated it. She would tell me, when we would go to the park together, how dull she thought stay-at-home mothers were. She would tell me how she'd wanted to be an artist but that her father, my grandfather, wouldn't let her because nice girls did not go to art school in London. She worked for a while as a physiotherapist and then, after she married my father, stopped working altogether, as so many women did.

But, during my childhood, my mother provided me with a steady stream of [feminist] literature [. . . ]. We talked a lot about women's issues. We camped out at Greenham Common and linked arms with other women and we all felt empowered. I think I felt I was changing the world, that I was part of a movement that seemed so important to me. I still think it was important. It changed my life.

My mother was intent that we were educated properly. She took us abroad and showed us art, history and architecture. She helped me learn the joy of having an enquiring mind, of not just accepting everything I was told. She congratulated me when I challenged my teachers, even though she was hauled in to see the head of my grammar school on a termly basis.

So did my mother expect me and my sister to stay at home and have children and turn into "housewives"? No, she did not. And, yet, what has happened to us all? [. . .] Darla Shine, who says in her book Happy Housewives that American women should be allowed to embrace the mother, the housewife, within and should no longer feel that they have to go to work and break through the glass ceiling in order to be a proper, functioning person. "Why wasn't being a Mom offered to me as a career?" Shine says.

What has changed? So many things. Staying at home - or even saying you want to stay at home - is breaking the last taboo. When, aged 29, I had my first child, all my friends thought I was mad. They thought I was even crazier when I moved out of London life and re-emerged in the countryside complete with wellies, trug, fresh blackberries and apples and an apron. They baulked when I got a dog. They nearly cried when I went on to have two more children and spent all my earnings on small shoes and romper suits. But now I know my friends love to come and see me. They love the homely atmosphere of the house, the freshly-cooked food, the salad picked from the garden, the grubby, muddy, tearaway children and the over-friendly dog. And yet I still work. I ask myself why: is it too much part of my past, part of what my mother instilled in me for me to totally embrace my domestic goddess within?

But I am not the only woman who secretly likes baking an apple pie. Many women seem to have quietly turned away from work. There has suddenly been a plethora of books on how to keep a clean, happy and well-functioning home. Everyone is "downsizing" and searching for "quality of life". Suddenly working doesn't look like fun any more. Why have it all when you only want a little bit?

I think part of the problem is that women never really thought about what "work" meant. It's no fun being a woman holding down a full-time job and also trying to run a house, children and a marriage. Where's the joy in trudging back and forth from work, to home, to the shops, and back again on a daily basis? (I am sure men feel just the same way but we are talking housewives here, not house-husbands). It's quite simply exhausting. I tried it not so long ago. It was a disaster. I barely saw my children. I had no idea what they were up to. The cupboard was bare, the house was cold and unloved. I felt more tired than I ever have been. I resorted to checking my eldest son's homework when he was in bed. I made packed lunches at 11pm. I barely spoke to my partner. At work, I sneakily called plumbers and electricians. Yet I seemed to achieve nothing, either at work or at home.

When I recently suggested to a friend that I give up work and stay at home with my children full-time, she gasped in horror, "But work is so much a part of who you are!" But work used to be part of who she was. Now she has two children, a husband who works from home, a serious tennis addiction and the best-baked cakes in our valley. She used to live in London. She used to work as a legal representative for refugees. Doesn't she miss her working life? She says not. When I press her on it, she says that she had always told herself that, if she had children, it would be her job to look after them. "I feel I owe that to them," she says. Her children, it has to be said, are happy.

And now I'm surrounded by these stay-at-home women! My sister, my sisters-in-law, my friends; none of them work. Elizabeth used to be a doctor but now stays at home with her three girls. Susan used to have a high-ranking bank job but is now at home with her two sons and expecting her third. Emma was in films as a producer but now spends her life videoing her twins, and Kate was a lawyer in Hong Kong but was paid off. She's used her money to buy a run-down pile and, whenever you go round, there she is, paintbrush in hand, surrounded by children having fun renovating the place. They all seem happy. They all seem fulfilled. They are intelligent women and these are the choices they have made.

Something has shifted. I find myself increasingly drawn to making cakes and staring wistfully at ingredients in the fridge. My friend calls up to tell me of a new lentil recipe her kids like (stewed lentils with roasted vegetables and feta cheese crumbled on top, if you're interested). The correct feminist response would be, "why are you calling me up with cooking tips? Burn your bra, baby!" Instead I hurry to the shop to prepare for cooking it myself the next night.

The truth is, I feel better when the house is clean and organised and the kids' clothes are folded and in their drawers. I like to put a pot of steaming casserole on the table for my partner when he comes home from work. On a day when I'm not working and the kids are at nursery, I go for a ride, or walk the dog, or pop round for coffee and a cake at a friend's house. Life is so much less stressful. I find I rather like wearing an apron. I have a "baking" cupboard, although I am still not very good on cakes. But the kids like making them so, some afternoons, we get floury and pour everything into a mixing bowl and then eat it.

The children are happier. My partner is happier. The dog is happier and I am happier. If I'm feeling particularly daring, I might even open a bottle of wine at lunchtime and invite people round. It's so much more relaxing than working. And who decreed that we should all work so hard that we forget how to enjoy life?

I think women are redefining things. Working hard, being successful and beating men at their own game now seems tiring and boring and, at the end of the day, not necessarily fulfilling. It's much more fun to have freedom: the freedom to be at home, to play with the kids, to walk a dog, to make my own decisions about my life.

Being a housewife is no longer the dead-end job it was, and it's also not for ever. As their children get older, many women I know intend to start up some sort of small business. The internet has made this perfectly possible. Others intend to retrain as family therapists, teachers and such like. Some are doing extra-curricular courses in art, ceramics, philosophy.

If I had daughters, I'd give them the books to read that my mother gave me. I would encourage them to see that they have choices, and that those choices are not between a man's world or a woman's world, or between going to work or staying at home, but the chance to do whatever it is they feel they want to do. And if it's a duster that does it for them, hey, so be it.
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