"Judgment"


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Posted by HSG on February 06, 2005 at 02:08:46:


In a recent discussion with a mother and daughter (who are both regular readers of this forum), the author was asked to explain the title of this Web project.

Not being a mythology buff, the mother could not comprehend why we gave the name "Judgment of Paris" to a site about plus-size models.

We quickly related the Classical fable about Venus, Helen of Troy, and the golden apple, whereupon the daughter smiled and said, "I like it!" (which delighted us no end).

However, the mother remained quietly ambivalent, and consequently, we have decided to share some of our rationale for invoking this particular Classical reference.

First, here is a short retelling of the actual "Judgment of Paris" myth, from Bulfinch's Age of Fable (1855):

At the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris, or Discord. Enraged at her exclusion, the goddess threw a golden apple among the guests, with the inscription, "For the fairest." Thereupon Juno, Venus, and Minerva each claimed the apple. Jupiter (Zeus), not willing to decide in so delicate a matter, sent the goddesses to Mount Ida, where the beautiful shepherd Paris was tending his flocks, and to him was committed the decision.

The goddesses accordingly appeared before him. Juno promised him power and riches, Minerva glory and renown in war, and Venus the fairest of women for his wife, each attempting to bias his decision in her own favour. Paris decided in favour of Venus and gave her the golden apple.

Back in 1998, when we were laying the foundations of this Web project, it occurred to us that creating a contemporary version of this fabled "beauty contest," and placing the viewer in the role of Paris (as the one who would judge the fairest of today's goddesses) would be a fine way to stimulate audience involvement.

We also trusted that it would establish the notion of plus-size models as bona fide divinities of beauty--living embodiments of the timeless ideal of femininity that was enshrined at the dawn of Western civilization.

Moreover, we concluded that the majority of visitors to a site about fashion models would assume that the word "Paris" in the title referred to "Paris, France"--i.e., to the couture capital of the world. And just as these visitors would have to adjust their thinking about the images before them, once they discovered that"Paris" was a Classical rather than contemporary reference, so we hoped that they would subsequently evaluate modern aesthetics from the perspective of human history, comparing past to present, and considering how much the modern world had lost.

* * *

In the six years that have elapsed, the title of this site has taken on a deeper meaning than it initially possessed.

In our troubled times, this Antique fable of an individual who chooses beauty and Love over the temptations of military or political power goes against the grain of world events, and has perhaps acquired something of an . . . instructive value.

But beyond that, the most controversial (and indeed, the most significant) aspect of the title as it applies to the present day resides in one single word:

"Judgment."

We live in a time of rampant and unquestioned relativism, when the validity and importance of "judging" or "judgment" has been called into question (for reasons that have little to do with philosophic questioning, and everything to do with misguided social engineering).

But judgment is arguably the most important of all intellectual activities. Judgment is about wresting order from chaos. It the philosophical equivalent of driving piles into marshy ground, and laying a foundation for future construction. Judgment separates wheat from chaff, gold from dross. so that a great culture, and its most distinguished masters, can build upon the finest achievements of the civilizations that preceded it.

Judgment is the very bedrock upon which Western civilization was built, and if there is to be an artist revival in the modern world, the validity and significance of judgment must be restored.

As luck would have it, this brings us right back to the "false etymology" of the title of this Web project--i.e., the supposed reference to Paris, France. This misreading of the phrase "judgment of Paris" has become an unexpectedly appropriate interpretation of our title, because, to a substantial degree, this site does encourage a judgment of the fashion centers of the world--and of the modern media, and of contemporary society.

In today's world, full-figured women are forever being judged (and judged negatively) by those very forces--i.e., by the press, by the rest of society, and even (due to a lifetime of conditioning and indoctrination) by themselves.

Therefore, this site exhorts readers to turn that judgment around.

Or to put it another way . . .

It is high time for you to do the judging.

Judge the media, according to the degree to which it tolerates, accepts, or celebrates plus-size beauty. And if it does none of these things, then judge it wanting.

Judge the fear-mongering of the popular press. Do their studies merely produce the results that were sought by whoever paid for the research? Would the same individuals publish their results, if they contradicted those financial interests?

Judge any article that you read in a fashion magazine--and specifically, judge the attitudes and biases of the writers. Is their so-called fashion "advice" actually logical? Or is it merely the writers' way of infecting others with their own anti-plus bias? What is the premise of their advice? If it is nothing more substantial than, "Curves are unattractive and should be hidden," then take the "advice" as the propaganda that it really is, and relegate it to the round file.

Judge the age in which you live--yes, judge the culture in its entirety. Judge how its values compare to those of ages past. And if your judgment is that we have forsaken something essential and wonderful in our unchecked drive towards amorphous modernity, then consider what can be done to reverse this decay.

Judge the judgment of the people around you--especially when they attempt to scrutinize you. Does "his" judgment (whoever "he" may be) have any validity, or is he simply parroting the words and prejudices that others have put into his mind? And if so, what could his opinion possibly matter? Or consider "her" (whatever part "she" plays in your life). Is her judgment objective, or is it merely a stratagem by which she intends to undermine you, because she secretly feels threatened by you, or envies you, or both?

Judge your own feelings of doubt and self-loathing. Are they justified? Are they what you really feel in your heart? Or are they merely the product of a lifetime of aesthetic brainwashing? And if so, consider what you can do to cast off those shackles, and to achieve perfect freedom--freedom of thought, and freedom of being.

Do not blindly accept (or unthinkingly reject!) the beauty ideals that you are offered. Judge those ideals against the ideals of the past, or against the impulses of your heart. Welcome those ideals that ring true, and spurn those that feel false.

Do not stop at merely identifying the cultural forces that have produced the world in which you life. Judge those cultural forces. Not all actions produce positive results, and it is not "all relative." True, everyone has biases, and everyone behaves in self-interested ways. But judge the broader consequences of that self-interest, and the actions that it produces. Do those actions improve the vitality of a culture, or diminish it? Do they help create world of beauty, or barrenness? Do they foster a society in which people experience joy and bliss and harmony, or one in which they live lives of drudgery, denial, and malcontent?

You do the judging . . . or someone else will.

The soft beauty of Solveig Walking, Bella Models Australia--from the forthcoming Sara catalogue:

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