Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Perfect Female Body

You might not have noticed, but Victoria’s Secret is in the business of selling what used to called women’s unmentionables.

To do so it has always shown its products being worn by women who are exquisitely beautiful and perfectly proportioned.

To be fair, women of all sizes and shapes flock to Victoria’s Secret to buy what it is selling. The company is notably successful.

Apparently, the women who choose to shop at Victoria’s Secret are not offended or repulsed by the fact that their bodies do not exactly look like Gisele Bundchen’s or Tyra Banks’s.

Clearly, the store is offering them a way to feel sexy and they have embraced it. If they shop there, in stark defiance of feminist scolds like Naomi Wolf, who am I to complain or to criticize? After all, it’s a free market and, if they do not like what VS is selling, garments and image, they can shop elsewhere.

If you respect women you should also respect their decisions. Otherwise you will find yourself mired in paranoid thinking, accusing women of having been manipulated by the patriarchy to buy things that they hate in order to placate the male gaze.

Since science—you remember that—tells us that the male of the human species is more attuned to the physical appearance of a potential mate, it makes some sense that women are attuned to the male gaze and that men are not attuned to the female gaze.

Of course, if you accept the feminist party line you will have to believe that women are so easily duped or so completely enthralled to the male gaze that they are dispossessed of their rational faculties and free will is too misogynistic for me.

In the meantime, you have doubtless heard that Victoria’s Secret recently released a new ad entitled, “The Perfect Body.”

I reproduce it here, but only so you know what we are talking about.

Victoria's Secret under fire

Evidently, it contains ten fashion models showing off their good looks, their good figures and their undergarments.

Is this the way all women look in their underwear? I have it on excellent authority that such is not the case.

Is this the way most women like to think of themselves when they are buying unmentionables? This is closer to the truth.

Of course, the ad provoked an outcry, especially in radical feminist quarters. The objection, not entirely without merit, is that women who seek perfection sometimes do harm to their bodies in a vain effort to make their bodies resemble what they see on Victoria’s Secret models.

Indeed, this happens sometimes, but one suspects that the deeper issue is whether today’s women are somehow embarrassed about their femaleness because they believe that it irrevocably sets them apart from men. One also wonders how many of today’s women, brought up on a steady diet of feminism, really like being women or really like being attractive to men.

You might argue, correctly, that there is more to a woman than being attractive to men, but you should add that very, very few women want to be unattractive to their boyfriends or husbands. And precious few of them want to be seen as they really, really are… warts and all. Most women want to use their appearance and their clothing to manipulate the male gaze.

Apparently, feminists have not learned this lesson.

They still see femininity as a mystique that they need to discard in order to lead the way to a brave new world where everyone will be equally neutered.

Anyway, a company called Dear Kate has countered the VS ad with one of its own. You see, Dear Kate also makes women’s unmentionables. It does not traffic in beauty or in sexiness or femininity. It tries to appeal to women who have gone beyond all of those things and do not much care how they look to men.

Again, Dear Kate has every right to do as it pleases. Women have every right to buy its image. DK will be judged by women, in the marketplace and not by male gazers.

For your edification, here’s Dear Kate’s view of the female body in a response to VS.


Or better, here is the opening page of DK's website:

Apparently, the models in the DK ads do not need or want bras. I have no idea what that means.

True enough, women come in all shapes and sizes. So do men. But, so what?

Is that what women really want, to see themselves as they look to an objective and neutered gaze?

Or is it more about feeling sexy, no matter how you look? And do women feel sexier thinking of themselves in the Dear Kate ad or in the VS ad?

The market will tell.


n.n said...

It's juvenile to begrudge women (and men) with superior physical features and aesthetic appeal. Envy is an ugly character trait.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point... I hadn't seen it in terms of envy, but I think that you are right to say so.

Sue O said...

I am not a feminist by any means, but the way the fashion industry has forced its image of the perfect female form on the rest of us is quite insidious. Three things strike me about this. Firstly, in order to obtain and maintain figures like the VS models have, one would have to work out constantly and/or eat like a rabbit. Neither is particularly realistic for most of us.
Secondly, most of us are not blessed with the height and basic shapes of the models so, try as we may, we would never achieve the look.
And third, the ubiquity of these images is causing an epidemic among us women of dissatisfaction with our bodies, and some of us are going to extreme measures to try to alter our faces and bodies to achieve what we believe is ideal.
So, maybe you think the reactionary photos are overwhelmingly feministic and gross, but I say, good for them.
They don't believe that they have to look like the VS models to be attractive.
"It tries to appeal to women who have gone beyond all of those things and do not much care how they look to men."

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Sue O. Still, if this is all blamed on the fashion industry, doesn't that ignore the fact that women are buying these fashions, often with money they earned. If you say that women have been "forced" to do something, aren't you also saying that women are complete dupes, that they do not know or care about how they look.... The fashion industry is really the sum of what women are and are not willing to purchase freely.

Dennis said...

One thing that always bothers me when this subject is broached is that men almost always like women with nicely proportioned bodies, but almost always fall in love and marry those who are not this body type. It would seem to me that women show, by the over involvement with looks, a form of disrespect for the men who find them attractive. Lord knows that most of us men are not the perfectly proportioned male image, but we have the good sense, in most cases, not to let it define who we are as people. We might even kiddingly jest about our love one's bad taste in selecting us. There are things that are important and conversely there are a significant number of things that have little value.
Further, women seem to want to create a victim persona and a "aint it awful" context to their own lives. It would seem to me if women spent more time living their own lives and enjoying the men who enjoy them life would be so much simpler and happy. We are what we are. We can either be the best we can be or we can make ourselves miserable.
As they say one makes their own bed and they have to sleep in it. Are you your own master of are you a slave to the control of others?

Sue O said...

I didn't say the women have been forced to buy the fashions, I said the perfect image has been forced upon them, which is a completely different concept. We are barraged with advertisements, magazine articles, television and movie images, all over the media, from the time we are young and impressionable and into our ripe old age. And, sadly, many women fall for it. Yes, we are duped and fall for the hype. And much of the hype is perpetuated by other women.
I had a couple of other thoughts as I was lying in bed last night, a wee bit steamed over your words. The VS models are supposed to be the perfect bodies? Let me tell you, no woman who is that slender has breasts. They are either highly augmented or the bras have a ridiculous amount of "push-up." Only after you have worn a very uncomfortable bra for at least a day do you have the right to mock any woman who chooses to find something more comfortable to wear. Most bras are of the Devil.
My last word: I think it is truly sad that many women have such an obsessive investment in their figure and looks. Yes, it's important to keep ourselves in a healthy state, but what we do with our lives is much more important. I try to instill this value in my granddaughters: it's more important to be nice than to be pretty. I don't want them to grow up to obsess about every bite they put into their mouths like some of my friends do.
Methinks you do not understand women very well. At least the thinking sort. But thanks for the podium at which to articulate my thoughts on my pet peeve.

n.n said...

Sue O:

Just ignore it the popular and commercial culture. The force ends with your choice. The value of adulthood, and hopefully maturity, is that we improve our capacity for self-moderation. Seek people of like-mind.

As for personal appearance, it's like everything else in life, including mental development. It can be both an asset and liability. It can be a product of nature, nurture, or likely both. It measure will vary with individuals and context. There is no need to obsess nor is there value to ignore your personal appearance and presentation.

Do what you can, when you can, if you can -- moderation. This is the best advice for men and women, boys and girls, alike. Some people will have natural advantages, while others will have nurture advantages, while others yet will have both.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Stuart Schneiderman:

It's typically envy in one direction and flaunting in the other. Neither character trait is becoming of mature individuals. We can appreciate what we have or others have without resorting to this mischief. There few causes which merit anything other than cursory observations and appreciation. Ideally, a superior physical, mental, or social position should encourage personal growth.

n.n said...

Envy from one side, flaunting from another, pettiness from both. That said, I imagine the fall from a high perch causes greater harm. Advantages can be both an asset and liability.

Anonymous said...

I read an iv w/a retired Brit female fashion honcho. She wrote a book, I think.

She said the Industry exploits, injures, and kills models. Even those with the best bodies are anorexic, bulimic, and/or malnourished. Drugs are endemic. Models eat Kleenex to quell hunger and internal rumbling.

One fashion studio is well-placed. Across the street from a medical clinic. Models are frequent patients. They faint from lack of food, and have other ailments. Like Karen Carpenter.

It's horrible. I don't understand it. If normal-size women & girls look there for guidance they're lost.

For Silver Linings Playbook, the suits told Jennifer Lawrence she was overweight. She now looks definitely skinny. Bastards. Bastards. -- Rich Lara

Dennis said...

As I remember none of the great artists, mostly men, painted skinny women. Much of this come out of the desire to be ever youthful which does damage to the society in a variety of ways. One cannot be youthful enough.
This can be laid at the feet of the 60s generation "Me" society and "never trust anyone over thirty" Chant. At once it did away with the knowledge, wisdom and experiences that maturity has to offer. The challenges of youth had a balancing in free societies.
When one takes on a project in life, whether that is a job, aiding ebola patients in Africa, et al, one is also taking on the responsibilities that come with both positives and negatives. Here one has the free choice to choose. No one is making a person do a job that they find onerous.
When I think of all the hardships that my fellow Viet Nam veterans, both in country and back in the United States, many of which were drafted, and the manner in which most of them handled it I am in awe. The same is true for the many young men and women who have served since.
I am tired of years of "what do women want" and then hearing how very unhappy they are because life presents them some challenges. One is either the master of their life or they are not. Sometimes I pray for the day when adulthood become a valued commodity and in fashion in this country.
There is no challenge too difficult that we do not have the ability to handle,

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Let's all feel sorry for people who make choices for what profession that choose... after all, modeling IS a profession. Better yet, let's feel sorry for people who willingly purchase these obviously stupid, preposterous magazines with these "outrageous" pictures... after all, women seem to buy these periodicals, only to "hold themselves" to these impossible proportions, weights, makeups, cosmetic surgeries, phony eye colors, Photoshop airbrushed, preposterous fashions, etc. After all, can you please identify a woman of childbearing age who is satisfied with the way she looks? Good luck. Let me know how that works out for ya.

Can we please add some sense to this debate? Women are cruel. Women are cruel to themselves, and they are cruel to each other. Women feed on conflict, they thrive on delicious separations... who's in, who's out, who's wearing what, what someone's not wearing, etc. Gossip, calumny, and backstabbing. "My friend is the woman who is angry, disgusted, frustrated or irritated about another woman." What woman on earth wants to work for another woman? Find one!

Women have no one to blame. It all starts very young. Find me a woman who wants to go through middle school (or junior high) again. Women have created and self-enforced these nutty standards, body figures, and bizarre geometric beauty ideas of what the ideal female look is, what femininity is about, and what women contribute to society. In short, women have collectively defined their visual, spiritual, and economic value by what are self-proclaimed as silly or irrelevant factors such as whether they look good. What happens if they are relevant? We've seen it again and again and again that feminine appearance IS important. Cultures that accept this seem happier.

The "war on women" is a deflection from the internal war women have on women. It's a naked power grab. Women have a normative social culture. Whoever defines what it means to be a woman runs the table. Men have no such concerns. Who's to blame? The natural villains are men, but the real villains are the friends they drink cosmos with every weekend.