Are You The Right Shape?
Women and girls in N. America have been bombarded with images of the "ideal" woman ever since mass circulation of newspapers. The ideal has changed over the years from a Gibson girl image of large bosom, large bum augmented with a bustle to the extremely thin high fashion models of the modern era. New research published in Medical News Today, is shedding light on our selection of the ideal shape. It may be that what men are looking at as a sexual ideal, changes with the economic and social times. The new research finds that the resourceful, on the go woman generally has a more androgenous body shape with slimmer hips and larger waist than the pear shaped or hour glass shaped woman. This research goes on to show that much of the sexual selection based on body shape is cultural and where women are more valued for their resourcefulness than reproduction the preference leans toward stronger, more androgenous shapes. It also suggested that in cultures where male/female relationships are more equal, less emphasis is placed on the hour glass figure.
Other research seems to support the premise that body shape desirability is cultural.
Women have always been judged by the appearance of their bodies, regardless of their ethnicity. They are considered faceless and as a result have more attention focused on their bodies (Wade, 1984). They are appreciated more for their sexual attractiveness than their intelligence, somewhat opposite of how men are portrayed (Wade, 1984), pressuring them to have a certain body shape. “Good looking women are described in terms of their physical attractiveness, their beauty, and their thinness” (Dittmar, Lloyd, Dugan, Halliwell, Jacobs, & Cramer, 2000). With the help of the media, society has influenced what is perceived as the ideal body figure, shaping the way adolescent females feel about their own bodies (Freedman, 1984, as cited by Bissell, 2002). Magazines in different societies depict the ideal female body differently. For example, Latin magazines portray the ideal body as more curvaceous when compared with American magazines. Australian magazines portray the ideal body as more voluptuous when compared to Japanese magazines.
We were not born preferring women with figures like hourglasses and men who resemble inverted triangles, new Australian research shows.
Queensland researchers reporting in the Journal of Sex Research say these preferences emerge around the age of 10 or 11.
At age five and six young children prefer thin, straight up-and-down body shapes. But they develop an attraction to hourglasses and inverted triangles by the onset of puberty.
"The only strong conclusion is that these are not inborn preferences," said author Dr Virginia Slaughter of Queensland University's school of psychology, who supervised the paper by PhD student Jennifer Connolly.
Slaughter said it's unclear whether the development of adult body-shape preferences is related to hormonal changes or socialisation.
The 1920s and 1960s both bucked the trend of the curvaceous woman. Ann Bolin, an anthropologist at Elon College suggests that "during periods of liberation, like the 1920s, when women had just gotten the vote, and the 1960s, when the Pill became available, the ideal shape for women deemphasized their reproductive characteristics--the nourishing breasts, the wide, childbearing hips."
So What Now?
Today's ideal body shape seems to be a bizarre combination of male desire and waifish androgyny; thin, no hips, big bust. For most this is only possible with a genetically-blessed bone structure along with surgery - something which America is pursuing with a vengeance. Couple this with the "toned" look, where muscular (but not overly-so) women play lead roles in Hollywood, and champion the fitness industry.
How willingly do we subscribe to a cult of perceived beauty that is attainable by so few? Could it be that after all these years, many women are still judged (by themselves and others) on the basis of body shape and little else?
We are a two-body society: one body is an advertising medium, the other body is what you see on the street.
I think it would be nice if hating the way you look weren't so good for the economy. [...] We know, too, that women in ads, knockouts to start with, are artificially perfected beyond human emulation. We know, but we forget. - Anne Bolin
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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada