Sunday, December 19, 2010

19 December 1956 “Q & A Sunday: Am I Beautiful”

This month I have tried toying with little bits of the modern world to see how I feel. Dipping my toe into the pond, if you will. Checking the water and seeing if I want to dive in. I also often get questions about how I feel the modern world is in regards to a woman’s image compared to the 1950’s. Many see the 1950’s as a very oppressive time for women. In the kitchen in the apron at their husband’s beck and call or given bad role models in schools and university. I am finding that what we have today on a very subtle level for women’s body image is actually dangerous, even to the point of death for some.
One of the things I have done this month to test out the modern world was watch this Documentary HERE. (You will have to sign into HULU as it says it deals with adult content. However, I found it interesting that there was not really any nudity and no language. It was almost as if they didn’t want young people to see what it is they are being exposed to so that they could still BE exposed to it.) Please, if you have some time, watch it. I think it is rather well done and it deals with beauty image and worth watching. If you have a daughter, perhaps watch it with her. I think it is really eye opening.
It, however, made me repel a bit. Just as my flipping through some modern magazines at the store the other day or a foray through racks of clothes while out Christmas shopping. I am rather timid about the modern world and rightly so.

47voguecoverspring This is a 1947 cover of Vogue. Certainly the model is thin, yet she seems a real person. 1940vogue Now go back to this 1940 Vogue image. This model is beautiful, but i can tell you today there are many Photoshop areas that would happen. The little bit of arm flap on her raised arm would be removed. The little curve of skin under her forearm would be gone. The rippling on her neck and the slightest little line on her throat would all be gone. That mark above her eyebrow would disappear.
These lovely ladies in the 1940’s are very healthy looking. But today they could not be high fashion models.40sswimsuitmodel1 40sswimsuitmodel2 These girls legs would be considered too fat and not toned.40sswimsuitmodel3 The girl on the right, a healthy weight, would feel bad about her little tummy and the extra ‘fat’ on her upper arm. Why wouldn’t she if she lived in today’s world, where even if she was not looking at high fashion magazine’s but simply shopping for swimsuits on a site she would encounter this.swimsuitmodern This is not even a high fashion shoot. It is an ad from a site where you can purchase this suit. This girl’s thinness, with her ribs fairly easy to see, is built like a 5 year old thin boy. modernsuitmodel Her high fashion counterpart is no only very thin but obviously so because she is most likely 12-14 and has not hit puberty full on. Boyish hips and skeletal legs. This seems very familiar to me.childindarfur Fashion shot? No, child starving in Darfur. Is it beautiful? Is it the ideal?
And, if we think this warped body image is only affecting teens, take a look at this runway show.childmodelCompared to this 1950’s Life photo shoot of little girls on the beach.50sgirls bathing suits One say’s let’s play and have fun and the other, well I don’t like to say what it says, particularly when it is being applied to a girl under 10.
This is amazing to me because this element of being ‘plugged’ into the media of the modern world doesn’t only work on your physical feelings. As I almost exclusively look at magazines printed no later than 1959, I have, in the past few years, become less enamored with things. A flip through a modern magazine makes me feel not only bad about my body, but covetous of things. A woman’s magazine or an architecture magazine today is an instrument of covetousness. Not that the old magazines weren’t selling you things, but in the 1950’s ladies magazines there are countless ways to make and create your own idea and ideal of the perfect home. It isn’t all stainless steel and granite kitchens full of high end restaurant appliances despite the fact that most families only use their microwave, or oven to heat up prepared foods.
In a way, these past two years have been an almost psychological cleansing for me. By simply depriving myself of any modern advertising and tv, it is amazing how over time my idea of happiness and my desires have changed drastically. Yet, give me a modern magazine for a few minutes and those old feelings come rushing back. I think we honestly do not know how much power all the modern media we are plugged into have on us. Even simple tv shows we might watch are full of subtle hints at what we SHOULD want and that pursuit of some happiness or ideal that is just out of reach. If we stop looking or striving for that happiness, we would stop buying and start looking around and living. We would enjoy what we have and who we have around us. We would even think, what of those who have less than I? And community might begin to reform.
In so many ways it is just easy to live in the modern world. We can just plug in and watch and covet. It can be harder to break free, yet once we do we begin to see how much easier it actually is to live outside of it. I mean to say, it is easy to go and buy prepared food, sit and just veg rather than read or play games together or plant a garden, but once you begin to the those things and try to go back to the other, you find them empty and vapid. It is as if the ‘hard work’ we think is involved in really living is actually easier work that is more inviting and engaging in being alive.
I know for me the more I disconnect from the modern world via media the more I feel connected to myself and those I know. Although in so many ways, when I am out and about I do feel a disconnect from those around me in shops or generally, in that I cannot understand them anymore. The impetus that compels them, though once my own, now seems so alien as to seem as if I have actually travelled here from another time.
So, back to the point of our body image: It is obviously distorted. What was once considered beautiful would now be considered chubby. And what once appeared in magazines would no be air-brushed into a way that is not possible. Why is it that we do value looks more than brains? Why is it that it is mainly on the women than the men that such advertising is based? We women certainly seem to be the sex which wishes to please and so find ourselves, without rhyme or reason, buying into whatever body image is presented to us. We might scoff at our corset wearing Victorian ancestors and then go continue to obsessively read about how to lose weight, how to eat to get thinner. And the irony in the entire situation is that we are all more fat than before. Our models were once a bit thinner than the average, but overall similar in size, now they are anorexic and we, as a nation, are dangerously overweight?
You see the more we are feed an image to strive for, very very thin and then advertised to fatty and unhealthy foods to eat because they are easy, we are on an endless cycle that will GUARNTEE consumers. If we keep finding ourselves heavier than the ideal, then we will buy more products to get thinner, we will also drastically change weight, needing to purchase more clothes and as clothes are so cheap we will buy things smaller in the ‘hope’ that we will wear them. The modern world of consuming is specifically set up to make us unhappy, because that makes a better consumer. We want more and then we need the shopping to feel good as well.
All I can say is if I had a daughter today I don’t know what I would do. How could one shield her from the very world? Where can one go that is NOT plugged into the world? Wifi and TV is even in some of the most remote areas now. If you have watched the documentary you will see the results of body image in one generation to the native people. Their ideal of a heavier woman, such a normal cultural part of their ideals, changed when tv was introduced and the next generation of native girls were throwing up to be thin. It is a powerful tool and when we think it is okay for our children to simply be allowed to be plugged in all the time and then wonder why they do what they do, it is almost a blind naiveté, yet what can one do? We are IN the modern world surrounded by technology. But, ask yourselves why? Why did you let it in? Why, when it knocked at the door did you say, “Come on in, have a seat, of course we all need cell phones, hand held computer devices, tv’s in every room, video games piled to the ceiling, movies at the drop of a hat”.
If we look around our home and our lives and really stop and consider, how much is media and modern outside sources affecting my and my families life? Now consider the 1940 family. The radio is there, the first outside intrusion into the privacy of the family, but no tv and in many cases not always a phone. How did they live? Were they Neanderthals clubbing one another on the head going about in loin cloths? When is it enough? Will we always need just one more device, just one more way to be entertained or aided, “I can’t drive without a machine telling me when to turn right or left”. When? I think, as we approach the day that in our country has become the most consumerist day of the year, it is worth thinking upon. And to ask ourselves not only are we ‘un-happy’ with our bodies, but are we happy with our lives? Do all the things we have make us happier or more well adjusted? Are we better off than our grandparents generation because of all we have? Are we more connected with our children or each other?
Let me know what you think. If you can prove me wrong, I will be very happy. I would love to find a way to return to the modern world in some way, but fear to give up the calm and connection I have found by simply unplugging myself. I know that sounds odd as I am typing this on my computer, but this is a machine I use to set down my thoughts and make creative objects as I would a typewriter, an encyclopedia or a canvas and paint. It is not my window into the world. But, is it realistic to think that we, as a people, could ever live that way en masse? Or is it simply to easy to just sit back, plug in, buy and ignore ourselves and those around us and continue being covetous and simply gratifying it with a click of the mouse and Paypal? I don’t know. Watch the Documentary and let me know how you feel about it.


  1. I think you're right on most everything. I'm not removed from the modern world as much as you are (or as much as I'd like), but I do stand back, more as an observer of the modern world a lot. I do not read modern magazines, but choose to read blogs, such as yours, about a vintage life style. Obviously, I have a computer, and we choose to have cell phones rather than a landline, but I use it once or twice a month, to let the Mr know I'll be late, or I'll need a ride.

    I think the need to shelter young girls from modern images is what makes many parents turn to home schooling. If I ever had a child, I would definitely be considering it.

  2. I agree with this for the most part but I am a size 0 and perfectly healthy with no eating disorders or a bad diet so to be that skinny can be real and healthy (though a lot of times i wish I had more curves so people would stop thinking im 12) ...just not for most people. And I am a photoshop editor lol.... but yea I do think that people are putting unrealistic expectations on beauty that most people can not fulfill.

  3. I am a size 2 and have no eating disorder or any kind of health problems. Just because you can see my ribs, does not mean I am unhealthy! I enjoy your blog by the way!

  4. I think for me, it isn't even that it is to be rally skinny that is bad. If the image was to be overweight in an unhealthy way, that could also be bad, especially for the naturally skinny girls who cannot gain weight. The idea is that the entire system is about projecting ANY image and that it works. People, and not just young people, are affected by it. I was never a size 2 but at 6 feet I used to be a size 6. That was a good weight for me and my healthiest and I would like to get back to even a size 12. Yet, my overall feeling of my body image was so quickly thrown back out the window the second I spent a few minutes looking at modern magazines and some modern clothing sites. The idea that the image being sold is easy to access for all of us as we are always plugged into media is what scares me.
    It certainly is true that many size 0's are healthy. My sister in law is a 0. She does yoga and is went to school for ballet most of her life. She is healthy AND very skinny. That is also her body type. I also think we really need to lose weight overall in this country (me included) to be a healthier weight, but again the combination of expectation combined with desire to eat more is the elixir in modern media that will keep the wheel going that allows us all to be plugged into a consumer hamster wheel of feel bad, eat, shop lose weight gain weight buy eat shop.

  5. I think you are spot on about the advertising.....young girls today are worried too much about their appearance, more so then when I was many ways I`m so glad to have boys, I am also grateful to have a mom who never dieted nor thought she was fat.

    I`m five feet and four 3 quarter inches tall and weigh 125 pounds, that is a healthy weight yet I am bombarded by many who think I am too `thin.....ironically I used to be 104 pounds, now that was too thin.

    It`s all in perception, I refuse to look at magazines which depict women in a bad light, it`s truly beneath me. Nor do I worry too much about how others think I look.

    As long as I am happy about myself that is the main thing, it doesn`t matter what advertisers say because I choose to unplug myself from their consumeristic machine.

    I`ve seen the pics of you 50`s gal and you are not fat by any Grandma Irene who died a few months ago was always a bigger woman, but she was a strong woman as well and she had to be as a farmer`s wife. Yet she lived more of a happier life then my mom`s mother who never weighed more than 110 pounds in her life and was only 85 pounds when she married.

    As long as you have confidence in yourself, you can transcend this modern baloney of rail thiness and looked for it as it truly is, to make women feel ugly in order so they can buy the beauty products that the companies`wish to sell.

    I say no thanks to the baloney and embrace the woman I am today, my stretch marks are badges of honour, I am the proud mom of two beautiful boys, each pregnancy has altered my body but I have never felt happier about my body image.......

  6. Oops forgot to sign my name on above post sorry 50`s gal.

    Mom in Canada

  7. It is indeed chilling to see those little girls dressed and posing so provocatively. What are we thinking?

    Women in the olden-time photos looked like women -- women who liked being women. Women today try to look like little boys, due to the media influence, and then we wonder why we have low self-esteem, bad self-image. Why do we buy into this? You always feel bad when you are trying be something you are not (a non-woman).

    You are very in touch with your feelings -- this is evident as we read your posts. It will be interesting to see what you will do in the future. My life has been enriched by reading your blog.

  8. I have said it before...the best thing we ever did was get rid of TV. My daughter (8 years old), has not been raied to watch and try and emulate he 'modern' look. She has been raised watching Cary Grant movies, Hogan's Heroes, andy Griffith Show, etc. And she ADORES the 'new look' and loves Grace Kelly.

    I have tried and tried to instill a self confidence into my children. The world wants them miserable. You are spot on there, 50's Gal. My cousin worked in the marketing game, and she is one of the most miserable people I know. And every single one of the people she has worked with I have met are miserable. And well, Misery loves company.

    Stay in the 50's. Be happy. I might just join you there. haha

  9. Honey, just stay where you are. It's not a very nice world out there right now. I grew up in the 50's and 60's and am delighted to be reliving that simpler, yet happier way of life. My husband is from another country and wouldn't understand a total conversion back in time, but is slowly adapting to his wife's changes. It's so refreshing to find a group of ladies that love the unplugged world.

  10. i'm with lorie. my kids watch old movies and no modern tv. it's the only way to keep them from being bombarded with unhealthy attitudes-and not only about body image!! we never shop at malls b/c the store posters are so over the top lewd. it's sad that the fun, lighthearted, healthy youth has faded into this slinky, prowling, thing that has nothing to do with a real woman. ugh.

  11. You can teach how to analyze media, how to figure out what is being sold and why. It's a valuable skill--I taught it to my kids, I learned it in a high school class (too late, it needs to come earlier).

    I don't read newspapers or magazines, and when I watch TV, I fast-forward through the commercials, or mute the volume.

    Judgmentalism is something from the 1950s that I don't think is worth preserving.

  12. To raise kids who are not consumers is easier than most people think. It just takes a commitment to being a PARENT. Not your kid's best friend. I had a very guarded and what some people would call a deprived childhood.

    But it made me the person I am and I wouldn't trade it for anything! We didn't watch all that much TV. When we did it tended to be things from the 50's and 60's. It was truly a different world then, a mere twenty years ago. Even the Disney Channel was safe all the time because most of what they showed was classic Disney stuff. Nowadays the only Disney show I'd let my kids watch, if I had kids, is Phineas and Ferb.

    My parents always encouraged us to be who we are. I've never cared what other people think about me. I've always had my own sense of fashion. The only fights I ever had with my mom was when she wanted me to wear something I hated because she thought it would be cute on me. I usually won because I'm very strong-willed and would just wait her out.

    Raising children to be real, thinking people isn't as hard as many make it out to be. It just takes a plan and dedication to stick with it. I think you'd make a wonderful mother and raise wonderful children who would enrich the world.

    Modern life is what we make it. If you want your modern life to be more 1950's than 21st century, do it! No one has the right to judge you for it. (to be honest, those people are probably just jealous that you had the guts to change something)

  13. I rarely watch TV and never read fashion or gossip mags. I dip into online news for weather and a main over view of the day's news most days. People are astounded and confused by my lack of interest in what they consider important- name brand clothes, celebrities, make-up, shopping *shudder*, soaps, reality TV, overseas holidays, etc. The whole 'keep up with the Joneses' thing gets missed- for the most part- in our home. My husband gets mobile phone mania when it is time for him to upgrade. As he uses it extensively for his work, I can kind of understand. My son is home schooled so we miss a lot of 'wants' that come out of school's 'look what I got'. Happily, our wants are very simple. Homemade, handmade items for our home and for gifts, fresh foods to cook and spending time with each other.

  14. This was a very interesting post, I very much agree with your point that fashion and magazines portray a body image that is completely unrealistic for most women to achieve and also encourages looking sexy instead of looking beautiful. But I think becoming concious of the problem means that you can live in the modern world and not fall into that trap.
    It is also true, the US and Canada are the most consumptive countries on Earth. But you can live in the modern world and not be pulled in.I telicommute, have satellite, etc and I used to feel much as you describe, the drive of seeing and wanting, but I think being aware of the issue keeps it in line. I think I became aware of all this because I made a 3 year plant which required I go on a tight budget as part of the goal is to clear up my remaining student debt before I have children. Being on a budget really made me step back and say "do I actually NEED this" when ever I wanted something. It also helps paying with cash instead of debit or credit because there is a phsycology behind it where you are more reluctant to part with cash than to spend on plastic, it's more "real". It also helps to think how many hours of work does it take to earn the money to pay for this, that really puts it in prespective. I know it really changed my mindset, many times now if I go into a store and they do not have exactly what I came in for I walk out empty handed.

  15. I have to agree with Rachel. Raising kids in the modern world is not difficult. You have to be the parent and talk to your kids all the time. Talk, talk, talk.... and it really does sink in.

    My daughter is 14 and since she was little we talked about 'appropriate' clothing. She never wanted to wear bikinis or be showing her belly button in too short tops like her friends, because she knows it isn't appropriate for her age. She also realizes that piercings/tattoos can hinder her in future employment opportunities (I can't believe that her friend's parents allow their kids at 14 to get piercings and tattoos!)

    We have always talked about healthy food choices with our kids and they don't want to eat fast food. They have, but they prefer home cooked as to them it tastes far better and they realize it is healthier for them.

    My kids also don't have cell phones (though they would like them). We find it unnecessary - if they need to call us there is always a telephone around somewhere that they can use. My daughter really wants a phone to text with, but gets annoyed with friends that come to visit her and then spend the time texting others (and in turn ignoring her). That was a good conversation opener re: cell phones :)

    The media is such a strong influence, but as parents we just need to be tough and help our kids make good choices, and to help them realize exactly what they are gaining by not giving in to consumerism.

  16. I think this is absolutely a wonderful post and I wholeheartedly agree with you! We have one daughter and five boys, ages 11 though 3, and we are constantly trying to balance the invasive technology input in our home. It's hard!!! One thing that helps is that we do not have cable television, only watch movies on Netflix that we've screened, only have one tv and computer, and try to put our faith first. The god of consumerism is a mean master and one that threatens to destroy so many, especially young girls and women. It's ironic that feminism supposedly brought us so much freedom. However, instead of being valued as women to whom men and boys give honor and respect we are now purely sexual objects or androgenous superheroes acting as men. I know my grandmother adored her husband and children and her role as homemaker, as do I! I love your blog and applaud your efforts.

  17. Rachel, my kids love Phinneas and Ferb! Kind of has a retro feel, doesn't it?

    I'm not too strict with what my kids wear but they naturally choose appropriate clothing, probably because my husband and I do. We all wear classics but my oldest, who is 12, is a little more fashionable but not skanky. (Isn't that word, "skanky", so representative of our times? It just sounds gross!)

    I didn't get to watch the whole video but it looks very interesting. Sad how a 12 year old girl feels the need to objectify herself for money. I'm not against children being models if they're modeling children's clothing. I'd have to say NO if my daughters wanted to wear that bikini anywhere.

    Sarah H.

  18. I know there is one thing i hate most of all: the piercing and tattooing of people. I know that it is fashion today, to a degree, but its PERMANENT. I've always wondered why we have allowed that to mainstream (a long cry from the 50s; even though in the 20s, some flapper types would get tats before the depression)maybe its because jeans and t-shirts for standard wear (no skirts below knees) are normal today, they are even tattooing necks on FEMALES!! I ve heard that bodily tatting was considered primitive and the cultures who did it changed when they became 'chrisianized ' by choice......MERRY CHRISTMAS

  19. I wish someone would bring back charm schools for ladies and gentlemen..i notice the more 'ladylike' and feminine the girl acts, on average, the more masculine the boy acts in public. (in a positive way, not 'machisimo')..there were so many styles that people could choose from, only if they knew how to sew......JOYEUX NOEL

  20. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. :-)

    I made a decision to get rid of cable tv or any tv channels, for that matter, about three years ago. My daughter doesn't miss it. She finds her own interests. And she LOVES Hogan's Heroes! She also likes some of the British comedies I watch, and of course, Scooby Doo DVDs.

    I feel disconnected from the modern world, too. Sometimes I think I'm turning into a recluse and I wonder if it's a bad thing!

  21. I too, feel reclusive. It is nice to know there are others like ourselves out there that, despite difference in religion or those aspects, still yearn for a time of simpler things. And even if that time is partly made up in our heads, we surely could make them real in our lives. The one aspect, the vintage community, is what I most long for. If only we could amass enough of us to make over a small town or rural area into a sort of town, how lovely. We would still differ in religious and some personal beliefs but would hold true that we should respect one another, know that clothing and personal hygine and politeness ARE important and ARE needed in civilized societies. Ah, pipe dreams...


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