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Venus (Yes, the Goddess) Gets a Butt Lift

Mar 17, 2012 at 4:15 PM Chime in now

Venus re-touched



There’s been a lot of chatter about Italian artist Anna Giordano photoshopping classic art with current beauty standards. So, imagine if those paintings of Venus used Kate Moss as a live model. The whole point: To reexamine the media and advertising worlds’ inclination to “correct” something already beautiful into something completely unreachable. Jenni Chasteen of incrediblethings.com wrote, “The new versions look a lot more sexual than the originals.” And I sit here wondering if it’s the larger breasts or the smaller thighs that she finds so sexy.

The classic subjects were considered sexy beauties in their time. But today’s single standard of sex appeal excludes bodies like those found in the old oil paintings and, realistically, most of America today. Some people would have us believe that this skinny idea of sex appeal is natural and not just a social construct, but if that were the case, the standards of sexiness and beauty wouldn’t have changed so much over time -- think Marilyn Monroe vs. Keira Knightly. There also wouldn’t be cultures where fat women are considered the height of beauty.

My mother is awesome and juuuust a little crazy. When she was in the Peace Corps a few years ago she wrote me a letter informing me that she had sold me for two air conditioners, an astronomically high dowry. It turns out I am a regulation hottie supermodel in Kayes, Mali in West Africa. Obviously there are a number of issues with this story that I’m glossing over to make this point: As a very fat, healthy woman who is viewed in this culture as unattractive and decidedly un-sexy, I could get on a plane and go to a place where I am considered the standard for beauty and sexiness. That’s because the standards of beauty and sexiness are a cultural construct, which means that they are malleable. And that’s really good news.

It means that though we are creating this culture of narrow beauty standards, body shame, and stigma, we can also put a stop to it. Here are 3 easy ways to get started:

1. Stop body snarking. All of it. Right now. There is just no reason in the world for you to comment negatively on someone else’s body. Get your self-esteem elsewhere. Also make sure you interrupt body snarkers and shamers when you hear them.

2. Consider approaching your own body from a place of care and appreciation. Go a step further: Claim and own your unique beauty and sexiness.

3. Understand that almost everyone in our society is hurting because of the unceasing body shame and unattainable standards of beauty. Even that person who you might think has it all -- the “perfect” body, the “perfect” face -- may be living in terror of losing it. Look for ways to support other people and lift them up.

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