No Shame Ladies, Eat On

           It seems as though there is always an inner battle when deciding what after dinner treat I should devour. There are a few questions to consider: Do I eat a second bowl of Vienna Mocha Chip Friendly’s ice cream or go for a healthier option, like the over ripened banana in the back of my refrigerator. After all, I do have a jar of Jif Extra Chunky Peanut Butter that I could smear on it to make it more satisfying. But factoring in I already ate a bowl of ice cream, might as well go balls-to-the-wall and have seconds. What’s the point of eating something somewhat nutritious when I already ruined my 2,000 calorie daily intake? With a smidge of guilt, screw it, give me the gallon and forget the bowl.

         The perception of beauty has drastically changed, and will continue to change as the years come and go. The change in the ‘perfect body’ has always sparked my interest, especially when my body filled out since graduating high school. I once tried out for America’s Next Top Model (I didn’t make the cut) and realized I would be considered a plus size model. For me, coming to that realization was shocking, especially since I was a size five pant for a good portion of my life. So where are we now? As a society, how and why has our idea of what the perfect changed over the past three centuries? My overpriced journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island was in full swing as I investigated this predicament.

          Rewind to the 1800’s when being a plump, pale-skinned, pear-shaped woman was what wooed men. Their sole purpose was to be maternal and nurturing to embody what a good wife should be. Ultimately, marriage was their life goal so flaunting their child bearing hips was their ticket to a perfect life, by the 19th century standards. Corsets were introduced to accentuate women’s full figures that helped achieve the right look to land a man which included wide hips, a big bosom and a tiny waist. In a scholarly journal I researched, Corsets and Conception: Fashion and Demographic Trends in the Nineteenth Century by Mel Davies, she quoted from another scholar that it was claimed “wearing of corsets in England and America was the ‘hallmark of virtue’ amoung the middle classes in the nineteenth century, so much so that the ‘uncorseted women reeked of license; an unlaced waist was regarded as a vessel of sin.” She went on to say “the corset was intended to shape the figure, not merely to fit it” (Davies 620). Contortionists much?

           The 1900’s are what changed it all. Women threw out their corsets and embraced their natural bodies. A new woman was born. She drank, smoked, danced and voted. This woman wore makeup and took risks in fashion. This coined women of the era ‘flappers’. According to Google, the definition is a “fashionable young women intent on enjoying herself and breaking conventional standards of behavior”. In the June 1922 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, G. Stanley Hall described a flapper’s new found appetite among other newfound hobbies and interests.“Those who sell candies, ices, sodas, or 'sweetened wind,' are unanimous that flappers are their best customers. It somehow seems as if they could almost live on sweets; and their mothers complain that it interferes with the normality of their appetites, digestion, and nutrition generally” (Hall 774). That is my kind of lady because anyone who loves sweets as much as I do is a friend of mine. (This probably explains why I am considered a ‘plus size’ model). These women continued to embrace their curvy bodies as their predecessors did. Shameless and independent, women of the 20’s are the cause of my over eating, music chasing, ambitious personality. However, by the mid-20’s, weight was starting to be seen as a part of science with the study of calories and body fat percentages. Models were getting skinnier by the year. Soon, bare-boned models like Twiggy emerged, changing the game forever.

Time Magazine's idea of a perfect body in 1955
     A new millennium brought a new meaning to what being beautiful was thought to be. Celebrities like Britney Murphy, Nicole Richie and train-wreck Lindsay Lohan were pushing the boundaries of being skinny vs. being healthy. In an issue of Time Magazine, they published photos of what they thought to be the definition of a perfect female body in 1955. Compared to models in the 21st century, these busty women look double the size of Kate Moss, for example. Seeing her on the cover of Vogue makes me want to eat a donut for her because of her dangerously borderline anorexic body (before her stunt in rehab). So I can argue that fashion is the cause for our distorted view on women’s bodies. I found a scholarly article titled Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines: Women’s Interpretations of Fashion Photographs by Diana Crane that dissects the reasoning behind our perception of a perfect figure. She claimed that “fashion photographs generate enormous dissatisfaction among women because they create unrealistic expectation that most women are unable to meet” (Crane 541). There was also a study that Crane researched Erving Goffman’s “Gender Advertisements” who said “[such] poses are instantly understood by the public because they represent in an exaggerated manner stereotypical images of women that correspond to the way in which women’s roles are understood in American culture” (Crane 542). Over time, waist sizes were deteriorating making busty beautiful women an unattractive thing. Screw that.

       This blog post probably hasn’t answered my initial question of why society’s perception has changed of a perfect body, but it helped map out the decline of such ideal. I guess it depends on the person’s decision to mimic social norms, however, nothing with stop me from eating another bowl of Vienna Mocha Chip. Sure, I love keeping up with the trending fashions but no model or celebrity can change my thought of a healthy women’s body. Ice cream lovers UNITE!

Corsets and Conception: Fashion and Demographic Trends in the Nineteenth Century. Mel Davies.“Comparative Studies in Society and History”, Vol 24, No. 4 (Oct., 1982), pp. 611-641. Published by: Cambridge University Press. Article Stable URI: http;//

G. Stanley Hall, "Flapper Americana Novissima," Atlantic Monthly 129 (June 1922): 774

Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines: Women’s Interpretations of Fashion Photographs. Diana Crane. “The Sociological Quarterly. Col. 40, No. 4 (Autumn, 1999) pp.541-563/ Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Mid West Sociological Society. Article Stable URI: