Historical Bodies

Candace, 25 July 2005, Comments Off on Historical Bodies
Categories: Bodies, Women's Studies

According to the website Shrine of the Forgotten Goddesses, fat and being fat were valuable attributes for female goddesses of the prehistoric era. Thighs, breasts, vulvas, hips were all round and abundant. Women are depicted as fruitful and with great emphasis on their ability to procreate.

The Magna Mater, Inanna, and Gaia are all portrayed as fat, happy women, full of love, and fertility. In times when food was difficult to find, lean women were less likely to conceive, carry a child to term or being able to make milk. A fat woman meant a woman with some stored nutritional reserves to sustain herself and her children. This is what ensured survival for the human species.

Women’s ability to give birth was also associated with the fertility of the planet. Fertility was women’s great power and they were valued for it. It was said that if Sangiyan Sari (Lady Rice) of the Celebes Island left the island there would be famine in the land. But now in the 21st century, farmers are male and women’s contribution is devalued.

Each goddess in each land described on “Shrine” resembles the people she protects. Today in North America media images in dominant culture depict women as white and dangerously thin. Cultural images do not depict or represent real women. Large breasts are still common but skinny waists and long thin legs and arms are preferred in cultural imagery. The depictions are usually edited as it is impossible for real women to achieve appearances like these.

Instead of being valued for their ability to reproduce, women are often portrayed as dependent and narcissistic. Women’s bodies are fragmented, objectified, and sexualized. Women’s breasts are no longer symbols of fertility but are presented as products of the male gaze and objects of men’s desire. Women’s bodies are presented as perpetually available vessels for men’s pleasure.

It is no wonder that women today have such a difficult time balancing pressures between work, family, and their own needs. Cultural representations today mask women’s reproductive capabilities. Even menstruation is hidden or depicted as something shameful. Rather than big gaping vaginas, wide birthing pelvises and pendulous breasts for birthing and nurturing a nation, women are only/either breasts, hands, feet, lips, or eyes. Sadly, these fragmented body parts could not sustain a thing.


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