Terrible power: how and why the canons of beauty change

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Terrible power: how and why the canons of beauty change
Terrible power: how and why the canons of beauty change

At first, the men sighed in their curvaceous forms and … breasts sagging to the knees. Then - on skinny and broad-shouldered. Then - on "cow heads" and aquiline noses. Then - on the pale and "slightly pregnant." Then it started …

the beauty

Beauty as an illusion

There are no ugly women. Because somewhere, someday this particular type of rosy-cheeked bbw or red-haired thin woman without eyebrows and eyelashes was the ultimate dream of a strong half of humanity. However, not half. Today we are used to focusing on Western tastes imposed by Hollywood, and sometimes we forget that the farther from the usual civilization, the weirder. If not worse, for a modern European, of course.

Brides from the African Tuareg tribe, for example, are doomed to walk in girls if by the time of marriage their waists - and, they say, even necks - are not hidden in folds of fat. There must be at least 12 folds! And the Bushmen and Khoisans have huge buttocks in fashion - the more, the more beautiful. And Kim Kardashian is far from Bushman standards - a real beauty should have such a back that makes it difficult to get up, and besides, it must protrude strictly at an angle of ninety degrees (in medicine, this phenomenon is even called "steatopegia" - the predominant deposition of fat on the buttocks). That's right: in hungry Africa, a potential bride must bear children, so there must be a lot of her. Although the Black Continent is full of completely inexplicable canons of beauty - the same plates inserted into the lips of women from the Mursi tribe (the larger the plate, the prettier the lady). However, they say, this is not done for the sake of beauty, but quite the opposite, so that the suitors from neighboring tribes are not taken away. And it will do for its own.

In New Guinea, women bare their breasts. Moreover, any - and girlish elastic charms, and mature, "wilted". So it is the latter that are considered the most beautiful. Not in the sense of decrepitude, but in the sense that the longer the better (preferably to the navel). But in Japan, they love young people - those who have not reached 20 years old - for children's faces, slightly protruding ears and … a little crooked teeth.


In India, portly ladies are considered beauties. The Internet is full of stories about how European men who adore slim and fit in their homeland, getting to India, begin to pay attention to swarthy fatties. And it's not at all a herd feeling - it's just that the girls here are slim not because they are engaged in fitness: as a rule, they are simply malnourished. The instinctive turns on: such a child will not be able to bear. Fullness in India means wealth, and wealth means health. Who needs stunted rags? In general, there is a Hindu for every taste.

Beauty and the ancients

This is because beauty is really a relative concept. Its "standards" depend on the economic, political and even religious conditions in which a particular society lives. So, knowing them, one can guess what the local ideal of beauty will be in general. But let's start in order. That's right from the Stone Age.

In those distant times, more than corpulent ladies were obviously in fashion. This is evidenced by ancient figurines - the so-called Paleolithic Venus (the oldest of them today - Venus from Hole Fels - dates back 35 thousand years ago): stout women with giant breasts, belly and thighs. But many do not have a head at all - probably, this element of the female body was not important to ancient men. How much has changed since then?.. However, the beauty of a woman's face is important - this is proved not only by modern standards, but also by ancient Egyptian, and even more - by ancient Greek.


The population of Ancient Egypt suffered from periodic wars, but, living in the fertile Nile Valley, did not particularly starve, therefore the beauties on the frescoes are by no means fat, but quite narrow-hipped, with long legs and small breasts, broad shoulders and generally resemble boys (the same - Egyptian - with long straight and black hair and "cat" makeup). Excessive thinness was discouraged, as well as being overweight. Fit and even muscular figures were appreciated. Almost like now. Perhaps that is why we are so pleased to look at the ancient Egyptian drawings - they remind us of the image of modern beauties and beauties. The fact is that in the country of the pyramids there was a relative equality of the sexes (what we see today in European civilization), therefore, special differences in male and female figures were not appreciated - no large breasts and buttocks, no unnecessarily puppet faces: high and angular cheekbones, the nose is exceptionally straight, the lips are plump, and the eyes, although large, are the same as those of men.

The ancient Greeks are known to value beauty. Perhaps even more masculine than feminine. However, the last one too. Spartan education and love for the Olympic Games did their job - correct and fairly strong proportions were considered beautiful. Women have small but rounded breasts, wide hips, not very long legs and full shoulders (gender inequality in Hellas was reflected in the figure of women - feminine and smooth). A face with only a straight nose and almost no bulge in the region of the bridge of the nose (the heirs of Greek culture - the Romans - were, however, considered the owners of a hump nose to be beauties). The forehead is high and wide, and the eyes are large and widely spaced. In general, the girl's head was supposed to be like a cow. No wonder the goddess of the Earth, Hera, was called hair as a compliment.

Beauty and sin

In the Middle Ages, fashion turned its back to beauty. The reason for this is the food crisis, overpopulation and the dominance of Christian morality, which prohibits everything and everyone. Showing a woman's body is now declared a sin, so the ladies hide it in shapeless clothes to the toes. No expressive features either in the figure or in the face - a woman with an iconographic face is held in high esteem: high-browed (in order to achieve this effect, the ladies plucked the hair above the forehead, and then smeared it with a special ointment against growth), with a long neck (shaved hair on nape) and rickety.

The ideal is the Virgin Mary


It is good to have light, soft hair, but lightening it is considered sinful on purpose, and it also needs to be hidden under strange headdresses in the form of horns and cones. The expression on the face should be meek, therefore, no eyebrows (they were plucked out completely), there should also be no chest (which is why it was mercilessly pulled). Add to that the deathly pallor (the skin was lightened by hook or by crook - rubbed with lemon juice, lead whitewash and bloodletting) and a small rounded tummy (who did not have it - they put special pads), symbolizing eternal pregnancy. Well, in general, in the Middle Ages, beauty was the last thing to think about: it was not appropriate for a "righteous" woman.

Beauty returns

Rather, what was called such in the Renaissance. In Europe, exhausted by moral admonitions, a spiritual crisis has long matured, but with the standard of living, the opposite is true - science and production are developing. Fashion including, but the canons of beauty are very cyclical, and society turns its gaze towards antiquity with its glorification of the human body. The image of a thin woman imposed by the church has become boring to nausea - at the peak of popularity, large ladies with powerful hips, large shoulders and breasts, but small feet. Down with cadaverous pallor - a healthy face should blaze with a blush!


True, at the beginning of the 17th century, excessively curvy forms also get bored - lightness and playfulness are in fashion, and also completely indecent decollete: all the attention to the chest, neck, arms, shoulders and face.The rest of the figure remains outside special standards, but the waist is still tightened with a corset. In spite of the medieval fadedness, bright makeup is in honor - rather, even makeup: an abundance of powder, blush and constant flies. However, incredibly white skin is still popular (black is considered a sign of commoners tanned from hard physical labor), but for contrast - black eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes. In her hair are towers of flowers and ships. Due to the extreme complexity and high cost of hairstyles, ladies rarely wash their heads.

But wigs and tons of makeup like a Christmas tree get bored quickly. In the 19th century, the standards of beauty are again turning in the opposite direction - the Empire style and natural beauty are in fashion. To whiten their skin, ladies do not rub themselves with powder, but simply … drink vinegar; to get a healthy blush, eat strawberries. Excessive obesity, like thinness, is no longer held in high esteem - the ideal figure resembles ancient Greek statues with their rounded features and pear-shaped shapes.

American beauty

The beginning of the 20th century is an era of global changes. Women win the war for their rights and “rip off” not only their clothes, but all the attributes of femininity in general: short haircuts, androgynous, angular, thin figures with long legs are in fashion. But they don't refuse make-up - on the contrary. They especially try to emphasize the eyes and eyebrows. Thick dark shadows are generously applied to the upper and lower eyelids to make the eyes appear large and tragic. The eyebrows are plucked into a thin line and dyed abundantly, in honor of the eyebrows with a house, which further emphasizes the general nervousness and tragedy of the female image. At the peak of popularity, what can be called an "emancipated hysterical" obsessed with thoughts of suicide - a woman who has escaped from patriarchal captivity, who does not yet know what to do with her freedom.


But World War II changed everything - thinness is no longer quoted. Because of hunger and hardship, men again like feminine ladies with a doll-like appearance: snub noses, long eyelashes and bow lips. The figure is quite well-fed, however, at the same time, it is quite proportional, like that of Marilyn Monroe. From now on, Hollywood generally begins to dictate its standards of beauty to the entire European civilization.


Twiggy: the beauty standard of the 1960s

In the 1960s, people "thawed out" after the war again turn their eyes to thin people. Probably, the shattered society by that time had not yet come up with another ideal, so someone who looks like a child becomes the standard, or perhaps this is just the world's reaction to the post-war baby boom. His embodiment is Twiggy: a supermodel with sparrow proportions, giant eyes, long eyelashes and short hair. The same thinness was appreciated in the 1990s, when the image of the ascetic and reserved model Kate Moss was in fashion.


But the "standard" of the 2000s - Angelina Jolie - tall, thin, high-cheekbone and broad-shouldered. An emancipated woman, but with femininely large eyes and very plump lips. The beginning of the XXI century is probably repeating the "leapfrog" of the XXth century, mixing the image of a man and a woman together.


“The Greeks have deduced a universal rule of the golden section - the ideal proportions of the beauty of anything: be it a portico or a woman’s figure,” says the famous St. Petersburg psychoanalyst Dmitry Olshansky. - But the following centuries have shown that the standards of beauty are constantly changing century after century, and the Baroque era, contrary to Greek myths, clearly stated that imbalance, disharmony and falling out of the template are beautiful. Modern cognitive scientists are no less naive in asserting that people like correct completed forms, evolutionists are convinced that everyone likes healthy and fertile females, although in real life we ​​see that human preferences are not described by either evolutionary expediency or physiological needs.Someone loves unclosed gestalts and enjoys imperfection and incompleteness, someone considers beautiful that which does not lead to procreation at all, listening to music, for example, or watching a movie.

The concept of beauty (like any other judgment of taste) is derived from the linguistic world in which it exists. Therefore, not only depending on the era, but also depending on the system of ideas and the structure of the language, the spectrum of tastes and assessments changes. For example, the Greek word kalos ("beauty") is related to kalon ("just"), which Socrates used to define the ideals of the republic. It is not surprising that only in the Greek consciousness the concept of the unity of beauty, goodness and truth could be born. The Greeks could not even imagine that a bright candy wrapper could hide a worthless dummy. Nowhere in ancient literature do we find images of calculating, cynical beauties who use their looks to deceive men. Why? Because the very structure of the language suggests that beauty is justice, and it cannot be otherwise.

The Latin bellus ("beauty") is related to bellum ("war"), therefore only in Roman culture the idea of ​​the conquest of beauty could appear. Hence the incredible number of Roman cosmetology procedures, massage practices, spas, fashion and beauty industries, which in their scope and capital turnover are hardly inferior (and maybe even surpass) modern ones. Beauty is what a woman should achieve, achieve and conquer. Beauty is a matter of technology. Typically Roman idea, in contrast to the Greek "honest beauty".

The Russian word "beauty" also goes back to the word "steal", which means "fire". Hence the idea of ​​burning and destructive beauty. Take any beauty of Dostoevsky - this is necessarily a fam fatal, which destroys both itself and all the men around it. Just like in Tolstoy, not a single beautiful and bright woman survives, because in the Russian mentality beauty is deadly, she kills both the owner herself and everyone who touches her.

Beauty is fire

In addition, the word “steal” is cognate with the verb “steal”: beautiful, red, stolen. That is, beauty is a deception, a lie, an illusion that always passes off one thing for another. Let us recall all the girls of Gogol, who are, in fact, werewolves. Beauty is deceiving, which directly contradicts the Greek concept of beauty. Therefore, in Russian culture, the idea of ​​kalokagatiya, the unity of all virtues, cannot arise. On the contrary, beauty is not a virtue, but a yoke and even a curse. About this and folk wisdom say: "Do not be born beautiful, but be born happy", as if these are opposites.

Even this cursory excursion allows us to conclude that the standards of beauty are directly dependent on the grammatical structures of the language. In every era and in every culture, what is semantically outlined in the language is considered beautiful.

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