It’s funny what women will do if it’s fashionable–and damn we have done some pretty weird stuff in the pursuit of beauty. Whether it’s plucking off all our eyelashes and eyebrows in the 18th century or wearing rib-braking corsets in the 19th century will do it for beauty. Each century brings about a new ideal of beauty and new extremes of how to get there. The latest fixation of the past 30 years has been weight i.e the need to be thin. Weight is consistently in the news whether it is about skinny celebrities or the obesity crisis; our society is obsessed.
This obsession has caused major repercussions within our society in the form of eating disorders, mental illness and even death among the western world, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Every trend in fashion has been exactly that – a trend. So sit back and be amazed at the dumb things we as a race have done to ourselves in the name of beauty.
Head binding is found amongst a huge variety of ancient civilisation, but it is most well known with the connection with the Maya’s. Head binding or ‘Artificial cranial deformation’ was a trend of both genders. It was done by distorting the normal growth of a child’s skull by applying force, normally around month after birth till the child was six months old. A child’s head would be placed in-between two pieces of wood which would be bound with a cloth in order to get the desired shape. The reason for these shaping was that they wanted their children to look like their gods heads which they thought was beautiful.
Foot binding also known as “Lotus feet”, is a custom from China, which is a painful process of applying tight bindings to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. Small feet where seen as a feminine trait and seen as very beautiful in China. To the point it was thought hard for a women to find a husband if she had large feet.
Foot binding became even more popular as a means of displaying status (as women from wealthy families who did not need them to work, could afford to have their feet bound) it was soon adopted as a symbol of beauty across Chinese culture.
The foot binding process was undergone purely by young girl aged between 4-7 years old. It began by soaking the young child’s feet in warm water or animal blood with added herbs. After soaking the feet, the girl’s toe nails were to be clipped short and given a foot massage (sound’s okay so far). Next, every toe would be broken except for the big toe. Due the fact the big toe contributes a lot to balance. Then the foot was wrapped with cloth. Every day, or every couple of days, the foot would be unwrapped and wrapped again; the girl was put into smaller shoes until their foot was about 4 inches long.
Despite people trying to ban foot biding all the way back in 1664, it was not until the early 20th century that foot binding began to finally die out, due to changing social conditions and as a result of anti-foot binding campaigns. Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disabilities for most of those subjected to it, and some elderly Chinese women still survive today, with disabilities related to their bound feet.
Most women today remove some form of hair whether it’s shaving their legs or plucking their mono-brow into shape. But would you believe it that women once plucked out all of their eyebrows!!! Okay, okay maybe after watching Educating Yorkshire that is very easy to believe.
However during the Middle Ages, even until the 18th century, eyelashes were not in style. Yes eyelashes! Women during this time women removed eyelashes and eyebrows in order to give more importance to the forehead, (so they didn’t even draw them back on) which was seen as one of the most beautiful features of a women’s face.
Women were not supposed to exhibit any of their hair in public, not their eyelashes, eyebrows or hair on their heads. This was due to the fact that the Catholic Church condemned women who dared show hair as an offense to God and the church, and as a sin.
In Burma’s hilly Chin province, women have had full-facial tattoos for generations. It is a cultural tradition, a rite of passage and for many a sign of beauty, strength and pride.
The practice was believed to have begun a long time ago, when the kings in Burma found out about the beauty of Chin women and teenagers. These kings began kidnapping the village’s women, they would come into the village and basically pick out the women they wanted before then take them away. In response to that, the village elders (who were women) started tattooing the girls as a measure against the king’s actions. It was a form of rebellion, a way to steal their young daughter’s beauty: a sacrifices they felt necessary in order to protect them from abduction and much worse.
Although it was once something to make them ugly, over time these women became to view themselves as beautiful. It soon became came a symbol of strength and of feminine beauty. With different tribes having different patterns, women with tattooed faces became a symbol of pride for the Chin. Promoting a positive view of Chin women among the tribes as being not only beautiful but also tough.
This practice has started to die out due to the fact that it is no longer needed and is a painful process that the village elders do not wish young girls to go through. Especially if all it will do now days is alienate their daughters from the outside world.
During the Victorian period, the ideal figure for a woman to have an hourglass figure. It soon became mandatory for all British women to wear corsets to get the figure. With women who did not wear these corsets were branded loose women, with loose morals. However, there was every reason not to wear corsets, as they were death traps. Corsets where known to break ribs or put so much pressure on the ribs they indented some of the internal organs. They caused women to pass out, have miscarriages and die.
WHAT WOMEN DO TODAY
I know what you’re thinking. Well that’s all in the past how silly where those women but still to this day women are mutilating their bodies for beauty. You only have to go and look online to see the millions of fad diets or watch TV to see all the women pinned back and tucked into an inch of their life. It all looks so painless, so easy. I mean, a face lift will only set you back a couple of grand nowadays and with all the new painkiller medication you will barely feel the three month headache. What’s a three month headache when you have your face cut off and stabled on again?
So what if all these diets cause malnutrition, really what side effects could these diets cause to the body? Well apart from feeling tired all the time and lacking energy, taking a long time to recover from infections, delayed wound healing, irritability, poor concentration, finding it hard to keep warm, persistent diarrhoea, depression, abnormal blood counts, elevated liver enzymes, seizure, brittle nails, hair that thins, breaks or falls out, absence of menstruation, dry skin, irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, dehydration. But at least women are thin.
At the end of it all, women have done a lot of things to their bodies over the years, most of which have been painful and unhealthy. Most of which is not seen as smart or beautiful in today’s standards. All of which have been phases, trends that have died out and were brought about by crisis, pressure or the need to be beautiful. So will the need to be thin die out? Yes. Will people stop starving themselves and throwing up after every meal? Eventually.