Thursday, 26 January 2012

The true definition of femininity: lessons from a VERY old teacher.

Very beautiful woman I had the opportunity to photograph.

Femininity (also called womanliness or womanhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Though socially constructed, femininity is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors. This makes it distinct from the simple definition of the biological female sex, as women, men, and transgender people can all exhibit feminine traits. 

Wikipedia always describes it just right. While other encyclopedia and dictionary entries were similar, this description is complete.  I particularly like the "Though socially constructed," part, because it is so true. Often people wonder, "Why are there pressures for women to look and act a certain way?" It's simple, because society creates the "ideal" woman through media and this "idealistic female" is very unattainable and unhealthy. But, marketing casts a spell on us, and we believe this woman to be true. As a society, we spend billions of dollars, annually, on clothes, cosmetics, esthetic appointments, pills, supplements, surgeries, and beyond trying to achieve this unrealistic goal. Most of us are aware of the money we waste, the stress we put on ourselves, and the amount of self-deprecating thoughts we have because we do not look like a clone of Heidi Klum.

So, why do we continue to do this? The companies that sell us these thoughts have mastered it. Through marketing, we are brainwashed (to an extent, I don't want make this sound all conspiracy theory-esque) to believe as soon as we get to this unrealistic standard we will be completely happy and not have a worry in the world. WRONG! No one ever gets there, everyone always wants more, and if they get close, let me tell you, they're not healthy.

I have had a lot of experience with these thoughts, but every now and again when my mind is off on a self-loathing tangent about how bloated I feel today and what may have caused it, there is a moment of clarity. One of these eye-opening moments happened to me in The Louvre last September, standing in front of the Venus de Milo sculpture. I was walking around all day with my sling backpack in front of my stomach, so I didn't feel self-conscious about the "tummy" I got from the apple sauce cup I had for breakfast, lame, I know.

Just to prove my last sentence, wow I look silly! haha On the Lover's Bridge in Paris.

Then, as I was looking up at the sculpture of Aphrodite, admiring her beauty, Amy began to tell me what she had learned about this goddess:

Aphrodite, or as the Roman's called her, Venus, was the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. If you look at her stature, she was muscular, tall, and even had body parts describe as "round". She was the ideal woman, the most beautiful female that ever existed.

Venus de Milo, Le Louvre, Paris
Today, we strive for that flat belly and think the female "pooch" is a curse. But really, it is a sign of fertility. Women are meant to carry their weight in that area, in fact if women drop their body fat percentage low enough, menstruation stops, the ultimate sign of femininity. So now, tell me that flat stomach is healthy? Also, if it is so hard to get rid of the fat from those areas, then perhaps that is a sign that it's not natural. I have always been an advocate for leading a healthy life style, so I am by no means saying carrying a lot of fat is healthy, not at all. In fact, carrying too much body fat can also cause amenorrhea (the absence of a menstrual period). The healthy body fat percentage for an average woman is from 20-30 percent, with athletes ranging a bit lower. The average body fat percentage of a runway model is much lower, in the 10-14% range.

Ok, back on track, so Aphrodite or Venus was the goddess that ever man wanted, that every woman  wanted to be. Her natural, female figure symbolizes all that is the beautiful and healthy form of a woman.

So, next time you are over-critical of your body, thinking your hips should be smaller, your stomach completely flat or your body fat lower, remember that we are woman, not 12 year old boys. If you eat well, get regular exercise and are happy remember you are healthier than the girls who have their clothing draped over them because lack natural curves for the clothing to fit to.

Be healthy, be happy and love yourself :)

PS: Look around my blog! Check out my links to other posts under the Photography section and the Recipes section. I have been posting for almost a year, so there is lots to look through!

And thank you so much for everyone who has commented, either verbally, on Facebook, Twitter or on apertures N appetites. Your feedback and encouragement means so much to me! It really makes me wants to post more and more!

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