The Problem With That 'Ideal Body Types Throughout History' Video
This video's message is good, so why does it leave such a nasty taste in my mouth?
It’s clear how quickly beauty trends change through the years—just look at the drastic differences from the 1910’s to today in the “100 Years of Beauty” videos. But what about the ideal body? Buzzfeed waded into this charged territory with their recent video “Ideal Body Types Throughout History,” posted Tuesday.
Watch it and you'll see the "ideal" female form through the ages, spanning from Ancient Egypt to today. While it's cleverly produced with catchy music, and it does feature a nice diversity of shapes and skin tones, it just makes me feel…bad.
Greatist posted a similar article last week, with graphics showing the changes to the “perfect” female body over 100 years. Both sites try to explain some of the problems with the arbitrary physical standards set by the collective forces of pop culture, fashion, and, of course, men. (“Because historically, and sadly, currently, men are often the determining factor when it comes to how women view their bodies," as Bustle's Doyin Oyeniyi argues. "Even if women ultimately make the fashion and body shape decisions, they are swayed by what they think is more appealing to men.”)
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Perhaps we're supposed to feel encouraged by the fact that trends come and go (hey, if you don't have the ideal body now, just give it 10 years!), or maybe it's just supposed to present the curious thinking of taste arbiters of the past. I mean, who knew that back in Aristotle's day, women were considered simply "deformed men"?
The Buzzfeed video stoked a firestorm of negative comments, which Eugene Lee Yang, a video producer at Buzzfeed and co-creator of the video, responded to in an interview with The Huffington Post.
"The key visual component of the video is an objective, diverse showcase of women's bodies, and that alone sparks a strong reaction," Yang said in an email to the news site. "Many viewers had a poignant response after seeing how ephemeral our concept of 'the ideal' is. Other viewers focused solely on the way the models look and missed the point entirely. Case in point: there are some people who can't get past a woman's image, and there are others who are able to see and think beyond that."
"We're so often preoccupied with current trends that we lose perspective on how fleeting our obsession with physical perfection has historically been," he continued. "As demanding as our perception of an ideal body type may be, we should remember that yesterday's ideal will, without fail, evolve into something completely different tomorrow."
But it's not an "objective" showcase when the bodies are framed as "ideal," whether they're past or present versions. And that's what bothers me. It's still all about the quest for perfection, which isn't ever going to be productive.
When you get to the end of Buzzfeed's timeline and the ideal shape of today includes a thigh gap, the suggestion is there: there’s no such thing as the “perfect” body and the pressure we put on ourselves is as crazy as Aristotle thinking of women as deformed.
It's not a bad sentiment, if that's Buzzfeed's intent. But the problem is that point's buried by the same tactics that created the issue in the first place. We really don't need to give credence to what's ultimately just another chance to put women on a pedestal and compare them.
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