Tag Archives: books

Waiting to be Filled

I started a book, but never finished it because I felt that it was too heavy. And it made me depressed for a while because it didn’t talk at length about the solution to the problem but rather focused on the problem itself. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it just didn’t suit me. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I really think it’s a good book. Just heavy and packed with information.

400000000000000052548_s4Also, I’m not feminist. That’s another thing.

Here’s what I wrote. This is just from reading the introduction.

The book is titled Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: the frightening new normalcy of hating your body by Courtney E. Martin. You can check out the writer’s website at www.courtneyemartin.com. This book was published fairly recently, in 2007.

Martin writes in the introduction that eating disorders affect more than 7 million American girls and women, 70 million people worldwide. Over half of the females between ages 18-25 surveyed would rather be mean or stupid. Anything but fat. A survey of parents found that 1/10th of them would abort their child if they found that he or she had the genetic tendency to be fat. (Thanks, Mom and Dad. They were your genes to start with.)

She states that we live in a time when getting an eating disorder, or at least being obsessed over weight, is thought of as a rite of passage. The writer talks about her many friends who bought into this kind of thinking. They sound like my friends. Many women use what they put into their bodies or/and the amount of exercising they do to define their worth.

It is not our kindness, or courage that we count at the end of the day, it is our calorie intake.

310967011_2dcab45a8bI, too, know people with really screwed up ideas about health and fitness. There are the girls who believe that any food is bad and that they have to exercise to get the Tic Tac or chip out of their system. There are my friends who daily post stats on how much they eat per day. Their limit is 210 calories. Not per snack. Not per meal. For the whole freaking day, they restrict themselves to 210 calories. What goes in those 210 calories? An apple.  A 60-calorie lollipop. That’s it. It’s not about eating healthy, it’s about eating less. Then there’s the miserable girl who eats food – lots – when she’s depressed, and then purges it later.

I know girls in my church who struggle with this as well. There’s one who exercises often. She’s 13, goes to the gym, and does weights. In front of people, she talks about how fat she is, and picks at her food when eating in front of others. She always worries that she is too fat, even though everyone else could tell her that she isn’t.

364637840_761d56792dIn fact, I recently talked to one who was stressed out about her homework. She’s 12. She said she was eating like a pig and was fat. I told her she wasn’t fat. “Ask your big sister,” I said.

She replied, “She says that I’m fat.”

I think this kind of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we cease to notice it.

Martin puts it well when she writes that we’re not apathetic, we’re distracted. What about the starving children in Africa? I’m thinking about whether to have a granola or skip lunch altogether. She continues that we can’t see the the needs of others because we’re too busy looking at ourselves in the mirror. We don’t want to go to the beach because we don’t want others to see us in bathing suits. It’s all about us and how we feel.

What can we do about it?

This is a social problem as well as psychological. Some people believe that this is normal. I say that our culture must be pretty messed up, then. I knew a bulimic girl who wrote on her public food diary, “I don’t want to be normal. I don’t even know what normal is.” It seems that “normal” nowadays means women and girls stressed out about what goes into their mouths.


Something you should eat and not compare your body to

Martin says that womanhood “was about something solid and beautiful right in the core — a vulnerable yet unbreakable center of strength and openness.”

I can identify with that. That sounds like the definition of a woman from the Christian book Captivating. Except that God is our core.

Martin continues,

At the center of most of the young women I know today are black holes.

On the outside, we’re busy and active. On the inside, we’re crumbling. We have these holes that we try to fill with anything and everything. But they’re still there. We’re starving, because the distractions are never enough. We’re just not enough. Not good enough. We have no control.


Black holes at the center of us

Our ultimate goal is “effortless perfection.” We’re to be everything we’re supposed to be, without showing any apparent effort. Of course, this is impossible. I know another girl who said, “I want to be able to fast for days at a time without struggling. I want to be able to have no desire for food. I want to be able to stay skinny without such hard work.” Effortless. Perfection.

The perfect part really does get us into trouble, either with an eating disorder or with an unhealthy obsession with food and exercise. It really turns out to be such hard work.

The truth is, we waste a lot of time on our bodies. How much time do we spend thinking about what to eat when we could be organizing a fund-raising event devoted to some cause?

Martin puts forth the mission of this book: a call to action. She wants this book to move us to admit that we are sick, but also tired of  being sick and ready to do something about it.


The price she paid was her dancing.

Note that this isn’t a purely American problem anymore. I remember the ballerina from Denmark. She had been struggling with anorexia for some time. The disorder came to a point where her bones were too weak for her to stand on her toes. I’m a ballerina too, and to stand on your toes, you need to have very strong bones. Because of the disorder, the calcium was steeped out of her bones, leading to brittleness. She loved dancing. Really loved dancing. But what could she do? This was the price she paid, and she felt that she couldn’t do anything about it.

There was the girl form Brazil and the girl from Taiwan. There was the girl in Spain and the girl from Wales who messaged me on facebook begging for help. There was also the girl from Qatar, a country so tiny that people don’t even know it exists.

The Independent, a London paper, reported that 1 million in Britain have eating disorders.

Martin closes the introduction by saying that she believes “in the possibility of a world where a girl doesn’t learn to count calories at the same age she learns algebra.”

That’s the world I’m fighting for, now.



A Lust for Beauty

Part 2 of Chapter 10 of the book Looks

There is little stigma attached to improving one’s looks with a doctor’s help. Small, specialized clinics have sprung up, and most of the people who go to these clinics are pleased with what they get.

A waiting room at the Florida Center

A waiting room at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat

However, many who have spent the big bucks to make themselves prettier do regret this. Melanie, 41 years old, was desperate for bigger breasts. She scrimped and saved, finally putting her car as security for a loan. As Boca Raton News reported, she doesn’t love what she got. One breast is over a full cup size larger than the other. Melanie also suffers from sharp, chronic pains in her left breasts. Allegedly a nurse stabbed her with scissors during stitch removal. This caused unbearable pain. Along with 22 others, she sued the clinic she went to: the Florida Center for Cosmetic Surgery. 

Another of those that have pending cases with the center is Mona Alley. She lost both legs to infection when her intestine was punctured during a tummy tuck. After the procedure, she felt really sick. After 2 weeks of the doctor saying that Alley would be fine, he found pockets of air in her abdomen, water in her lungs, and blood clots in her legs. According to Alley’s lawyer, the doctor had cut her intestines accidentally. Her intestines then leaked feces into her abdomen.

operating_room2That’s not all. Between 1997-2004, at least 36 individuals died in Florida as a result of complications from cosmetic surgery.

Maybe it was bad luck, or not. These unfortunate people and others should have done their operations in a real hospital, not a clinic of doctor’s office. Between 1994-1998, 20 out of 100,000 died after lipo at a clinic. That’s a higher death rate than for people in motor vehicle accidents.

Olivia Goldsmith

Olivia Goldsmith

Still, there’s the disturbing case of Olivia Goldsmith. A best-selling novelist, she checked into the expensive and well known Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat. She wanted a chin tuck to remove some loose skin under her chin.

Goldsmith had gone on several surgeries before to improve her appearance, so this was nothing new. Even the characters in her novels had plastic surgery and popped Botox often. “If there was anyone who should have understood the risks–and perhaps the futility–of burnishing one’s outside when one feels ugly inside, it was Olivia Goldsmith.”

For some reason, Goldsmith chose general anesthesia instead of the less risky local anesthesia. However, problems started even before the surgeon picked up his knife. Goldsmith had convulsive spasms, then slipped into a coma. She never regained consciousness and died 8 days later.

She was 55 years old.

The medical examiner concluded that Goldsmith’s death was due to anesthesia issues. The staff had failed to monitor her respiration and carbon dioxide levels.

The day after her death, another patient at the same hospital died of complications from anesthesia. The hospital was fined.

Even bad things can happen at big hospitals.


Stella Obasanjo

Americans who can’t afford places like Manhattan may go to Spain, which has the largest number of plastic surgeons per capita in Europe. They have performed over 350,000 procedures, trailing only Brazil and the States. Their clinics attract Arab potentates and world dignitaries. An example is Stella Obasanjo, the wife of Nigeria’s president. She died during her tummy tuck. 

Gregorio Nosovsky’s business cards identify him as an MD. However, he never finished medical school or got his degree. Nosovsky has appeared on TV talk shows as a medical expert. He and his brother Isaac, who does have a medical license, performed lots of procedures and made a lot of money.

Nosovsky was arrested after a woman told authorities that she had suffered complications after breast surgery done by Gregorio. Isaac tried to fix the problems, but he only made things worse. After this was reported, 35 more came out with similar stories.

What about the people who spend and spend on surgery and look like monsters? They’re still somehow under the delusion that more surgery will fix things.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson: It just gets worse and worse

The most famous example is Michael Jackson. Rumor has it that he has had surgery more than a dozen times. (Probably true, too.) The results were grotesque. (WHY? WHY??) Dermatologists think that he might have had Botox in his forehead and cosmetic surgery on his nose, eyes, and chin. He might have been injected with some unlawful compound to lighten his skin, and has tattooed eyebrows and eyeliner.

My grandma has tattooed eyebrows and eyeliner because she wanted to save time on her lengthy beauty regimen every morning. She wears heavy makeup, and she wanted the make up look without having to spend any more time on it. The poor guy kept asking her if she was sure she wanted to, and he was scared, but she was set on being beautiful and saving time, so she had it done.

Cindy Jackson: the living Barbie

Cindy Jackson: the living Barbie

There’s also Cindy Jackson, no relation to Michael. She wrote an autobiography called Living Doll. Jackson felt that her appearance was lacking. After inheriting some money, she had the procedures. After nine, Jackson looked like the Barbie doll she’d always wanted to look like. By now she’s had 28 operations, and her transformation, she says, is nearly complete.

*feels nauseous* 

28 operations is too much. What do you think?


A Beautiful Disaster

Chapter 9 of the book Looks

File0444Have you ever seen the billboards by the side of the road glorifying a sculpted male body? Or the covers of Men’s Health magazine… or the washboard abs perfume by Abercrombie and Fitch… or the steroid pumping body builders…

Men have their own set of problems. These are termed the Adonis Complex. Due to the slew of idealized male physiques everywhere they look, many men are insecure about their appearance.

Harrison J. Pople, Jr. and Roberto Olivardia of Harvard Medical and Katherine A. Phillips of Brown studied anything from action figure toys to Playgirl spreads to body builders and concluded that the U.S. media presentation of the male ideal is a very very muscular body.

Our very own GI Joe

Our very own GI Joe

It started with our familiar G. I. Joe. These researchers noted that the action figure in 1964 was unremarkable. Sure, he was trim and athletic, but rather ordinary in that respect. By 1991, he became pumped up like a body builder. Sadly, this also happened with the Star Wars action figures of Han and Luke. In 1978, they appeared unexceptional but trim. In 1995, they appeared to have been drinking a morning cup of steroids with their breakfast cereal. As a Star Wars fan, I was horrified to hear about this development. What’s next, bulked up Wicket?

15-20 years back, if you wanted a current issue of a fitness or body building magazine, you would have to live in the big city. Even so, you were limited to two or three publications. Now, just run down to the nearest convenience store and you’re bound to find at least five. As any freelance writer for magazines will tell you, fitness and health are big topics nowadays. People want to read about how to get healthy, but they also want to read about how to gain muscle. As a result, this is the holy grail of freelance writers. 

abercrombie-billboardWhat about the billboards? This Abercrombie and Fitch billboard is an excellent example of what you might find.

Dr Patzer says,

Buy a copy of almost any general-interest magazine and you are treated to bare male chests, rippling muscles, and tanned, chiseled, hairless forms.

Don’t forget the romance novel covers! Some time ago I published something mocking this trend. You may find it here. You’ll see that shaved pits really are the way to go.




Rich Herrerra, a male model for Cosmo

Rich Herrera, a male model for Cosmo



Cosmopolitan magazine is one of those magazines that seem to be mainly about sex from their front covers. They offer tips on how to do it right, how to get good results, and how to get a good man. They also illustrate their articles with pictures. All the male models are happy,  hairless, and naked.

They are also buff. Pope and his colleagues found that the number of naked males in Glamour and Cosmo had tripled from less than 10% in the 60s.

dumbbellsAlong with these findings, Pope and his researchers interviewed men suffering from what they call “muscle dysmorphia,” which is sort of like “reverse anorexia.” While an anorexic girl looks at herself in the mirror and sees fat even though she is shrinking, a male with this disorder looks at himself  and says, “Not buff enough,” even though he may have muscles where no man should have muscles. A fellow whom they called “Kevin” believed his own arms were sticks even though his body bulged with muscles in strange places. He became a near recluse because of this disorder.

These three researchers concluded that American men are being manipulated. They are exposed to more supermuscular images, all in service to diet aids, fitness programs, hair-growth remedies, and anything in between. These industries prey on men’s insecurities, and can be compared to how women are being preyed upon by the media.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an intense preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. It seems to arrive during adolescence or young adulthood. It may also coexist with other conditions, like social anxiety or OCD. The only effective course is psychiatric or psychological counseling, along with anxiety medications.

Those with this disorder are only a small fraction of the population, but millions more devote an inordinate slice of their time to worrying about appearance, notes Dr. Patzer.

LS015824Barbara L. Frederickson of the University of Michigan did two experiments to document the psychological costs of raising girls in a culture lik eours.

One study revealed that what a woman wears can heighten her preoccupation with how her body looks. This is at the expense of her mental performance skills. It’s not just low-cut dresses or bikinis that may cause this preoccupation. Any clothes or circumstances that make her feel self-conscious have this power. It reduces the mental energy that she could use to solve calculus.

evening-20dressAccording to this researcher and social psychologist Tomi-Ann Roberts, the tendency to value physical appeal and sex appeal as body identity rather than their health, strength, energy, etc leads to more than an eating disorder or diminished mental performance. It could be linked to high prevalence of depression and sexual dysfunction among American women.

As we have seen, the mass media has had a huge effect on fostering attitudes about physical appeal. They’re enormously influential in governing what we say and feel about ourselves and our appearance.

From Kurt and Gladys Lang’s essay “The Mass Media and Voting”:

The mass media forces attention to certain issues. They build up public images of political figures. They are constantly presenting objects suggesting what individuals in the masses should think about, know about, have feelings about.

So my theory that we also listen to what the media tells us to do wasn’t so far off after all.

Dr. Patzer concludes that ill health offsets beauty benefits. However, people would be willing to sacrifice their health or money to improve their physical appearance.

As an anorexic acquaintance wrote on her blog, “I don’t care if this kills me. At least I’ll be beautiful.”

Jacob Have I Loved

Looks: Chapter 3

My grandmother had two sons. The first one was my dad.

When they were born, she was horrified that they looked so ugly. After all, she was a beautiful woman, and my grandfather was handsome.

It’s no surprise to me, reading that some mothers are more affectionate towards their more attractive offspring. Even the appearance of babies influenced maternal behavior. 

I know a woman in my church who has two daughters. From the moment her second was born, she (the baby) got all the attention. People thought that she was cuter, prettier, more charming than her older sister.It came to the point where these two young girls had to be told things like, “You’re prettier than your sister.” One was five, the other was two.

9780690040784-lSocial scientists have also found that parents devote more energy and resources to the more attractive sibling. It’s interesting. I’ve read books like Jacob Have I Loved by katherine Paterson which followed this theme. In this particular story, there were twin girls. One was prettier, more talented, and could sing like a bird. She was loved by everyone in the small seaside town they lived in. and people said that she was the promising one. The second – the older twin – was plain, less talented, rough, and jealous of her beautiful sister. The story is told from the point of view of the older, plainer sister, and it’s quite painful to read at times. The grandmother would purposely hurt the older sister by talking about the Biblical story of Esau and Jacob.

Even later on in life, the best friend of the older sister passed her up for her more beautiful twin.

Even babies know what’s “attractive.” Studies show that they prefer to look longer at faces rated as attractive by adults than at “unattractive” faces.

hoggatt6Children also tend to choose friends based on physical appeal as well, because in their heads attractiveness goes with smartness, friendliness, and so on. A study by social scientist Karen K. Dion showed that when children misbehave and must be punished, being more attractive means escaping harsher punishment. There are lower expectations for that child. Going back to my friend with two daughters, I could see this trend play out. Because her daughters were cuter than a lot of their peers, they escaped a lot of punishment. I once saw her two year old climbing on a table. Her mother said nothing to her, except to maybe smile. But when the autistic kid climbed on the table, my friend (and others) reprimanded him harshly. 

Simply because she was the most beautiful child (as well as charming) her behavior was excused.

Is it fair? No.

disney-walt-cinderella-1192713Children learn about physical appearance stereotypes in many ways, including the behavior mentioned above. However, there’s also fairy tales.

Cinderella (on the right) is good, and she is beautiful. In contrast, her wicked stepsisters (on the left) are bad and ugly. They pick on poor Cinderella all the time. No wonder they don’t get the prince! 

cinderella08But sadly, in the process, children associate ugly with bad and beautiful with good.

I remember a retelling of the Cinderella story. I loved this retelling. It was about a Cinderella who was thin and emaciated from hard work and starvation. She decided that her way to get out of this mess was to go to the ball, meet the prince, and live happily ever after. That’s what happened. The prince fell in love with her lovely, starved appearance, and she moved into the palace to prepare for the wedding. She gained weight. Well, she didn’t become fat or anything. But she just wasn’t starved anymore. To make matters worse, she found that the handsome prince was dumb, shallow, and didn’t have a brain. And then she falls in love with someone less attractive and leaves the palace.

justellaLoved that story. I recommend it to anyone with younger children, because it’s appropriate for pre-teens. 

Dr. Patzer says that the media isn’t that different from the fairy tale ideals. Adolescents and adults often attempt to mold their bodies and those of their children to the ideal. It’s disturbing that those teenagers are being pressured – not just from magazines and TV – but from their family and friends! Such attempts to diet can lead to serious eating disorders. The teenager could die. Teenage girls need proper nutrition to develop the way they should develop. They shouldn’t be starving. 

Let’s go back to my friend. She was considering putting her newborn daughter on a diet because her newborn’s thighs were “too fat.” The other members of my church were begging her NOT to. 

This woman is REAL. Sadly, she is an example of a woman who has been influenced by the media to the point that she will push that ideal on her daughter.


I want to brain that woman sometimes.

apples-pictureWhen it comes to children, parents and peers should not pressure their children to look like Paris Hilton or (God forbid!) Nicole Richie. A thin body isn’t always a sign of good health, but of unwise nutrition.

Looks: Dating, Courtship, and Marriage

Gold and Platinum/Silver Rings - Reflected CandlesChapter 2: Part 1

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Beauty is only skin deep.

These quotes are often thrown about in our society, presumably to encourage children to remember that beauty isn’t everything. However, Dr. Judith Langois has done studies that suggest that people do agree about who is and who isn’t attractive. Do we really never judge a book by its cover?

Dr. Patzer points out that good covers often influence our buying decisions. I know personally that this is true for me. I don’t like to buy books with ugly or distasteful covers. If a cover is really awful, no matter how good the story may be, then I won’t buy it. It can also influence the way I look at the story. If I see that a cover is awful, then I’ll unconsciously believe that the story is awful as well. Unjust, I know.

But this may be the same as how we look at other people.

Before, meeting was almost always face-to-face. However, in modern times, we have dating sites like eHarmony where you don’t meet the person face-to-face first. Patzer says that during the first half of 2003, American’s spent 214.3 million dollars on personal ads and online dating. Sites like Yahoo! Personals boast 12 million users worldwide. The novelist Jennifer Egan interviewed several online daters. 

Apparently, it’s like shopping. You fill out a profile that puts you in the best possible light. Then you have people check you out to see if you’re what they want or not. Egan found out that while shared values and goals are important, the factor in deciding whether to take the relationship a step further is the picture.

In fact, right now there are photographers who specialize in creating sexy personal profile pictures. Or you can do it yourself.

32_Moving on. Along the way new frontiers in personal and particularly sexual liberty were forged. Somewhere in the 1960’s, American standards of living increased. Mass media boomed, and the cosmetic industry blossomed. 

This led to something called the Coolidge effect. This meant that men were more excited by sexual novelty than females, as demonstrated by a series of rat experiments.

But really, human male behavior seemed to be impregnating as many different females as they could. It would increase the possibility that some children, at least, would survive long enough to reproduce… and so the world grows. Meanwhile, the female’s goal is quite different. Her role is to nurture the new life within her, and that’s why she looks for someone who can support her.

The major difference between the sexual strategies of men and women, then, is that women demand stability and commitment in a relationship, whereas men prefer variety.


This is one of the trends right now. Picture from bluefly.com

This is one of the trends right now. Picture from bluefly.com

Back to competition. If men prefer variety, then women have come up with ways to deal with that. Like the frequent change in trends. There’s also accessorizing with jewelry, scarves, and hats. Don’t forget getting a new hair style once every so often, and cosmetics.

But is this a conscious choice?


It appears that it is. In a study, women who perceived themselves as sexually attractive showed a preference for clothes that men find exciting. Paris Hilton (on the right) is a good example of a person who is like this.

Another interesting thing is that when a guy is not as hunky as the guy in the Calvin Klein ads, he’ll compare himself to someone less attractive to boost his ego. This is called the contrast effect. It also influences self-esteem. So if you believe that thin is in, and you’re fat, then being exposed to pictures of people with the ideal body size (you think) can lead to depression.

This contrast effect is most relevant to women. Because in the dating world, thin really is in.

Browsing through personal ads reveals that women are more concerned about a prospective husband’s height. Men are concerned over a prospective mate’s weight. Two researchers, Lynn and Shurgot, have reported that a female’s height didn’t influence the responses she received. Those women who described themselves as slender received more replies. So did tall, dark haired males.

Women find men with moderately developed torsos to be the most attractive. Men with narrow waists and a broad chest and shoulders were rated as more attractive.

new-wolverine-home-pageBut if you’re not muscular, please do think facial hair. Female managers are found to consider bearded men to be more competent. I personally like clean shaven, but if Wolverine is your thing, who am I to argue?

There’s also the stereotype of a trophy wife. In choosing a mate, the age gap increases as men age. Because even with the beauty treatments and the anti-aging junk, physical appearance fades. Men want beautiful wives. 

However, status outweighs the effects of physical appearance in a woman’s selection of a partner. She desires financial stability. So would that mean that she’d choose an ugly man with a Rolex over handsome Henry working as a youth pastor and getting paid very little.

But what about choosing between a handsome jerk and a sensitive, average-looking fellow who has sincerity and kindness?

If a woman was looking for a serious relationship, then she’d get the nice guy. But if she wanted a casual relationship with no strings, she’d choose the handsome jerk. 

So handsome jerks get to sow a lot of wild oats, but nice guys get married, have children, live happily ever after?


Many researchers have noticed a disconnect between what women actually report, and what they actually DO. Researchers at Wesleyan and at University of South Carolina noted that the women would actually rather marry the handsome jerk.

Maybe this is because they’ve read too many romance novels. I personally have heard that the typical romance novel hero is something of a bad boy, until he meets the woman. He is angry at life and has had a sad and tragic childhood. Maybe his father was distant. Maybe his mother died when he was a baby and his father let him run wild. Maybe he answers every question with a sardonic laugh. Ha! And then he meets the woman, and his life is changed. Twu wuv, happy ending. 

Coming up, part 2 of this chapter!

Ancient Beauties

Looks: Chapter 1

I’ll be going through this book chapter by chapter and posting my thoughts about the contents. Enjoy! 

In this chapter, Dr. Patzer looks at how people in the past viewed beauty. He also mentions several notable beauties in ancient times. 

650px-helen_menelaus_louvre_g424The first one is Helen of Troy. Do you remember the legend? Paris was offered three things: wealth, power, or the most beautiful woman in the world. He chose the most beautiful women… over wealth and power. This woman’s beauty started a war. She was responsible for the deaths of many. However, her feelings and reactions are never described in any detail. I found this picture of a pot or vase on google… I believe she’s the one in the middle. 

I always wondered how she must have felt, if she was real. All we know about her is that she was beautiful. We don’t know if she was smart, witty, wise, spirited (well, maybe she had to be plenty spirited if she ran off with the hunk). 

Dr. Patzer states that to women in those times (and maybe now), she represented the power and potency of human beauty. Beauty that could start a war? Wow.

There’s also Sarah from the book of Genesis in the Bible. She was so beautiful, her husband Abraham was afraid that he’d start a war as well. So when he went to Egypt, he begged her to lie and say that she was his sister instead of his wife (chicken). Pharaoh admired her beauty so much that he gave her husband lots of moolah. The same thing happened to his son Isaac years later, but with Abimelech of the Philistines (I think), not Pharoah.

The writer says that “to the ancient Hebrews and Christians who followed in their… path, physical beauty was a reward from the Almighty, and its opposite was punishment.” He cites Ecclesiastes 8:1-10 in support. This is true, then and now, as wisdom and being assured of God’s grace does more for you than any anti-aging perfume. Sin and worry really does add lines to the face. Botox is not the solution, God is. You’ll look younger.

200px-venus_of_brassempouy1Patzer goes on to cite findings of Stone Age carvings which depicted women with braided/curled hair. An example is the Brassempouy lady on the right. He asks why primitive humans felt the need to compete for sexual attraction. 

The answer, Dr. Patzer goes on to say, is in the biology of sexual attraction. 

We as humans feel the unconscious need to reproduce. “A healthy, youthful appearance is attractive because it signifies reproductive capability.” Men want women to bear their children, which is why they would look to younger women. Women want men to support them, which is why women tend to learn towards older men with stable jobs.

However, not everyone looks like the perfect beauty. As a result, people worried that if they weren’t attractive enough, they wouldn’t get laid. This is true, even now. Competition ensues. 

0728peacock_07-28-2005_om53s60Like in the case of peacocks. 

It turns out that there’s general agreement about what is attractive. Look at the magazine covers! Dr. Patzer asks, “Is there an absolute standard?”

The Roman ideal was “absence of flaws.” (I forget who said it, I think it was Cicero.) It’s not the presence of attractive features. It’s not that nice nose that makes you attractive, it’s the absence of age spots due to airbrushing. This implies a standard of perfect beauty. And if you do look at some professional airbrushing sites, you’ll see that these sites tend to airbrush all the flaws away. Ugliness is measured by how far you depart from the standard.

Oops… very far.

What about bodily beauty? 

In several surveys, young men leaned toward hourglass shapes. Women with large breasts and hips and a small waist. Young women liked big, balanced, properly built men. 

It turns out that Dr. Peter Ellison in his article “Ecology, Reproduction, and the Human Evolution” found that the hourglass figure is the one designed best for motherhood. 

However, not everyone can look like Marilyn Monroe. Maybe there’s something else we women can try. 

A study done by Dr. Craig Roberts showed that a woman’s face is most alluring when she’s at the  peak of her fertility. 

womena6Which leads us to cosmetics. Remember the Egyptians with their elaborate hair, heavy makeup, and strong perfume? The picture to the right is an excellent example. (Those perfume cones are bigger than their heads!!!) Preparations were also used by both sexes to keep their skin smooth and young. According to the link (click on kohl) the Egyptians had the equivalent of rouge, lip-gloss, and nail polish. There was also kohl. It blackened the upper lid and lashes, sort of like eyeliner and mascara. Rouge was used to make their cheeks pink. White powder was also used to give them the appearance of fairness.

Dr. Patzer says that a woman does this because it more closely resembles the coloring that comes during ovulation.

nefertiti_berlinWhile we’re talking about beauty in ancient times, we should remember Nefertiti. Her name literally means “beautiful one.” We don’t know anything else about her, other than her beauty. We know she was the queen of one of the most notorious kings of Egypt… the king who changed the religion of Egypt and made the artists draw him and his wife AS THEY WERE. Which means showing him with a pot belly. Which we do know that he had. (He was a very sickly king.) As a matter of fact, we also know that he died early, leaving his wife and many daughters. There’s a theory going around which says that King Tut was his grandson.

But anyway. What happened to Nefertiti after her husband died is unknown.

But we’ll still remember her as one of the most beautiful women of her time.

Helen of Troy as well as the goddesses Aphrodite and Hera (even goddesses took advantage of cosmetics, apparently) wore dresses, veils, jewelry, etc to enhance their appearance. They usually ended up getting laid, too.

xin_330303080933384298495And let’s not forget Chinese women of the past. Beauty was important to them as well. There was the beautiful dancer Chao Fei-yen who caught the eye of an emperor. She and her more beautiful sister used their beauty as a sword against the guy and threw the palace into a power struggle.

From this article:

Like many women in Chinese literature who have the beauty of a delicate flower, our femme fatale also has great beauty. In the story of “Empress Chao Fei-Yen,” “her gait was so light that her graceful carriage, which was beyond imitation, was compared to the single stem of flower dangling in the grasp of a human hand” (307). But a delicate blossom she is not. She is scheming and lascivious, sleeping with many men in an attempt to have a baby she can pass off as the Emperor’s child to secure her position in the palace. She is jealous, resenting her sister who has won the Emperor’s favor. She is deceitful, lying to the Emperor of her pregnancy. She is threatening, bribing the Eunuch Wang to find her a baby to pass off as her own to cover up her false pregnancy. 

Empress Chao is not the only scheming one in this story. Her sister, Chao-Yi, proves to be a formidable opponent. More beautiful than her sister, Chao-Yi is also more ruthless and heartless. Suspecting her sister’s trickery, Chao-Yi also becomes suspicious of other women having the Emperor’s baby, and orders the baby of an attendant, as well as all pregnant maids, killed. In her madness, she kills the Emperor and then commits suicide. In this story, both femme fatales fell victim to their own evildoing.

They failed. And Confucians sought to promote dignity and virtue as better qualities than beauty. 

They failed, but they are still remembered as ladies who used their beauty to their best advantage. 

Dr. Patzer concludes this chapter by saying that the biological imperative to reproduce fuels this phenomenon. It should be no surprise that both men and women use beauty to their personal advantage.

After all, we’ve learned how to play the game very early in life.

After finals…

I got a bunch of great books at the library. Cosmetic Surgery for Dummies. The Looks Men Love (1985 published). Cosmetics and the Exploitation of Women.

Yes, I’m a nerd. 

Or just plain weird.

Posts coming up after finals!!!