What is oppression?

Why are we as people of society never pleased with one type of body?

I just had a conversation with a friend about the supermodel Kate Upton, who in some ways physically conforms to “body ideals” and in other ways goes against them–doesn’t she seem to be the “perfect woman” with extremely large breasts, yet an extremely small figure otherwise?

Over time, society is continuously changing thoughts of ideal bodies based on media, and it seems that when once one becomes popular, another becomes more oppressed.  Bordo touches upon this in her article “Reading the Slender Body.”  People criticize women with “bulges” or “soft” places on their body– something I’m reading as “curves.”  But some years ago, wasn’t this desirable, a curvaceous woman (I’m picturing a nautical Marilyn Monroe on the beach)?  And while today “bulges” are not “in,” you can’t be too thin either–not unless you want unnecessary attention.

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2 Responses to What is oppression?

  1. taek2012 says:

    The theory that the ideal “feminine” body type and image relates to women’s current place in society is, I think, an accurate one. The comment about the 50s makes sense — and the thin, but toned ideal started to become popular in the 80s, when women began entering the work force. I think it’s also worthwhile, though, to examine another theory that was referenced in “Reading the Slender Body”: the idea that the glorification of thinness and the lack of “bulges” comes from the desire to make women as small as possible. When women are toned and thin, they literally take up less space, which makes them less threatening. Regardless of how much truth there is to this theory, the pressure to be thin does end up controlling women. Calorie counting, dieting, and worrying about weight is distracting and, for some, all consuming. Worrying about their own weight and the weight of other women keeps them from worrying about the oppression and sexism they face every day. And eventually, after women have invested so much time and thought into being thin, they become invested in this system of oppression. Weight becomes something that defines many women, and achieving a lower weight becomes a source of pride. Rather than fighting against this system that objectifies them, they come to perpetuate it. Women, themselves, need to stop subscribing to the notion that there is only one ideal body type, and that that body type defines their self worth. Only then can we fight against the system that sells us that idea.

  2. jenyoon says:

    I think it is the place of woman in the society that defines the ideal body shape, and the media that projects that image towards female viewers.

    For example, Marilyn Monroe was active during the 1950’s to 1960’s. The Korean War, Vietnam War, and Cold War were all around this period. I think during this time, women were seen as the gentle homemaker, a place where men can retreat from a harsh world and seek a safe haven. To go along with this ideal, women would have a soft, curvy body type that is welcoming and motherly.

    Now, however, women are not just homemakers but are expected to be professional workers. No longer is the motherly, soft woman welcome in society. Instead, thinness (representing agility) and tallness (representing dominance) is desired. However, I thought it was interesting how large breasts and buttocks are still desirable in today’s society. Perhaps it is because men still see women in a sexualized way, even in the workplace.

    The media projects these images to female viewers. Contemporary popular TV shows like Suits portray sharply dressed, successful women who have the ideal body type. Like you said, Kate Upton with her fashionably thin yet curvaceous body, is revered as the celebrity with the perfect body.

    To answer your other question, I think “bulges” refer to more of excess fat that is not expected on feminized body parts.

    Overall, I think it is important to view society in context of politics, economics, and culture to understand the changing ideal female body.

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