Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Defining Beauty

Lots of women through out history have dealt with the issue of their looks. They want to feel beautiful and will try many things to achieve it. Today is far from uncommon for women to have surgeries that "fix" or change their bodies. Physical change, though, is not only found in this age of first world countries, it has been through out the world and history itself.

World Record Holder
One of the most well known forms of body modification is the corset. While few use it to the extremes of centuries past, they are still around. Women wore them to narrow their waist as much as possible. The garment was made of cloth and bone (later metal) and changed the waist by forcing the organs down and the ribs in and up. Books written in the time this was common often had women who boasted that their husbands could wrap both hands around their waists- and they were not exaggerating. There is a woman alive today, Cathie Jung, who, with the help of corsets, has narrowed her waist to 15in as confirmed by Guiness.

Women from Surma, Africa used to (and some still do) fit their lower lips with plates. Around twelve, when they hit puberty, they would have their lower teeth removed and a their lower lip cut and a plate inserted. As the years went by, they used bigger and bigger plates. This was because when they were to be married, their families could charge a greater bride price in cattle for a larger lip plate. In recent years girls have begun to refuse the plates though some men in their area say they will never marry a plateless woman.

In Padaung, women fit their necks, wrists, and ankles with metal rings that give them the appearance of being stretched. The rings push down the shoulders and lift the chin. These rings begin to be added at the age of 2-5 and one is added each year. By the time the women are in their twenties, they can no longer hold their heads upright without the rings or someone holding their head. To remove the rings without someone holding their head would mean that they would choke to death. Today women still do this because it brings tourists with money, its beginnings were much different. Wars in the region left many tribes without women, as their enemies would kidnap and/or rape them. To protect the women, they decided to make them ugly to every one but their own tribe and thus used the rings.

Lotus Shoes
Something that few people know about, though, was the Lotus feet from China. Girls between 4 and 7 would soak their feet in water and then clip the nails off. Next, their mothers would massage the feet and brake all but the big toe. The foot would then be bound tightly and placed in the shoe. It was very painful and caused girls to be unable to run and play like most. It began in the upper classes and spread through the lower.

Lotus Bound Foot
While it might sound cruel to do this to a child, it was often the only way for a woman to marry well. Families looking for wives for their sons would specify that they wanted a woman who had feet 3in or less in length. Binding their daughters feet, while keeping them from running and dancing, assured that they would marry into wealthy families. Bound feet were believed beautiful because they caused a slow walk with a sway that men found attractive. It was outlawed in 1912 but still practiced in secret. This is a webpage that tells how these women have lived since the practice was stopped.

Also, so that you know, the picture below is of a lotus foot. Those are not fingers holding the bottom of the foot, those are her toes.

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