Camille And Curves

Christina-hendricks-february-cover-new-york-magazine Scarlett-cosmopolitan_august_2008 Katy-perry-covers-maxim-magazine-january-1-500x693

A reader writes:

Ugh, you really had to quote Camille Paglia blah blah blahing about lady stars these days vs. the stars of yesteryear regarding Elizabeth Taylor?  A quick google of "Liz Taylor" and "waist size" shows that many lady stars back then were every bit as tiny, albeit in different ways, which have more to do with fashion, the way the movie company machine handled their stars' images, etc.

Another writes:

"[Taylor] was single-handedly a living rebuke to postmodernism and post-structuralism, which maintain that gender is merely a social construct." Taylor was not "single-handedly" doing anything; she came out of a specific culture with a specific look.  Most of the fellow beauties of her era were curvy and voluptuous: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Sophia Loren.  However, Ms. Moore and Ms. Bening came of age at a time when scrawniness is the perceived ideal for women, therefore that's the way all the movie actresses have to look these days.

If biology were calling the shots, as Ms. Paglia believes, then whatever supported greater fertility would win the day.  But since attraction, even gender itself, is socially constructed, other factors come into play - variety, rare vs. common, control models, power dynamics, etc - and those factors have evolved dramatically throughout human history (one example: in Peter Paul Rubens' day, to have a fat wife reflected well on her husband; it meant that he was wealthy enough to overfeed her).

I want to make a small dissent here. Gender is at bottom biological, based on different hormones at different stages of development. There's no social constructionism in the womb. After that, social norms obviously have their say - but within the boundaries of biology. I wrote an essay on this subject - "Why Men Are Different" - here. Another:

Your quote from Camille Paglia was classic Paglia. She wants to be interesting, so she ignores facts inconsistent with her thesis even when they are right in front of her nose. Scarlet Johansson, to name just one obvious example, is not in the anorexic or scrawny category. And in popular music, the ubiquitous Katy Perry may have almost the same measurements as Elizabeth Taylor when she was in her prime.


Pace Paglia: Christina Hendricks!