Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beauty is Pain

The common saying "Beauty is Pain" has been demonstrated time and time again in class through different eras and throughout both mainstream and sub-cultures. This week in class we discussed the importance of the corset in female beauty culture throughout western eras. The corset, utilized to create a body figure that accentuates the bust and small waist, was a popular item used from the 16th-19th century in order to fit a certain body type that was considered beautiful at the time. Though it is often condemned now in mainstream culture to subject ones body to a corset for everyday use, the corset is important because it allows for us to see a) the lasting effects of the corset in today's culture and b) compare current beauty trends to those we often think of as "ridiculous."  

The corset, besides being sexualized and fetishized,  has been portrayed in pop culture as damaging and causing severe health effects and also as a beauty item that is time consuming. It is often condemned, and perhaps rightfully so, as a tool to control women through the limitation of mobility and its health effects. Though the health effects of corsetry may be exaggerated, it ability to limit movement  and its severe discomfort is not. However instead of just condemning the practice we need to look at what other practices we use today that have similar features. For this reason, I have made many comparisons to the high-heel/ foot-binding class we had in the beginning of the year. Because of cultural trends women, and men, often have to make sacrifices in order to fit beauty trends. Our era happens to be the existence of the high-heel that can similarly limit our mobility, and cause health effects by re-shaping our foot. I think before we are to condemn another cultural trend, we need to examine our own society and see how the same institutions haunt our own society. This way we are able to attack and deconstruct these institutions rather than the tools. 

Despite these ideas on the ridiculousness and the condemnation of the corset, it has existed in mainstream culture as being a sexual item , but also an item of elegance and beauty. The existence of the corset piercing and the popularity of dresses mimicking such a style demonstrates the prevalence of the corset in today's culture. The corset is relevant because of the images of sex, beauty and elegance it still inspires.

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