Jen Fulwiler and I are both converts, and for some reason this particular week, we both referenced our grandmothers as reminders of how the lives of women have changed -- and not for the better. In her reflection on Humanae Vitae, she notes:
I pulled up another stack of glossy rags and pushed them around my bed so that I could see all the covers at once. Something I had always wondered, but had never articulated, came to the forefront of my mind:
When, exactly, did the standard of beauty become a dictate that we must all look like Barbie dolls?
When I saw pictures of my ancestors, the women always looked beautiful, but in a way that didn’t overwhelm the senses with their physical beauty alone. The faded photographs of my grandmothers and their grandmothers showed clothing styles that left some attention for their faces, that didn’t detract from the subtleties of their expressions. The draping of the material smoothed over details, so that a few extra pounds could be smoothed into graceful curves.
Now, a century and a half later, society says a woman can hardly consider herself truly beautiful without a tight abdomen, slender physique, wrinkle-free face and, even, to quote one of the magazines in front of me, “ultra-sexy upper arms.” Upper arms? Did our ear canals now have to be sexy, too?
This was not a standard of beauty built on respect for women. In fact, it seemed like an outlook spawned by a society that demanded that women make themselves objects for men’s pleasure.
And when I considered when the standard of beauty began to change, I realized that it was right around the time that everyone started using contraception. Pope Paul VI wouldn’t have been surprised.