This image represents two attempts by the artist to depict the full range of women’s bodies. It’s skillfully drawn and it’s wonderful to see more than the usual tiny range of bodies. But to me, it just goes to show how deep the disconnect between society thinks of women’s bodies (even us women) and what women’s bodies are actually like, and how reductive “beauty” can be.
At a glance, it seems diverse, but where is the body hair? Where are the scars? Where are the disabled women, the amputees, the transsexual women, the women who don’t perform femininity, the women with spots, freckles, stretch marks or big, hobbit feet? Where is the woman with a double mastectomy which saved her life?
Of course it would have been very difficult (or impossible?) for the artist to have incorporated all of those things. That’s the point. As long as we try to say “we’re all beautiful” by pushing out at the edges of beauty norms (some of which are almost invisible if not looking - who here noticed the lack of body hair?) we’re doomed to fail.
The sixth woman along is beautiful because she figured out how to unblock her sink by shutting off the water, unscrewing the pipe, washing it out and fixing it back on, and her hands got covered in gloopy crap while she did it. Woman number twelve is beautiful because she can spin fire hoops. Woman one is beautiful because she’s an amazing academic supervisor. Woman eight is beautiful because she survived years of abuse and is still standing. Woman eleven is beautiful because of how she holds the the coffee jar beneath her nose in the morning, smells it and sighs with happiness. And all the women off-screen, because they couldn’t appear like this, or they were too busy working the first and second shifts, or patriarchy killed them before they got to the shoot: they’re beautiful too.
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