Monday, April 23, 2018

The Evolution of the Female Figure

As I reflect upon my years in the world of physical culture,  I observed the many trends in the socially accepted ideal female form.  Throughout the course of history, and I posit even prehistoric times, people define the ideal feminine beauty through specific body and facial characteristics, and symmetry of the face.

Many ancient cultures around the world have practiced the observation of goddess worship.  In many archaeological findings, small goddess figures were unearthed, such as the Vespugue and Willendorf during the Gravettian period, dating as far back as 25,000 BCE, as well as rock art portraying the feminine form as a deity.  It's no small wonder, also, that many societies are matrilineal, where law, order and property are controlled by the women of the tribe.  Modern times and modern religion have shifted to a more patrilineal society.  I think it is important to reflect upon our ancestors, history, and past to gain a better understanding of who we are today. 

Venus of Vespuge

The unearthed goddess figurines tell a great story about what ancient peoples accepted as the ideal feminine beauty of the day.  You may be familiar with one of the most famous goddesses, Venus.  Venus has large, pendulous breasts, a small waist, and very wide, bountiful hips and buttocks.  She is also known as a fertility goddess, as she looks ripe for breeding.  Fast forward to modern times.  Our own history in the past 100 years has varied in extremes.  I was born in the late 60's, so Twiggy, the waifer thin model was in vogue.  I grew up in the 70's, in which running was all the craze. Then, we evolved into the bodybuilding era.  When I was a young girl, I began weight training at 13 years old, and learned that I was naturally very strong, so I just went with it.  Despite my slim, athletic body, at a height of 5'7 and a robust 145 pounds, I was inflicted by societal norms, and was always starving myself, trying to lose weight.  Despite the fact I ran and rode my bike everywhere, and swam and played all kinds of sports, I never was satisfied with my body--ever.  I also had this deep desire to get as strong as I could get, not only because I secretly fantasized about have a voluptuously muscular body (yes, it was a taboo body type at the time), but also because I knew strength would help me become a better athlete. And, I was right. I went to college on a volleyball scholarship. 

Venus of Willendorf

And then, I had an epiphany.  I knew that strength was my beauty.  This was true beauty.  So, this concept drove me to keep training and getting stronger.  I started bodybuilding late in life, at the age of 35, but I was never more ready for it then.  It was time.  Time for me to unveil to the world what my innermost thoughts and desires to shape my body a specific way would look like on stage. 

It was not just the competition that inspired me.  It was the complete metamorphoses of becoming.  Becoming my dream.  I photographed with the best photographers in the world.  Most importantly, I began subconsciously channeling my inner Goddess.  I began posing not as a bodybuilder, but as a Goddess.  As I posed, I let my inner spirit guide me.  And, so I have learned to listen to my inner feminine voice.  As women, we are often told to ignore our feminine natural ways and surrender to the male dominated world.  That never resonated with me. 

Relaxed Goddess Pose, Pat Berrett, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Taking this new found energy, I became incredibly powerful beyond my imagination.  I always equated power and strength with the ideal feminine beauty.  And, as I became stronger, my body also became larger, more voluminous, robust, thicker.   This is where I identify with the goddess figures of the Gravettian period, and can begin to understand that ancient cultures respected and admired women that were full figured--a sure sign of strength and fertility. 

As I observe recent trends, I am pleased to see that women of all ages are learning to embrace their own body type and feminine ideal.  You see it in media, particularly social media, where women routinely highlight what they perceive their best assets or beauty to the world.  Social media platforms are their stage, and they are motivating droves of women to engage in some sort of strength training or body shaping culture. 

As I have lived through the flesh, blood, and skin of a woman, the most outstanding things about women are our abilities to change not only physically, but spiritually into who we want to truly become in our lives.  Observing and living through a half a century of life, I love being a master of my own body. 

Gaston LaChaise, "Standing Woman"

Last summer, Joel Peter-Witkin asked me to model for him.  He is one of the most notable and collected photographers of our time.  I met him about twelve years ago in a coffee shop here in Albuquerque.  He immediately noticed my powerful, sensual physique and told me that one day, he would photograph me. What drew him to me, he told me during the shoot, was that he knew there was something not only physically beautiful about me, but something more, and that he had never seen a woman of my proportion and physicality.  He worked with the first lady of bodybuilding, Lisa Lyon, whom I was deeply inspired when I was a young girl.  As time has passed, I started out as the Lisa Lyon ideal body type, the long, lean, lithe sinewy cat-like body to becoming a power figure Goddess, more voluptuous, almost "LaChaise" like.