Gendered Ideals of Body Form

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Gendered bodies in the West are bodies of contrasts. A masculine, sharp, inverted triangular body is contrasted to the feminine, soft, hourglass shape. Humans, throughout history, have resorted to drastic measures to meet and exemplify gendered ideals of body form. One such measure that has been in place since the Victoria era is the wearing of corsets. In attempting this research, I thought that wearing a corset would provide an insight into the ways feminine bodily ideals are appropriated by women in a Western context. Putting on the corset proved to be a challenge; only with the assistance of my roommate could I put it on. She laced the back up to as tight as it went and I wore it underneath my normal daily clothes. My first thought when wearing it was that it felt like a hug, when your body is encapsulated within something; it was quite pleasant and had an almost motherly feeling about it. As soon as I wore it, I immediately realized that I had to learn to control my breathing because the corset would feel extremely tight every time I exhaled. Travelling in the car and on the train proved to be a challenge because the corset forced my body to arch my back and sit up straight, which is not the way I normally sit. When I slouched or moved in a way that the corset did not allow, it would dig into my stomach and ribs in a painful way. While walking, I realized that I was pushing my chest out and standing very straight. This made me feel like I was embodying the typical ‘empowered woman’ image that shows a woman as sexy, confidently striding along an urban landscape, independent and beautiful. However, as the day went on, the uncomfortable sweatiness that it brought me made me loath wearing it. Coming home, I took it off and wonder...

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