|Serena Williams in Vogue.|
|Serena Williams in |
the Pirelli calendar.
In the comments on my blogpost on calendars, someone said they think Serena Williams has 'too many overtly masculine features'. This has been a common comment on her muscular physique and was one of the reasons Annie Liebowitz asked her to pose for this year's Pirelli Calendar, which looks to question the very kind of photos of women for which Pirelli used to be famous.
curl4ever is a keen admirer of muscular women (see my review of his writing), and he wrote these thoughts about that comment.
I am bothered by the (completely natural) shortcut of language we take so casually. A common tool of relationship counseling is to have the parties move from statements like “You are such a ...” to statements like “When you do … it makes me feel …” This might sound artificially long-winded, but it attempts to move the conversation from attacking the other person to attacking their behavior. Not only does this attempt to reduce the offense felt by the other party, it actually gets closer to the central truths of the conflict.
In this case, one might hear: “Serena Williams is too muscular,” but what that person probably means and should say is that: “Compared with the range of images that excite my personal fetishes, Serena Williams is too muscular.” After all, if Ms. Williams were in the room with us, we probably wouldn't want to make her feel bad by expecting her to conform to whatever image of beauty is in our particular heads.
Second, I rather like fit and sexy women. For example, shapely legs are shapely due to their muscles, not bones. As an author, I have written stories of strong and muscular women whom I consider very sexy. So while Serena Williams might not fit within your range of visually interesting, she might be the very definition of my range of visually interesting. Whether muscular = attractive woman is a matter of personal taste.
Third, I am not very happy with our modern culture trying to impose the idea that there is an absolute standard of beauty that a woman matches, or “tough luck.” My heart breaks for young women (or men for that matter) who chase after a standard of physical perfection, or worse, consign themselves to despair. Unless your partner just happens to be a supermodel blessed with impossibly perpetual perfect health and fitness, they will not fit society’s ideal range of perfection forever. If you are a human, you need to be able to accept your partner as they gain weight, sag, and perhaps even lose central sexual attributes through a mastectomy or impotence.
Talking about other people conforming (or not) to individual standards of physical perfection is an activity that I hope will eventually fade away from human discourse.