Sunday, August 26, 2007

Skin Deep

One of the main philosophies in nudism is to be accepting of one's own body. Nobody is "perfect" like the airbrushed models and celebrities that we see every day on magazine covers. The problem is getting much worse as technology improves - even the French President had his "love handles" airbrushed out recently, and Redbook took a very lovely photo of Faith Hill and turned it into something completely different.

This "homogenization" of the human body is having a big effect on how average people feel about their own bodies. A striking example of this distorted attitude was evident in a recent article in the New York Times on topless pools in Las Vegas, where one young woman was reluctant to participate because "she hasn’t had any work done so told her friends that she didn’t want to remove her top".

So it's refreshing to come across a young artist who is seeking to overcome these false perceptions of the human body through her paintings. Bonnie Stipe, a student at the University of Akron, recently took second place in an art show for her painting "Cosmo Girl".
''I'm very interested in the figure and skin,'' said Stipe. ''A lot of times what you see in the media and everything is just an airbrushed version of what people really look like. I'm not interested in airbrushed beauty, because I think this is beauty. I'm also exploring different ideas of beauty and what our society thinks is beautiful.

''You get ideas of how to be a woman in magazines like Cosmo and Teen. There's a huge variety of them out there,'' Stipe noted. ''Why is image so important to women? I think it's also becoming more and more that way for men.

''But they are all looking at outer beauty. How much of their self-worth is attached to their outer beauty?''

To counter that, Stipe said she has ''everyday people'' model for her because ''I think it's more interesting to see curves and stretch marks and bulges than their smooth and pasty surfaces.''
Social nudism is one of the best ways for people to cleanse their minds of unrealistic body images. The following quote is from the 205 Arguments and Observations in Support of Naturism (pdf file):
Helen Gurley Brown, past editor of Cosmopolitan, says, "I don't think 80 percent of the women in this country have any idea what other women's bosoms look like. They have this idealized idea of how other people's bosoms are. . . . My God, isn't it ridiculous to be an emancipated woman and not really know what a woman's body looks like except your own?"

Paul Fussell notes, by contrast, that "a little time spent on Naturist beaches will persuade most women that their breasts and hips are not, as they may think when alone, appalled by their mirrors, 'abnormal,' but quite natural, 'abnormal' ones belonging entirely to the nonexistent creatures depicted in ideal painting and sculpture. The same with men: if you think nature has been unfair to you in the sexual anatomy sweepstakes, spend some time among the Naturists. You will learn
that every man looks roughly the same--quite small, that is, and that heroic fixtures are not just extremely rare, they are deformities."
This is precisely what we must keep in mind - that the airbrushed cartoons that we see every day on magazines are deformities, that they are abnormal, and inhuman. It is said that "beauty is only skin deep", but only if you can actually see the skin.

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