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Waarden en aantrekkelijkheid

Voorkant Frueh 'Monster | Beauty - Building The Body Of Love' Joanna FRUEH
Monster | Beauty - Building The Body Of Love
Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001; 339 blzn.
ISBN: 05 2022 1141

[Alleen de Introduction gelezen, die een goed beeld geeft van stijl en inhoud van dit boek. Het is feministische theorievorming over uiterlijk, maar met een accent op heel andere dingen dan bijvoorbeeld Wolf doet. Frueh is origineel en eigenwijs, en dat is geweldig, maar tegelijkertijd blijft haar verhaal naar mijn smaak te abstract en vaag. De tekst wordt onderbroken door persoonlijke ontboezemingen en citaten uit interviews met andere vrouwen. Dat is een bewuste keuze, omdat het boek wil aansluiten bij de geleefde ervaring van vrouwen. Ik hou er niet van.]

(1) Introduction

"For how does one live within yet live against a society in which the perfect picture of beauty thrives?"(2)

Kern van dit boek:

"I like to experience the sensual dimensionality that is a human being’s beauty. I am interested in the aesthetic/erotic field that people create for themselves and inhabit, the field that they in fact are. Beauty as only and simply a visual feature — a still picture — is erotically devoid, a failure of love; and that kind of beauty resonates with the aesthetic melancholy that I earlier mentioned, because, as art historian Francette Pacteau writes in The Symptom of Beauty (1994), ideal beauty " entails the loss of corporeal subjectivity." In contrast, and in eros, monster/beauty is the flawed and touchable, touching and smellable, vocal and mobile body that, by exceeding the merely visual, manifests a highly articulated sensual presence. Ideal beauty attracts, whereas monster/beauty very likely attracts and repulses simultaneously. Although media invest ideal beauty with sexual charisma, which may lure an observer into love of the beautiful body, it is monster/beauty that is the body of love."(2-3)

[Ik weet niet helemaal of ik het daar mee eens ben. Perfecte schoonheid deërotiserend? Niet altijd natuurlijk. Perfecte uiterlijke schoonheid is eigenlijk een abstractie, want zij is altijd verbonden met die mens die zo gaaf is. Zo iemand is op een bepaalde manier aantrekkelijk, dat is waar - gaafheid is indrukwekkend -, maar niet op alle manieren.
Dit zijn overigens wel interessante stellingen wanneer je bedenkt dat vrijwel alle onderzoeken rondom aantrekkelijkheid werken met plaatjes / foto's. Je zou dan juist heel die sensuele dimensie missen. En niet alleen die.]

"Discussing beauty is taboo. It is a sacred and forbidden subject, because female beauty as it has been constructed in Western culture is a paradox — necessary for women yet impossible to achieve. Naomi Wolf asserts on the first page of her 1991 best-seller The Beauty Myth that many so-called liberated women are "ashamed to admit that such trivial concerns — to do with physical appearance, bodies, faces, hair, clothes — matter so much." In their introduction to Face Value (1984), co-authors Robin Tolmach Lakoff and Raquel L. Scherr reveal their doubts, as serious feminist scholars, about writing a book focusing on beauty: it might be trivial and frivolous, "insulting to a woman," unsuitable for cultural and political critique; and it might show them to be "members of a small cult of diehard neurotics." What they discovered, however, was that beauty fascinated and pained other women as much as it did themselves, and they realized that they had entered taboo territory."(3)

"Lakoff and Scherr affirm that beauty is the "last taboo," not discussed by friends or by feminist scholars. While feminists had broached "other taboos — masturbation, menstruation, things too unspeakable to contemplate until recently," beauty remained an anguish and obsession, a pleasure and a fantasy that "neither feminists nor any other woman could admit to openly.""(4)

"Simultaneous "sinking and swimming" is artist Martha Rosler’s description of the contradictory feelings that arise in women over their practice, or nonpractice, of conforming to beauty ideology. The beauty swims because she looks so good, and she sinks because she must work hard to maintain the status that her appearance has achieved for her seemingly effortless conformity to pretty picturehood. Individual beauty labor garners both attention and damnation. The nonbeauty sinks because she fails at supreme femininity, yet she swims because in her appearance she has resisted the impracticable model. When beauty is a standard of success rather than a variety of pleasures, everyone sinks and pleasure itself drowns in the tortured apparatus of effort, competitiveness, impossibility, and failure."(5)

"Monster/beauty encompasses a variety of pleasures, which may include the regular and harmonious features that tend to signal ideal or conventional beauty. Such features, however, are not the basis of the alluring aesthetic/erotic field that is monster/beauty. Aesthetic/erotic wit, a decisive way of dressing oneself in the sensuality and beauty of Aphrodite, proceeds from the corporeal subjectivity and agency that define monster/beauty."(5)

[M.a.w.: het is niet die uiterlijke perfectie, die gaafheid, die mensen aantrekkelijk maakt, het is meer dan dat: het is persoonlijkheid, opstelling, gedrag, datgene dat iemand als subject laat zien. Dit soort denken is in overeenstemming met het onderscheid dat ik altijd maak tussen 'knap / gaaf' en 'mooi'. Frueh kan het over iemands 'aesthetic/erotic field' hebben of over 'soul-and-mind-inseparable-from-body' - p. 9. Eigenlijk is het dan raar dat de ondertitel van het boek luidt: 'Building the body of love", omdat aantrekkelijkheid zo veel te maken heeft met persoonlijkheid en wie je bent. De uitdrukking 'aesthetic/erotic self-creation' op p. 11 is dan dichter bij haar idee.]

"This book presents a theory and some practices of aesthetic/erotic self-creation by developing beauty as showiness that emerges from intimacy with one’s aesthetic/erotic capacity rather than as the hopeless pursuit of perfect appearance. I define monster/beauty as an extremely articulated sensuous presence, image, or situation in which the aesthetic and the erotic are inseparable."(11)

"In Monster/Beauty I continue to develop ideas addressed in Erotic Faculties about the erotic, beauty, older women, sex, and pleasure by offering models for aesthetic/erotic self-creation: I revise traditional models, such as Aphrodite; challenge stagnant types, such as the nurturing or male-imitating female professor; celebrate a body of repulsion and allure, the female bodybuilder; and rethink the vampire, creating a figure who enlivens — eroticizes — the living. I develop models of agency for people who wish to be erotic subjects and objects: that is, who wish to enjoy themselves and to be enjoyed. They become the body of love."(11)

[Een hoop daarvan zal me wel niet bevallen, maar origineel is Frueh zeker. En sommige waarden deel ik: centraal staat bij haar bijvoorbeeld toch het genieten van je lijf.]

"The pretty picture is an impasse to richer ideas, experiences, and practices of bodily beauty, which may be activated by the visual but which the purely visual also always keeps at bay. For ideal beauty operates through distance and monster/beauty through intimacy."(12)

[Zie de opmerkingen bij p. 2-3.]

"Many women fifty and over say they feel that people no longer see them, but we must understand this crucial aspect of women’s aging as only one significant element in the aesthetic/erotic disappearance that cultural forces — entertainment media, the fashion and cosmetic surgery industries, a long Western history and tradition of young, white, blonde, slim, and unblemished beauty — impose on women. Western culture constructs female aging as diminishment ..."(15)

[Maar dat geldt niet alleen voor vrouwen, ook al geldt het daar naar het culturele oordeel sterker. Jeugdige gaafheid is de norm, iedereen die ouder wordt wijkt daarvan af. Daarom worden oudere mensen niet meer gezien als (erotisch) aantrekkelijk, het heersende vooroordeel is dat er geen relatie is tussen seks en oud-zijn. Oudere mensen worden onzichtbaar, er wordt niet meer naar hen gekeken. In feite zegt Frueh dat ietsje verderop zelf ook.]

"Monster/beauty can reconcile a woman to her frustratingly real body so that she can stop playing the losing game that is a central focus of the feminist critique. Chapkis and the four other authors examining beauty [Lakoff en Scherr Face Value, Wolf The Beauty Myth, Pacteau Symptom of Beauty worden door Frueh naast Chapkis Beauty Secrets als basis genomen voor het nadenken over uiterlijk - GdG] have understood that personal bodily beauty is always deferred because it is always frustrated by the ideal and ideology of beauty as a pretty picture. None is antibeauty, but they agree that the beauty game exerts control such that women assume a passive position — I’ll play and try to be beautiful, or I won’t play and I’ll be ugly."(21)

"The feminist critique focuses on visual beauty and advocates women’s seeing themselves differently through personal, cultural, and artistic invention. Becoming visibly different from normative beauty will prove women’s powers in self-love and social transformation. The feminist critique is also filled with analyses and sentiments about Western culture’s formation of woman’s beauty almost exclusively as a visual ideal, which so distills the body from the living reality of gestures, scents, and voice that such beauty, fashioned and then read as plenitude and perfection, requires corporeal dearth if not absence. Thus, the critique simultaneously maintains and challenges the visual."(22)

"This paradisiacal beauty, a 'petrified image', a corpse of sorts, is less than flat. She is dead(ening), an unerotic ideal in Seid’s estimation: "When the body has been efficiently reduced to a flat surface, it offers no softness, no warmth, no tenderness, no mysteries — qualities once integral to images of sexuality. Our erotic ideal has become as hard and unyielding, perhaps, as the love relationships that dominate social life." [38 = Seid Too ‘Close to the Bone’, 13]"(23)

"Feminist encouragement of women to find better ways to represent ourselves suggests that visibility, on women’s own terms, means power. But the body of content, a recurring theme in this book, exceeds the visual; and basing political as well as personal power in visible beauty — even expanded, 'wild and tantalizing' versions — is problematic. In 1975, in 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', Laura Mulvey called for the ruin of (male) visual pleasure, which fetishizes the ideally — cinematically — beautiful female face and body through the male gaze. It is this male gaze that creates the petrified picture of woman. Theories of the male gaze’s construction of visual pleasure dominated feminist and art theory in the 1980s and were a significant aspect of the problematizing of female pleasure, visual and otherwise. More recently some theorists, such as Lorraine Gamman, Margaret Marshment, and Teresa de Lauretis, have been revising gaze theory, opening up avenues of visual pleasure for women. Yet when visual pleasure as an essential aspect of women’s beautifying themselves mixes with issues of self-representation and of social and political visibility, beauty is clearly as troubled a way as ever through which to gain power."(24)

[Ik houd niet van feministische theorieën waarin vrouwen neergezet worden als de slachtoffers van mannen. In dit geval van de mannelijke blik die zou bepalen welke vrouw mooi is en welke niet. Dat is allemaal veel te simpel. Vrouwen spelen zelf een veel grotere rol in de handhaving van dat ideaal van 'mooi zijn als een plaatje' dan ze willen toegeven. Als de maatschappelijke machtsverhoudingen en de waarden en normen die ze propageren je niet bevallen, kun je minstens proberen je er niet aan aan te passen. Wanneer je er zo gemakkelijk in meegaat moet je ook niet zeuren dat het allemaal aan anderen ligt.]

"The monster’s purpose has been to show and be shown. Monster derives from the Latin monstrare, 'to show'; and within the Western tradition, monsters are meant to be shown as warnings that visibly reveal unreason. Monster also derives from the Latin monstrum, 'divine portent of misfortune'. The monster defies expectation, and therefore I use it as a symbol and agent of change. "(26)

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