For my birthday, I got a Wii Fit, which has been on my gift request list for awhile (so Dan isn’t in the doghouse for getting me exercise equipment as a present). I’m enjoying the workouts and games, but one unexpected downside is that every day, the thing weighs me and tells me my BMI and whether I’ve gained or lost weight. While some might think the checkups are a nice addition to their entertainment system, I rank them down there with water boarding.
Having a less than satisfactory BMI, and getting reminded (nagged) about it each day, the Wii Fit has become the “Wii Downer.” The little animated trainer on the screen shouts encouragements, but more often than not, she’s also telling me that I’m unbalanced, needing work, and other lovely, less than flattering sentiments.
I’ve been studying a lot of art lately, and I’m getting a lot of mixed messages. On one hand, I have my nagging, annoyingly svelte, Wii Fit trainer, telling me to trim down, and on the other hand, thousands of years of classical art is telling me “big is beautiful” (okay, so that’s a modern paraphrase).
I’d like to give you a little historical tour de beauty, as depicted by Venus, the “goddess” of beauty, through the medium of art. I’m going to make the photos optional (if your kiddos are around, I don’t want to introduce the birds and the bees conversations sooner than you’d prefer it to happen).
22k B.C. Venus of Willendorf
The roundest example of them all, the “venus” of Willendorf is a fertility symbol and as the nickname implies, quite possibly a symbol of physical beauty to the ancient culture that crafted her.
100 B.C. Venus de Milo
We’ll forgive her for not having arms. I’d like to see what the Wii Fit says about her BMI, being that she’s made of stone! But seriously, she is a little scrawnier than the others. Those Greeks must not feed their gods very well.
1614 A.D. Toilet of Venus by Rubens
Venus doesn’t seem very self conscious at all. In fact, she seems rather pleased with her appearance. Can she do that?
1916 A.D. Venus Victorious by Rodin
A 20th century Venus, still ample and lovely.
And today, 2009, we have my spandex laden, scrawny as can be, Wii fit trainer, telling me that I’m not up to snuff.
Okay, here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that I’m going to forget about physical fitness and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight (which may or may not be represented by that “all encompassing” BMI). But I am saying that I can’t let my self worth and my sense of beauty get dragged down by our culture’s current obsession with a particular body type.
As evidenced by classical art, standards of beauty change. I can’t constantly feel sorry for myself that I wasn’t born in the 1600s (even though I’d love to meet Milton and Bunyan, but that’s another story).