Posted by: avila22a | December 17, 2015

From Pretty English Girls to Kim Kardashian

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During the Victorian era, women were often portrayed as delicate and primarily maternal rarely finding a need to leave the house. However, one woman blazed the trail by becoming the first salaried journalist in England and author of over 20 novels: Eliza Lynn Linton.

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Before any feminists rejoice, it should be noted that many of her articles took an anti-feminist perspective. Her best-known piece was “The Girl of the Period” in which she attacks “The New Woman” as the educated and ambitious feminist. Linton pits “the girl of the period” against the traditional “fair young English girl.” The latter the definition of purity and dignity, the former the bane of a man’s existence. Linton explains that “the girl of the period does not please men,” and her article suggests that women started doing things for themselves such as dye their hair unnatural colors and wear makeup as a form of self-expression. Linton even said in her personal life, “I would rather have been the wife of a great man, or the mother of a hero, than what I am, famous in my own person.”

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Eliza Lynn Linton condemns the modern woman for not conceding to her male counterpart and not taking on the docile visual representation allotted to her. Similarly, artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti created an idealized version of women throughout his works. Rossetti formulated a certain aestheticism in the women he painted: blonde, thin, white, and graceful. He viewed women as heavenly creatures who were visions of stateliness and chastity, much like Eliza Lynn Linton. As evident from his paintings, Rossetti’s women are all unnaturally beautiful and somehow chaste.

Though we claim to live in an ultra-feminist period, it is hard not to draw comparisons from the Victorian era to today. In fact, it is easy to pinpoint one woman who could be the pinnacle of “the girl of the period”: Kim Kardashian. Kim was relatively unknown before her sex tape was leaked without her permission. Her personal life was put out for the world to see and she was the one left to do damage control, not Ray J. However, she was able to turn a non-consensual event into a $53 million dollar fortune. It is easy to disapprove of her and her family’s televised life, but she has shown herself to be business-savvy (she made $85 million off her iPhone game.) Despite her intellectual capacity, we mostly see Kardashian on the covers of magazines such as Playboy and Rolling Stone. She has capitalized on her sexuality, shamelessly owning it. She transcends the backside expectations of chastity and is paving the way for a new type of girl: the one who can survive a humiliating burst into public and make herself more relevant than the guy who leaked it. Unlike Linton wanted, she is not famous for being the accessory of a great man. She is famous in her own person and how she defines that is her own choice.


Responses

  1. What an interesting comparison between two potential ideals of the girl of the period! I appreciate the points you make about the independence of Kim Kardashian’s successes. One thing that stood out to me about both modern and Victorian “girls of the period” is the portrayal of a rather singular beauty ideal. You make mention of this when you say that Rossetti’s women are all “unnaturally beautiful.” I think that word “unnaturally” is very interesting because in many ways, this unnatural beauty persists today. Kim Kardashian has certainly changed the face of beauty, and though it is less Eurocentric, it is still very much an unnatural standard for most. Even for Kim, who is open about her tireless work to upkeep her appearance—including cosmetic surgeries, vampire facials, freezing and lasers and trainers and restrictive diets. Now, in 2018, there is even a Kim Kardashian beauty line, KKW beauty as well as a wildly popular cosmetic line created by her younger sister, Kylie. The KKW beauty line has recently come under fire for their non-inclusive and limited concealer shade range. The issue with the Kardashians as the new girls of the periods, is that though they are intelligent and successful and very much self-made – they continue to perpetuate and display this unnatural ideal of beauty. Their racial ambiguity served to shift the problematic white beauty standard, but still very few groups fit into the “right” category of this kind of look. This standard continues to be alienating to the majority of women – who don’t have the “Kim” size, shape, color, hair, eyes, nose, lips, etc. And this unnatural beauty portrayal is quite literally manifesting into an unnatural beauty, with the rise of requests of “Kylie Jenner” lip fillers, or “Kim Kardashian” body augmentation.


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