Reader Comments and then my comments
(It saddens me that most of these comments were made by men (but, at the same time, almost gives me a little more faith in them!).)
“The Western definition of beauty has always been somewhat commercially defined. The issue of underarm shaving in women (and increasingly so for men, perhaps) although it has no obvious effect on reproductive success, was merely a clever ploy hatched up by cosmetic companies in the sixties to sell more razors. Such paranoia multiplies, of course, with widespread and famous fashion magazines. And more telling as to why the definition of beauty has always been exclusively Western: who owns the biggest cosmetic companies and the famous fashion magazines?”
Not totally historically accurate, but a good point. (The phenomenon of women shaving their underarms began earlier, with the first ad that started the paranoia in May of 1915; leg-shaving didn’t become commonplace until the 1940s. If you’d like more information on this, let me know.)
“The promotion of thinness largely began with propaganda designed to support rationing in Europe during the Second World War. Although there had been a period of “thin” fashion in the 1920s, this did not actually affect many people until the 1940s promotion of the concept to a new generation. Most of our present day food fads can be traced back to the propaganda that today’s European grandmothers were fed in their youth.”
This is a very interesting point, one that I hadn’t considered. There’s an good web page that’s somewhat related- Stay Free Magazine’s World War II Advertising– which displays a lot of advertising used to exploit the war’s ideology. Many of these are targeted toward women, and my personal favorite (first row right) is about war fashion (and cigarettes).