I’ve often found that style is often correlated with beauty. But it’s not the features of the person, but rather how one might make you feel. Have you ever met someone, that structurally maybe doesn’t have the greatest features, or even their style of dress is outside the norm, but the way they make you feel is what attracts a person, and in turn is then also respected for their style? For without a sense of greatness, one would go almost completely unnoticed.
Throughout history there have been many great women celebrated for their beauty, made iconic by their actions and followers. But what was it exactly that has drawn people to these distinct great people in our rich history. what is it that makes a person great? Is there a formula that is passed subconsciously through the human race, if all men and women are created equal, shouldn’t we all have the ability to be great? I will use 5 examples of women to argue my case.
And represent their style, beauty, and the efforts of their energy that created the mass hysteria surrounding them. I do however use my last example of a woman of current history just to support my thesis.
I’ve always been drawn to women, it’s just been something I’ve always gravitated to ever since I was young. There’s something about being male and having a healthy obsession with the opposite sex. And not from a sexual point, but just something sought out of favor.
My whole life I’ve always had one female in my life that I held taller than all others. A sort of worship, honoring if you will. It’s always just felt so natural. Like a divine intervention, urging me to worship another, a queen. Some of my queens have died, left, or even were replaced by another. But there was always one that I would honor. Why is this? Why the need to hold a woman in such regard. Why not a man. I think it’s difficult for men to worship men. I think there can be admiration towards another male. But I would never put one on a pedestal. Maybe my thought pattern goes outside the norm, but I’ve always felt women were closer to God. If man was born from woman, then the woman was born from God. Therefore, in honoring women, we are in turn honoring God. But we as a society degrade women. Or anyone in a position of power. Power is given to those that are the most deserving.
In August of 30 B.C., Cleopatra entered a mausoleum in Alexandria and committed suicide. She had spent the last two decades as the last independent Pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra battled her siblings ruthlessly for power, engaged the Roman emperor in military action, and carried on more than one passionate and well-known affair. She is one of the most loved and alluring figures in ancient history, constantly defying gender roles and female stereotypes, and her life was steeped in adventure and mystery. Modern history often paints Cleopatra as an immoral temptress who wielded her sex appeal like a weapon. During her lifetime, Roman propaganda painted her this way to ensure the people’s dislike for her. Philosopher Plutarch described her beauty as:
“not, in and of itself, completely incomparable, nor was it the sort that would astound those who saw her; but interaction with her was captivating, and her appearance, along with her persuasiveness in discussion and her character that accompanied every interchange, was stimulating.” (Jarus).
Some believe that she was not as beautiful as we like to think, as coins with her portrait show a woman with a large, hooked nose and manly features (Stilo). Still, some historians believe that she portrayed herself in this way on purpose to be taken more seriously as a ruler.
The Disney film ‘Pocahontas’ appears to be an attempt to respond to growing cultural diversity, calls for multiculturalism, and strong female role models in the United States. This paper provides an analysis of the film, examining how Disney’s claims to the creation of positive, pro-social representations of women and Native Americans in ‘Pocahontas’ hold up or collapse when viewed from a critical feminist perspective. The paper first looks at the historical background of the film, at what historical information was used accurately, and what was omitted or changed, noting the Eurocentric bias of written accounts from the early 1600s in what is now Virginia. A synopsis of the Disney film is then presented. Next, the paper provides a textual analysis of the film, focusing on the construction of the character and her relationships, on the premise that Pocahontas’s character sends mixed messages to young viewers: her body is drawn as a mature and sexual woman–an exotic male fantasy–but she is independent and adventurous a feminist role; she is sensual and in tune with nature, but her heightened spirituality is a stereotype of Native American spirituality; she rejects a dependable man, a hero of her tribe, later choosing the adventure of being with Captain Smith, a dangerous man and one she ultimately cannot have. In the end, she must pay dearly for her strong character traits, by remaining behind when Smith returns to England. The paper’s concluding section notes that on the positive side, ‘Pocahontas’ begins to fill a void in film offerings for children with strong female and ethnic role models, and its underlying theme of respect for nature or eco-consciousness is important and timely.
La Castiglione, as she was later called, was born on 22 March 1837 in Florence. Her full name is legen (wait-for-it) dary: Virginia Elisabetta Luisa Carlotta Antonietta Teresa Maria Oldoïni. Before she arrived in Paris, La Castiglione was trapped in a loveless marriage to Francesco Verasis, Conte di Castiglione, twelve years her senior. She was sent to Paris in 1856 to bolster the interest of Napoleon III in the cause of Italian unification. Her cousin, the minister Camillo Cavour, instructed her to ‘succeed by whatever means you wish—but succeed! ‘
Succeeded she did, her beauty and extravagant clothes soon caught the Emperor’s eye, and she became his mistress, but not for long. Their love affair lasted only two years, and in 1857 it was all over. She was determined not to be forgotten nor by the Emperor, nor his poor wife Eugenie de Montijo, nor by the courtiers who were very much amused by the scandals, gossip, and intrigues. By then, she was separated from her husband and bankrupted by her glamorous lifestyle. She returned to Italy in self-imposed exile in 1858. But, restless and mischievous as she was, she returned to Paris in 1861 and once again shook up the conventional nineteenth-century society. Virginia was famous for her beauty as well as her extravagant lifestyle. Her long, wavy blonde hair, pale skin, and delicate oval face with eyes that constantly changed color from green to an extraordinary blue-violet must have sparked the Emperor’s imagination when she was first presented at the court on 9 January 1856 at the ball. La Castiglione was two months short of her nineteenth birthday, the Emperor was forty-seven. They expressed their love in June 1856 in Parc de Saint-Cloud; the park that contains one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe: Marie Antoinette’s rose garden, English style garden, and Le Notre’s French-style garden designed for Louis XIV.
Princess Metternich described her as having ‘wonderful hair, the waist of a nymph, and a complexion the color of pink marble! In a word, Venus descended from Olympus. Never have I seen beauty to rival hers, not shall I see her like again! ‘ In the portrait above, painted in 1862 by Michele Gordigiani, we see La Castiglione at the age of twenty-five, her beauty already fading (the contemporaries have said), but her cheeks are as rosy and fresh as ever, while her eyes radiate confidence, disinterest, and a slight coldness. La Castiglione couldn’t have chosen a better moment to arrive on the scene for the splendor and opulence of Napoleon’s court seem to have been created for her. The second French Empire (1852-1870) was a culturally interesting era in French history. After decades of turmoil and revolutions, the court shone again as it did once before in the times of Napoleon Bonaparte. Forty years later, Napoleon III made sure that his reign becomes a synonym for extravagances and opulence. It was in these two decades that many works of art and literature were created: Edouard Manet painted his scandalous masterpieces Olympia and Dejeuner sur l’herbe, Gustave Flaubert published his notorious novel Madame Bovary, and Baudelaire Les Fleurs du Mal – the two literary masterpieces were published the same year (1857), but the latter proved to be a tad too modern for the audience. Haussmann rebuilt Paris and created all the boulevards, parks, and avenues that the Impressionists later captured on canvas, which gave the city its current appearance.
One of the greatest artists of all time, Frida Kahlo, is also known for staying true to her heritage and for depicting herself and the struggles of the female experience without any compromise. Even though Kahlo’s works combine elements of classical religious Mexican tradition with surrealists elements, she always rejected the “surreal” label saying that her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams. Without suffrage, women in Mexico had no officially sanctioned political life and were consequently limited to a domestic role. There was a strict separation between the genders in society both publicly and privately, which makes Kahlo’s work all the more radical as she steps outside the comfort zone of what was expected from a woman. Self-portrait with Cropped Hair 1940, Here Kahlo explores the social construct of a “woman”. With this painting, she is challenging and interpreting the cultural definition of femininity. In this self-portrait, Kahlo eliminates all the social norms of being a woman in society. She does this by cropping all her hair which is one of the defining elements of a female, losing the Mexican dresses that many of her paintings hold, and losing the modest posture instead of taking a stern stance. Transgression seems even to this day a very daring act even though cross-dressing dates back to biblical scripture (Deuteronomy 22:5). The way a person dresses places them in different social classes and enables people to differentiate the gender split. Even though we are in the 21st century there are certain garments that a male generally wouldn’t wear such as skirts, dresses, corsets, tights, etc. and, vice versa, to stay with social norms and be easily accepted. So here in this painting, Kahlo is being very bold by dressing herself in an oversized man’s suit and holding a pair of scissors where normally a fan would be seen. Kahlo’s gaze is stern and straight towards the viewer engaging them and almost forcing them to see her as a female. She holds a lot of power in this painting and she does this simply by her confidence in her stance she purposefully has her legs spread apart to resemble confident masculine qualities. By placing herself in this type of dressing and manipulating her body in this way she is ultimately declaring her independence. And even after the act of cutting the hair is done she still holds on to the scissors implying that she is deliberately making the viewer aware that she physically did this to symbolize her cutting away parts of her femininity. However, not all is lost she still keeps her earrings and her high-heeled shoes to leave somewhat of an indication that she is still a female even after this transformation, as if not to let go completely of what she is. Her face gives little away about her emotions or feelings, yet she boldly renders herself in such shocking paintings of herself. She does this intentionally to give a sense of ambiguity. “The lines from a popular song painted above the figure of Kahlo point out how women’s status relies upon elements of social signification (clothing, conduct, physical beauty), and how resistance to prescribed modes of behavior is rewarded with, in this case, emotional disenfranchisement”. (Sarah M. Lowe 1991:59) It reads look, if I loved you it was for your hair now that you’re bald I no longer love you. The hair which splattered across with no control all over the floor around her is demanding attention and represents the freedom she feels.
“The woman that every woman aspires to be.” That’s how one of my university peers describes Beyoncé. And she speaks for many. Few musicians today have inspired a genuine cult of personality. But Beyoncé, the undisputed wearer of pop music’s crown, has done just that. “All hail Queen Bey!” cry represents her horde of devoted fans, who call themselves the Beehive, an apt name for the followers of a star who generates such deafening buzz. When she dropped her self-titled album out of the blue in December 2013, I witnessed the spectacle of ‘Beyoncé syndrome’ first hand. On a tense night during final exams, I watched in awe as my fellow students set aside term papers and study guides to get drunk – ‘drunk in love, that is. Students swarmed to every computer in the library to watch Beyoncé gyrate across a beach and profess her love for her megastar husband Jay-Z. As an outside observer, I marveled at the new video album’s infectious effect and wondered about its cause. What makes Beyoncé so gripping? Why is her voice – in song, speech, and even silence – so resonant for so many, especially millennials?
Beyoncé is a true Renaissance woman: a musician, a business mogul, a feminist, a mother, and a brand whose cultural gravity seems to emanate not from any one of these talents but all of them in concert.
Many of the most powerful women in history have pushed past barriers and taken on roles that were traditionally only given to men. Beyoncé’s personal story of having taking taken control of her career from her father and now her husband is very similar to that of the famous Cleopatra.
In Ancient Egypt, it was tradition for female rulers to be subordinate to male co-rulers. However, at the age of 18 when Cleopatra was made co-ruler with her brother, she made it clear that she was not going to share power with him. After only 5 months of ruling, Cleopatra had dropped her brother’s name from official documents and only her face appeared on the coin.
The most influential people in the world didn’t necessarily have the looks of Beyoncé and didn’t necessarily call as much attention to themselves with shows and costumes but many of them stood for equality.
So how do these women, with such different personalities, get to a position to have such influence? In their separate worlds, all women showed excellence and were able to use their reputation as a platform. Similarly, Beyoncé is regarded as one of the greatest pop icons of all time – not just one of the greatest African-American artists of all time.