Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Brief, Somewhat Accurate, Wholly One-sided History

Luke had an epiphany the other day in the restroom, which is where he usually does his deep thinking. He was standing in front of the toilet, his thoughts coming so quickly and his mouth trying so hard to keep up that his spew of run-on sentences made my head spin and gave me a touch of motion sickness. He finally stopped long enough to ask me, “Did I go pee yet?”

After he peed, the epiphanies kept coming. He pointed out that girls have to use toilet paper every time, and boys only have to use toilet paper when going Number Three because they can just “shake it dry” after going Number One. It got me thinking about some of the things that, living in a male-dominated household (MDH), I won’t ever have to contend with. Just the thought of the myriad of bathroom related issues, the least of which is trying to find a place for a girl to go when hiking, was enough to fill me with sympathy for mothers of girls, and for women in general for the seemingly unfairness and imbalance of it all. For example:

Body hair shaving: A 1982 article from the Journal of American Culture by Christine Hope titled "Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture," stated that U.S. women were browbeaten into shaving underarm hair by a sustained marketing assault that began in 1915 (Leg hair came later). The aim of what Hope calls the Great Underarm Campaign was to inform American womanhood of a problem that until then it didn't know it had, namely unsightly underarm hair. According to Hope, the underarm campaign began in May, 1915, in Harper's Bazaar, a magazine aimed at the upper crust. Who would go against Haper's Bazaar? Later, the famous WWII pinup of Betty Grable displaying her awesome legs made showing ones legs off a patriotic act. Coupled with the popularity of shorter skirts and sheer stockings, the anti-leg hair push became successful. So, we can blame advertisers and the war for having to shave our legs and underarms.

Makeup – Yes, men and women both used to wear makeup, but only women still do it on a regular basis (unless your Tom Cruise). In the past, before you could just walk into the nearest department store and buy your favorite makeup, women were forced to come up with their own concoctions or use unsafe alternatives. Women historically continued to use lead and mercury based makeup in an effort to make themselves more attractive even though it was known that these products could be and often were lethal. Exposure to mercury can cause neurological impairment, which must be the reason these women did not stop putting mercury on their faces. They were crazy for their makeup (I know - a very bad pun.)

High heels - Raised heels are stated to have originated as a response to the problem of a horse rider's foot slipping forward in stirrups while riding, and to raise one above the unsanitary conditions of roads when walking. In 1533, the diminutive wife of the Duke of Orleans, Catherine de' Medici, commissioned a cobbler to fashion her a pair of heels, both for fashion and to increase her stature. High-heeled shoes quickly caught on with the fashion-conscious men and women of the nobility. The term "well-heeled" became synonymous with opulent wealth. Beginning in the 1700s, shoe makers stopped making high-heeled shoes for men and they predominantly became available for women. And why? Because high-heeled shoes slant the foot forward and down while bending the toes up. The more that the feet are forced into this position, the more it may cause the Achilles tendon to shorten. When the foot slants forward, a much greater weight is transferred to the ball of the foot, increasing the likelihood of damage to the underlying soft tissue which supports the foot. In many shoes to toes are compressed together, possibly resulting in blisters, corns, hammer toes, bunions, and many other medical conditions, most of which are permanent and will require surgery to alleviate the pain. High heels--because they tip the foot forward-- put pressure on the lower back through making the rump push outwards and crushing the lower back vertebrae and contracting the muscles of the lower back. Pushes the rump outward? I don't need anything to make my "rump" push any further "outward" than it does on its own.

Nylons - Nylon was first used for fishing line, surgical sutures, and toothbrush bristles (does that surprise anyone?). In 1930, Wallace Hume Carothers and others of DuPont touted nylon as being "as strong as steel, as fine as a spider’s web," and first announced and demonstrated nylon and nylon stockings to the American public at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. According to The Nylon Drama by authors David A. Hounshell and John Kenly Smith, Jr., DuPont “unveiled the world's first synthetic fiber not to a scientific society but to three thousand women's club members gathered at the site of the 1939 New York World's Fair for the New York Herald Tribune's Eighth Annual Forum on Current Problems.” And what problem, do you suppose, they were addressing? Women’s legs were becoming too comfortable?


Damama T said...

Thank you for the history lesson! One more thing to add that I've wondered about: Throughout early history, traditionally men wore tights. Think back to Christopher Columbus. Men wore tights, women wore long dresses so no need for tights or underwear for that matter. There were lots of Queens in power back then. Fast forward and men are wearing loose-fitting pants and women are wearing the tights (hose) and now men are predominantly in positions of power. Do we think that possibly there's any correlation in that? Maybe whoever's most uncomfortable in their clothing is less likely to be able to think straight? Just a thought. LOL!!

You are right about life in an MDH. With two boys and hubby, the first twenty years of my marriage was also in an MDH. Now you have me wanting to talk about some of the things I learned through that experience! So little time - so much to blog!

xoxo & TTFN

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Now I know why you didn't blog yesterday. You had to spend half the day compiling those historical facts. I just spend half my day reading mindless dribble from any and every blog I see linked to my favorities. Well, that sounded like an insult to bloggers, but I didn't mean for it to do so. Anyway. Interesting facts and SO UNFAIR! I'm gonna go burn my bra!


Unknown said...

Yay for information I readily soak up but will rarely use! I love it!

By the way, I may link back to this post in my blog post for tomorrow... Your post in combination with a conversation the hubby and I had last night has inspired me.

Kathy said...

Thanks for the history lesson, it was interesting! I have a daughter and a son and I'm a single mom! Oh well, at least I'm not in a MDH I guess. LOL