I recently came across this 37 second video posted on the website Upworthyby Laura Willard, and it demonstrates how by using computer software the image of female models can be modified to an impossible, yet preferred, ideal. The video is creepy for any number of reasons, but as a biologist my mind went straight to theories of selection, and it is here where these images just do not make sense. In animal behavior it is widely acknowledged that certain traits in both males and females of many species are found to be preferable to the opposite sex, and this encourages mating behavior and subsequent reproduction. Controversy abounds as biologists debate natural selection versus sexual selection, and when we try to apply these ideas to humans, things just become even more squiffy.
But in humans, in light of sexual preference, there are undoubtedly certain characteristics in those we…
The dreams of adventure consumed her every night before sleep claimed her. Wrapped in the thick comforter as the heat from the downstairs fireplace lent the last vestiges of warmth before cooling, the ticking of the contracting timbers further lulled her entry.
The hero charging the menace and saving the town. The crowd cheering in grateful abandon.
The rescue of hundreds from a dense jungle.
The rush to save the boy trapped on an ice floe.
She had done it all.
And always, the gratitude, the beaming congratulations, the modest thanks.
Hard work in the morning. Helping her father with the hay, the sheep, the cows, running, hauling, pulling, sweating in the sun.
And, staying out of her mother’s grasp. The tight, hot kitchen with its endless jobs repulsed her. The real work was outside. But somehow, her mother’s company appealed to her, even as she hated it and fought it and forced herself to help her father.
Outside was important. There were many possibilities there. But you had to prove yourself. Prove your strength. Prove your mettle. Prove your unemotional goodness.
Inside was different and to be avoided at all costs. It wasn’t important. It was … it was … it was less.
But there anyway. Forced into it. Dragged into it. Her father ordering her back to the kitchen and telling her that her mother needed her.
Listening to her mother’s stories of long-ago dances when she was pretty and admired, the dream shifted. She became concerned about what she might wear to the jungle. How would she look? What would she do about her hair?
And later … she was the one being rescued from the jungle.
But still … but still. The desire for more!
To be able to choose. To choose to accept.
No. You’re a girl.
But working outside … yes.
No. You’re a girl.
She didn’t know when the crying started. Why are you crying, her father asked.
She couldn’t answer. Inarticulacy choked her. Shut off the air. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Women, her father muttered before stomping off.
Later, she dreamed that she was trapped on an ice floe.
Being raised as she was it all seemed normal. No one around her hankered after more and she pretended not to, either.
She made do with the undercurrents of desire that at times made her jaw clench in frustration. A tiny square of soap from Barcelona. A coyote pin covered in rabbit fur, rubbed almost naked. A rock containing small, gold-coloured flecks that were pronounced as “real” and left in permanent idle uselessness on a mantel-shelf.
On her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor and hanging out the newly washed denims and shirts in the sun to dry, the barely controlled dreams charged each other in a mind-jumble. Her bed with its rough-smooth sheets and the extra pillows sometimes clenched between her legs and the hot water bottle against the cramps. The closet with many work clothes and one Sunday dress.
To leave. To get away.
To love. To experience a passion that could inspire novels.
To eat mysterious foods and drink from green bottles.
To wear silk. Even though she had only read about it and had never touched it in her life.
How to get there.
Already her mother was eyeing the environment. Sizing, evaluating, casting off, considering.
The boy with the crooked leg. The screaming widower who already had four small ones. A friend from school – a brother, really. The men with the muscles and grins of youth who fished and hauled lumber. There were many of them.
She could envision all of them in her dreams, encoiled.
And not happening, nothing at all. Except scrubbing floors. And hanging fresh laundry in the sun. And killing chickens. And remembering when anything was possible.