Good looking bodies

October 16, 2013


In the passage of Elizabeth Diller ‘Bad Press’, Elizabeth talked about the housewives were considered to be the service-oriented menial labor and always had to stay at home to do housework, though scientific designs were applied to housework to increase efficiency, actually they just burden female more because efficiency was often taken as an objective in itself.

And then the writer went on with talking about men’s shirts: “with the advent of the electric iron, the task of ironing became progressively governed by minimum, both aesthetic and economic……The standardized ironing pattern of a man’s shirt habitually returns the shirts to a flat, rectangular shape……The shirt is disciplined at every stage to conform to an unspoken social contract.”

I think men’s bodies in flat, rectangular shaped shirts look nice, but I also doubt that my aesthetic standards have already been influenced by the social standards. Actually, men’s good looking bodies (if they indeed look nice), are at the expense of women’s laboring and, women get used to standing beside the iron without a single complaining word: they think ironing shirts for men has already been part of their duty, their life.

It happens that there is a similar case in feudal society in ancient China: Foot binding. Foot binding is also known as the ‘Lotus feet’ and is a bad custom of tightly binding the feet of young girls to prevent further growth (The ideal length for a bound foot was three inches.). At that time, lotus feet is an icon of wealth (because the girls from wealthy families could afford to bound their foot and do not work) and also a symbol of beauty. The smaller feet are, the more beautiful everyone thinks a girl is. Nowadays, lotus feet has already been regarded as disabled bodies, because their bones of feet are misshapen. Girls with lotus feet can’t run or walk fast, what they do in their daily life is just wandering in the house and losing their minds.

Both cases are about good-looking bodies. One is for men’s, the other is for women’s. The bodies looking good or not are judged by the opinions of the social currents, but in both cases, it is always women who sacrifice to make bodies look nice. They spend laboring and time in the former case, and sacrifice their own bodies in the latter. Women seem to be the makers of good looking bodies, but actually, they are just the consumption of beauty, the slaves of bodies.



Elizabeth Diller, ‘Bad Press’ in Francesca Hughes, ed. The Architect Reconstructing her Practice, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996, pp. 74-95.


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