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GODDESS IMAGES - PREGNANT WOMEN OR OLD ONES?

(a letter to Wren Sidhe)

I hasten (as they used to say in models of the epistolary art) to answer your note, as it fascinates me and also raises a big buzz from a big bee in my bonnet.

Who says these old women are pregnant - apart from the ageism and misogyny attached to their descriptions? I have thought for a very long time, because of the shape of my own body, that older women who have had children (and these would be a large majority until the present and probably even now) lose elasticity in their stomach muscles and duplicate the look of their own pregnancies- i.e. with stretched muscles. Particularly, fat older women do this; nowadays you cant easily find corset fitters in shops, as you could when I was young; but I very well remember in the corset departments of shops like Debenham's, diagrams of the various shapes of women, with many sagging big breasts and protruding abdomens. If you look at the figures of fat older women in supermarkets you will see exactly what I mean. Thus, I have thought that many of the so-called pregnant "fertility" goddesses are in fact Hag; Grimes Graves is of course suspect as a fake but the Venus of Lespugne is a good example.

The reason I deduce for their all being called pregnant is one I have put forward before: male artists (and even female ones as far as I know) DON'T portray older women's bodies, and never use life models from say 65 plus year old women. They just don't know what they look like. (You remember the incident at Lower Shaw Farm, which Linda recalled in 'Garland.' Even then I remember the artist had great difficulty in changing her drawing of the preconceived breast shape to the one actually being shown her). When 'hags' are shown, they are usually depicted as very thin and 'haggard'. Most older women's skin is not of course senile decaying and deformed, that's just ageism. I often have comments from (female) alternative practitioners who are usually in their early 40s, being surprised that my skin is unlike that preconceived description. They just have internalised the paradigm, and unfortunately too few really old women present themselves for treatment (I think this is improving nowadays), so that the older women's bodies are just unknown to everybody except themselves. .

So I'm glad to get this off my chest (bosom) and hope to hear from you and know what you think.

© Asphodel P. Long 1995

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