By Adeena Woodard
The first corsets were worn primarily by British and European middle-class and upper-class women during the 16th century. During that time period, the term “corset” was hardly known. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the now well-recognized term came to light.
Oddly enough, the corset was actually deemed “an evolutionary requirement” in earlier times, according to Jill Fields, Ph.D., professor at the University of Southern California. Women were conditioned to believe that corsets ought to be worn out of necessity to shape and mold the ideal and “healthy” body figure.
Not only were corsets physically restrictive, they were also socially restrictive.
Lois Tyson, author of “Critical Theory Today,” said, “Extremely tight corsets worn by nineteenth-century women prevented them from getting enough oxygen to be physically active or to experience emotion without getting ‘the vapors,’ shortness of breath or slight fits of fainting, which were considered very feminine and proved that women were too fragile and emotional to participate in a man’s world.”
Physically and socially restrictive, the normalized corset worn by so many women reinforced patriarchal ideology, greatly inhibiting their participation in society.
Restrained and confined, the woman was objectified, her sole purpose to appear desirable, which was meant to exhibit an unnaturally tiny waist.
The obviously negative health effects were not ignorable.
According to Von Sommerring, a German physician of the time, “The back-laced corset, as worn by fashionable ladies of the time, constituted a health hazard by compressing the ribs and other internal organs and leading to tuberculosis, cancer and scoliosis or curvature of the spine.”
The documented negative health effects, joined by the feminist movement, pushed the corset to the sidelines…only to later emerge as the newly polished, 21st century waist-trainer. And so the waist-trainer makes its debut, just as limiting as the 19th century corset, yet so many fail to recognize that today’s modernized corset has the same negative effects.
Various celebrities including the Kardashian sisters, Amber Rose, Jersey Shore’s Snooki and JWoww, Jessica Alba, to name a few, all blindly condone the dangerous waist-trainer, swearing the results are worth it.
Another unnatural contraption that restricts the body, and may therefore restrict social equality in the previously discussed manner, may be a step in the wrong direction.