148 of 365: Grand Odalisque, Body Image and the ER

When the Grand Odalisque by Light Waves first hit SL I was one of the people who took one look at her and shuddered. Perhaps her enormous breasts and stomach roll hit way to close to home for me. She is real, alarmingly so. I certainly appreciate the incredible technique used to create this sculpture. But, I was not one of the adoring throng who stood around and marveled at her beauty.

When I happened upon a copy of Grand Odalisque in-world today I sat down and looked at her for a good long time to decide if my opinion had changed at all over time. To be honest when I see this woman every single one of my body image issues rises up in my throat and all I want to do is run away. And then I want to drown my body image issues in dulce de leche straight from the can. Oh that last bit is not true. I prefer oreos. ok ok ok...stop

The point is? I remain one of the few who do not find this statue enjoyable to look at in the least. But sweet Grand Odalisque it is me, not you.


I have a Springer Spaniel named Chloe. She is about a year and a half old and very true to her breed, which means she is "spirited" if you like her and "a maniac" if you do not. Last night she got underfoot as I was walking down the stairs and I fell down about half the length of our steep staircase. I landed on my (amply padded) arse, hard. So hard that my entire family came running. I must have screamed but honestly I don't remember that part. What I do remember is the searing pain. When I got up this morning my entire body was sore and frankly MY ASS HURT. I spent close to 5 hours in the Emergency Room at our local hospital today because everyone I talked to worried that I had broken my tailbone. After exposing me to various forms of radiation the cracker jack team of medical professionals determined that I sprained my ass. Yes. That is the official diagnosis. I kid you not.

And now the difficult task of linking my sprained ass to the Grand Odalisque begins. (You think this blogging stuff is easy? Do ya?)

My body may be too fat for my liking and right now I may have a sprained ass, but the truth is I live a charmed life. I have great family and wonderful friends. ummmmm...so far this linking bit is falling short of the mark.


My ass hurts.


Lyncean said...

Oh no! Hope you feel better soon.

I haven't seen the G.O. in-world, but have same feeling as you from photos I've seen. And I always wonder, why doesn't she have nipples? ;)

Gracie Kendal said...

Awwww you'll feel better soon, just keep the meds down and get some rest.

When I saw the Grand Odalisque for the first time, I thought she was beautiful.
I also have been struggling with body image and I surprised myself with what I thought of her. I don't know why I thought she was beautiful though. Was it how she was brought into SL? The newness of the sculpture? or Her peaceful look? I actually saw her again last week and sat in front of her for a bit. It's like confronting your own issues I guess, head on. Which of course is scary. Imagine if we sat in front of a mirror for a long period of time. I don't think I could do it. I can barely stand in front of a mirror for a few minutes to make sure my shirt is on right.
Looking at her again, I actually started to be very critical of what I saw. This is NOT the average heavy woman. Where is the dimpling, the saddle thighs? Where is the heaviness that you feel when you are standing and gravity takes hold? Gravity? hmm funny word when dealing with weight. She seems too idealized for me. She is too perfect of a heavy woman. She seems too comfortable in her own skin. Wait, that shouldn't be right. Should it? I mean, I most definitely am not comfortable in my skin, in my weight, in my clothes. Sighs!! What next??

Pan said...

Hugs....take to your bed and get pampered... the best medicine...get well soon:-)

Pink Sommerfeld said...

I think the Grand Odalisque is extraordinary for many reasons, but for this one in particular: Though she is portrayed as asleep and seemingly peaceful, she is causing people to wake up to something deep inside that very disturbing to them. The irony of that is fascinating to me.

I believe that people of all sizes and both genders in SL are taken aback by her because her non-standard beauty. Women, large and small, because there is strong sense of shame with being fat... and men, because there is a strong sense of shame in being attracted to a woman who is fat.

It never ceases to amaze me how provocative art can reveal so much to us about ourselves. :)

ps. I hope you feel better soon. And be grateful for the extra padding on your behind... no doubt your injury could have been much worse without it. Way to bounce, girl! ;)

Ari Blackthorne™ said...

You know what the best thing about Second Life is?

It's that which you already know, but may never have realized you know...

It is human nature to be attracted to physical beauty. Hence, all the avatars on the grid are gorgeous models with perfect bodies and beautiful faces, most galavanting around it the sheerest, skimpiest sexy outfits, creating an even stronger attraction.

This is the colorful tail of the Peacock. It gets our attention, draws us nearer. Then, once we get past that which we find attractive...

We get to know each other.

Our interaction moves beyond the "skin-deep" part (virtual or otherwise). We get to know another's personality, joys, fears, wants, dislikes...

We discover the beauty inside; something that would have remained a mystery forever had we not stepped closer, put-off by what "appeared" to be something we weren't interested in because society has trained us from birth to shun that which is not outwardly "beautiful".

So, I get to know you for the real you inside. There are no false distractions - for example your real world appearance - for me to falsely judge you by - which we all do judge whether we want to or not.

One thing more than anything else about Second Life that I have gained is this: I have learned that it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside at all. I have had the blessing of knowing a lot of people, all of us whom have at one time or another proclaimed our own disdain over our own "real life appearance".

I'll never meet you in real life, Chestnut. But the beauty of it all is this: getting to see and even just a little-hint: know who you are on the inside means the outside wouldn't matter one iota.

And this is the wonderful thing about SL we all know whether we realize it or not: we have become acquainted in the reverse of the usual process: rather than first judging someone on their appearance, then later on their attitudes and personality (which is simple human nature) - on the Grid, we get to do it the other way around.

Because often in real life step one might preclude step two. But getting to step two first renders step one completely irrelevant.

Why do you have "wonderful family and friends"? Because whether you appear as the statue you despise or as the avatar you love in real life, to them - and us: it doesn't matter.



Chestnut Rau said...

Thanks everyone.

I think I only appear as the statue in my mind, Ari. A completely distorted body image has been with me since I was a child. I remember we were having a family picture taken one summer day. It was really hot and humid and I remember feeling fat and ugly and sweaty. I was 5 years old. Now when I see that picture I see an adorable little girl with pink cheeks and an embarrassed smile. How is it that a kindergarten age kid can feel "ugly" and "fat"? I really don't know, but I sure did feel that way and still do.

Yes, SL lets us get beyond all of that and we know the true person without the prejudices we all hold. Being free of the physical body and being able to create ourselves as we want to be seen is hugely freeing.

Still, I am not sure if SL has helped me with my own inner demons just yet.

Bree said...

I understand what everyone is saying here and see most of the points of view expressed, you've all said it better than I could.

Having body image issues of my own, even though they began during my married life and not in my childhood, I almost see the Grand Odalisque as an expression of rebellion against the Barbie image that is the first impression that people often have of SL female avatars. I rebelled against that image from the start by allowing myself a somewhat thicker shape than most, though I've been paring it down bit by bit as I get lazier about trying to make sl clothes fit - I just like the clothes too much :-). But the other thing about her is that she actually made me feel a lot better about myself; I do find her lovely, and also felt very reassured by the fact that a lot of my male friends expressed that they found her so as well. Oh, yes, I still have issues!

But I liked the statue enough to buy a copy, and I've actually found myself looking out for other copies of her when I'm out and about, mostly to see how others have displayed her. I remember that original exhibit at Black Swan, where she was in a room that was dark and bare. It was very effective in eliminating any distractions but felt somehow oppressive, as though she was imprisoned. I love seeing the settings that I find her in now and then - mine is asleep on the Ridge, slightly away from the venue, in a field of cosmos, looking as though she is there by choice, comfortable in her own skin (to use a phrase that's been used before) and very serene. It feels to me like it's about choices, about taking her own destiny in her hands, doing and being what and who she wants to be, without anyone else's opinion mattering. Something that I aspire to.

She's been good for me, on many levels. I don't exactly think that anyone will ever find my rl self sleeping naked in a field of flowers but the thought makes me smile :-)

As for keeping a bit of padding (to cushion fragile tailbones, to have something to lose when my genetics kick in and I end up having to fight cancer) - I'm working on finding a rl balance between too much and not enough - a balance that is still a far cry from the Barbie image that has paradoxically become less offensive to me in sl.